When I was a kid, I was all in with the idea of Santa Claus. Then, like with most Christian children, as I grew older I heard grumblings from kids who questioned his legitimacy. And for good reason. It’s pretty remarkable what Santa can do, after all. And the older you get, the more you see, the more remarkable it becomes. I mean, if he lands on my house, and then flies to my neighbor’s house, and to the kid’s next door to them after that, and so on until he visits every child in the world, well then that really is remarkable. Unbelievable, even.
Sometime after Thanksgiving the year I was twelve, my step father asked me to take a walk with him. He never did that, so I knew that it was important. As we started our walk we talked about baseball, and then he abruptly said, “Jimmy, do you still believe in Santa Claus?”
I told him that I did, even though, thanks to logic creeping in, Santa Claus seemed more like a legend than anything else. Then he said, “Well, there isn’t a Santa Claus. It’s just me and your mom.”
I started to well up. Not because he told me there was no such thing as Santa Claus, but because he felt that he needed to tell me. That he felt he obliged to pull me into the world of adults. Was he afraid that I’d embarrass him if I still believed? Did he think I was better off knowing that there was no magic in the world?
When my wife was pregnant with our first daughter, I was sweating the idea of Santa Claus because I didn’t want to ever lie to my kids. Then Christmas came around and I caved. I fell for the legend. And it’s been pretty magical ever since. The weekend before Christmas our oldest daughter shared something she wrote about Santa Claus, “Even though most of my friends don’t believe, I do. I don’t care what other people think. We’re big believers of things in our family.” And we are. We believe in lots of things you can’t see or touch or prove. Things like God, and love, and Mickey Mouse. Still, part of me was heartbroken. What had we done? Am I a bad parent because I haven’t taken her on a walk yet? Will she be damaged forever as a result?
After hearing what she wrote, I decided that I’m never going to tell her, or her younger sister, that there is no such thing as Santa Claus. First of all because there was a person in history for whom the modern version of Santa Claus is based. Sure, commercialism and our cultural lust for things has pimped out the concept over the years, but still, at its core there is a good idea in there. A legendary story of benevolence and giving. A story so powerful that it has lived on and been passed down for centuries – even from me to my own children. And it’s this core concept that I lean on when it comes to being ok with Santa Claus.
Children grow up. They eventually start to comprehend the magnitude of the world. And for most of them, magic disappears. Will I tell my daughters that there is no man who drives a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer (and Rudolph) who slides down our chimney, eats cookies, and leaves presents? No. I won’t. As long as I’m a father, I’m not going to rush my kids into this or any other stark truth about the world. They’re smart. They’ll eventually figure everything out that they need to figure out. My hope is that they’ll be better off for lingering in the magic as long as possible. And pass it on.
We’re big believers of things in our family.
Merry Christmas to you and yours.
2 CommentsLEAVE A COMMENT
Dec 30, 2013
Santa is the purest form of magic I know. Stay magical, Jim.
Jan 8, 2014
I cannot remember the defining moment when I figured it out, I think the suspicion is always there.. but I KNOW I heard reindeer on the roof one year…
We ended up going the other route with my daughter. We ignored saying much for 3 years as we felt she was too young, but this year, out of the blue she said “Santa no give me presents.” I was taken back a bit because we hadn’t talked about it at all so I inquired some more. “Santa no visit me because I not a good girl” WHAT? Seems like daycare had a method of keeping kids in line around the holidays. I hear that all too much and for some reason it really bothers me. Same with that elf on the shelf thing.
So we had the talk. We told her it was a game that some people liked to play, and that some people dress up with a big beard to look like Santa, but that Mommy and Daddy build / buy her presents under the tree.
I feel good with it. Made things a little awkward with family this season, but overall she loved turning on the tree every morning, driving around for Christmas lights, counting down the snowballs on her snowman calendar, etc. I didn’t feel like anything was lacking except the creepy fat man sneaking in to eat our cookies.