How to answer the “Is Santa Real?” question.


Do you believe? (LUCY NICHOLSON/REUTERS)
December 20, 2013

There’s something that’s starting to stress me out about this time of the year. It’s not the shopping or the decorating, the cookie baking or the scheduling. It’s the tiptoeing around the Santa issue.

About a year ago, a friend of my 5-year-old son who doesn’t celebrate Christmas mentioned in passing that Santa is “just a fairy tale.” It killed me. My son looked at me for a second, but then continued to play.

I breathed again and hoped that the magic would continue.

I know it won’t last. Even though it seems he and his little brother still believe, there will come a year where they are a bit too wise.

So how to deal with your child figuring out that maybe there isn’t really a fat man in a red suit making midnight visits?

I recently ran across a few lovely tips about this on a blog called Lasso the Moon.

For younger kids, the essay said, turn the question of whether he’s real back on them. “What do you think?” There may be a little chat about it, then a distraction that leads them in another direction — sort of like what happened with my son.

But then there’s the stage where they really have figured it out and they want the truth. Instead of faking it, it may be time to congratulate them and welcome them to the secret-keeper’s club. Explain that you’re excited because now the two of you can do this together to keep the magic going for a younger child.

After thinking about it, I realized I sort of look forward to the day when I can talk to my sons about where the legend of Santa came from — that a person many years ago gave away his money to people and children who had very little, and his generosity inspired others. What a beautiful learning experience it can be for the kids who have it figured out.

Now six and four, my sons seem to believe in Santa. And I very much hope that they do. What could be better at this age than believing in utter magic?

Santa showed up at a Christmas party we were at recently — a party where my lovely boys were acting like maniacs and I spent a lot of time trying to wrangle them. When we left, my older son stopped in front of the house and looked up. “Is his sleigh up there?” he quietly asked, wide-eyed. “How’d he get here?”

I could feel my shoulders relax, and I smiled. It was a moment that made me realize the magic of the season isn’t just for the kids. Life as a parent has a lot of magic, too.

@OnParenting

@amyjoyce_berg

Amy Joyce is the editor and a writer for On Parenting.
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