Last night, my wife and I told our children that Santa Claus isn’t real.
It might be difficult to under the duality of this: it was a difficult choice to make, and it was also imperative that we do so. Allow me to explain.
Long before I had children I had it in my head I was going to be upfront with my kids about Santa. I’m not quite sure how it happened (perhaps the blame can come from being a tired, shirt-stained-with-baby-puke new dad), but it got away from me. Before long, I was on a sleigh ride out of my control.
Last week, Ember got some mail that had in it a map of the world. She loves it. We taped it to the wall and she started investigating her new treasure. “Have you ever been there? Mommy’s been there! Oh, look, there’s Portland (where I attended DrupalCon this year)!” And then she saw Antarctica.
“Is that where Santa lives,” she asked?
“No. He lives at the North Pole,” I said.
You big *&^%&# liar. So much for the truth, eh?
Strike one, as they say.
Fast forward to Sunday. I stumbled across the knowledge that Ember thought we lied to her earlier this year about Amy’s pregnancy. I was devastated. She didn’t understand that we had lost the pregnancy, and since the baby didn’t show up, we must have lied to her.
My league only allows for two strikes, especially after Sunday’s doozy. After thinking about it for most of the day yesterday, I knew what had to be done. Amy and I discussed it, and proceeded with the truth.
Remi didn’t seem to care (or maybe she doesn’t quite understand), but Ember was a big bag of tears. We talked through it and got to the core the issue: She was really hoping for a certain gift (having been through months of “No you can’t get that, Christmas is coming”) and thought Santa was the only way that could happen.
We assured her: there will be gifts. There will be gifts because we love them and want to give them some presents. We told her the cruel, hard truth: mommy and daddy work hard to provide for our family. We told them both that we will give them presents not because of some list that tracks rights and wrongs, but simply because we love them very, very much.
The tears went away. The smile reappeared. And a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I actually felt lighter.
(And yes, in case you’re wondering: we’ve warned them that not every parent decides to tell their kids this news, so she should keep quiet for now.)
And so, I tucked my sweet little girls into their beds, gave kisses and hugs and said good night. The last thing Ember said assured me I had made the right decision.
“Maybe you can dress up as Santa Claus,” she said with a smile.
I think that’s an excellent idea.