Santa died in our house this year. We had 10 good years of Christmas magic.
But this year my eldest came clean: she is no longer a believer.
She caught me off guard. What do you say at this critical moment? How do you ease gently out of childhood make-believe? How do you have the dreaded Santa talk?
I was worried about handling it wrong. Friends have told me of tears and tantrums and accusations of lying. Yikes!
How did I end up here? The Santa magic all starts so innocently! Reindeers and sleigh bells and a jolly bringer of gifts with a ho ho ho! And yet with the blink of an eye here I am, being asked for the truth about Santa.
Completely unprepared, here comes how NOT to have THE Santa Talk.
Step 1: Dodge and weave
Without warning, Miss 10 stated, “Mum I don’t believe in Father Christmas”.
Step 1 in any ill-planned parenting moment: dodge and weave. Stalling for time, I asked my daughter why she didn’t think he was real. She rattled off a list of evidence to the flimsiness of Santa – little lawyer!
- Her friend had found her gifts last year before Christmas (damn you, poor hiders of presents!).
- And there was no way Santa could fit all that stuff in his sleigh (fair point, but um I believe it’s MAGIC).
- Or deliver everything in one night to every child in the whole world (again, MAGIC).
- Families with more money got better Santa gifts, which wasn’t fair because surely Santa should give more stuff to kids who had less (ok, it’s hard to argue with that, and I love her sense of social justice).
- And finally, Santa always uses special paper to wrap the gifts but she just found the stash under my bed (ok, my bad).
I felt the jig might be up. Time for step 2.
Step 2: Don’t believe, don’t receive
Step 2 in the Santa Talk: suggest that Santa’s magic (i.e. presents) only works for believers. “Well” I told my daughter, “if you don’t believe, you don’t receive”. My daughter was all over it. She looked me straight in the eyes and said “Mum I’ll still get presents because otherwise, you’ll have to tell the others too”, meaning her innocent, true believer younger brothers.
Damn, she’s good.
Step 3: The jig is up
By this point I knew the jig was up, it was time for the Santa Talk.
I asked her if she really wanted to know. She said yes (bugger). So I cuddled her on my lap, where she still just fits. And I told her Santa is real but not in the way she thinks.
I told her Santa is magic, the magic of Christmas that makes it fun and exciting, like believing in unicorns. And that SHE could become part of that magic. Part of the fun and the secret giving to bring others joy.
She was in. Bursting with ideas of how to be Santa for her brothers and her cousins. She hugged me, all excited to be big and part of something exciting and secret.
Whew. I’d survived and relatively unscathed. She bounced out the room, flinging over her shoulder:
“So I guess it’s the same for the Easter Bunny too”.
Well, at least we’ve still got the tooth fairy…
Still got believers in your house? Try these answers to tricky Santa questions on for size and keep the magic going for another year.