Monday, December 28, 2009

An Inconvenient Truth

SantaWhat do you do about that whole pesky Santa issue? I've never given it much thought--believe in Santa if you want, kids, enjoy it while you can. They all ask for the truth sooner or later.

But our youngest has been really odd about the whole thing. She's seven and a half--is it me or is that getting kind of old to still be fooled by the whole holiday-induced home invasion plot? I mean I remember putting two and two together in first grade when one of my classmates let it slip that the Easter bunny was a scam and if a giant bunny lugging eggs over the world wasn't on the up and up then maybe, just maybe, the eight flying reindeer scenario was suspect as well.

So I expected Lillian to ask if the man in red was real but I forgot I'm dealing with a youngest child who has two older brothers on a mission to make her life difficult and they've taken great pleasure in tormenting her on the issue. She came to me and asked if Santa was real and in this super-sweet mom voice used to dish out disappointment I told her something like "Well, sweetheart, he's a magical part of Christmas and lots of fun but who do you think really brings the presents?" and she nodded and mumbled something about "Oh, so Santa isn't real is he?" and I went back to work.

But then her brothers thought it would be especially fun to conspire and to keep it all going--because nothing conveys the warmth of the holidays like torturing your sister and mother simultaneously. Usually you get kids who find fulfillment by breaking another child's reality and crushing their hopes of magic and goodies but no . . . MY boys get more of a thrill from lying to their sister and keeping her strung out on false Santa hopes.

It's gotten completely irritating and it went on and on throughout the holidays, me telling her Santa isn't real, the boys telling her that Santa was too real and that Mom was an idiot, trying to steal the toys for herself. Back and forth it went until it reached the Official Last Straw on Christmas Eve (of course--the odds of having a full-blown episode increase exponentially the closer one gets to the holidays).

We were piled in the car, racing from place to place under constant pressure and as is usually the case the kids in the back were getting louder and louder, more and more annoying and increasingly difficult.

At which point Lillian asked me yet again, "Mom, is Santa real?" so I sighed--or maybe grumbled, I can't quite remember--and gave my memorized answer as I felt the headache coming on. The boys started shouting over the top of each other to tell her that once again I was lying when someone hit the radio button (rule is: it's MY car and until you pay for gas I choose the stations) and switched off my Christmas music.

That was is. The fighting, the whining, the racing through Christmas traffic on slick streets and now I had the grinding pain of the Black Eyed Peas. Before I could hit the button it mercifully ended and the new station's DJ came on to say that Santa had been spotted somewhere over Eastern Europe and that if we wanted to check up on the Elf Himself we could go to the Norad website.

"See? See?" the boys yelled, clapping and hooting. "Told you! Santa is TOO real Lillian. The radio doesn't lie."

"I knew it!" she squealed, clapping with joy. "I knew he was real. See Mom? The boys were right--not you."

I'd had enough. I pulled over and stopped the car. And while I'm ashamed to admit it I turned around in my seat and in a louder-than-that-which-good-moms-use-voice said something like:

"This is ridiculous! It's a stupid radio ad! Santa is NOT real. He's NEVER been real, your Dad and I play Santa every year and WE buy the presents. EVERY. YEAR. Got it?? Got it good? Because I'm not going to go over this again. Santa is a big fake, the Easter Bunny is fake, the Tooth Fairy is fake, it's ALL FAKE. And if I hear one more word from you boys trying to convince your sister that I'm lying you're not getting one stinkin' present at all this year--birthdays included. Do you hear me?? Do you??"

Which kind of brought the conversation in the car to a halt. But I do think I got my point across.

"So Santa is really you and Dad?" She asked timidly.

I didn't answer. By then the guilt of having crushed my last child's Christmas hopes and dreams made me feel rather squeamy but at least the subject has been put to a rest once and for all and Christmas came without further incident.

And guess who got a lump of coal in her stocking? I kind of deserved it I suppose.

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47 comments:

branda50 said...

It's really hard to say things when only when in the family believes.....It will be so much easier when Lillian doesn't believe anymore but what will the boys do at holiday time....

I remember my oldest when she lost a tooth on the way home from shopping one day asked me what to do with it?...I answered throw it out the window..Well, our youngest who I thought was on the fence about believing and also saw dollar signs said quickly "I'll take it!'...

Bee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bee said...

I only had one, so it wasn't such a big issue. It's amazing, though, that my one sweet daughter could push me to that breaking point where I used that "louder-than-that-which-good-moms-use-voice" over an issue and then immediately wish I could cut my hateful tongue out!

I bet you find something really crafty to do with that lump of coal!

Anonymous said...

I read your blog regularly and your post today was the BEST; honest and raw. Thank you for writing.
(your) Anon

Anonymous said...

We really don't flat out admit to Santa being fake. Our policy is "if you don't believe, you don't receive" (meaning the gift from Santa under the tree xmas morning). Even our 18 year old will jokingly say that she knows Santa is real. lol Maybe I'm just a big kid myself who still wants to believe in Santa, but I think 7 is still an age when they want to believe in that "magic". P.S. We have the same rule in my car. That made me laugh.

Shelly @ Life on the Wild Side said...

Oh, I feel your pain. That sounds like a really hard situation.

Whenever my kids came to me with the Santa question, I always stopped and said, "Do you really want to know? I mean REALLY want to know? Because once you know there's no going back." They usually already suspected and went ahead with finding out the truth. But some of those conversations are just plain difficult.

Suzi Dow said...

Boy, you've made me glad I'm Jewish

Flea said...

I was cringing as I read this. My daughter - the oldest - was nine when she stopped believing. I left hints everywhere. I nearly had her convinced Santa was fake, till she received a letter from him. Turns out the post office now writes letters to children who write the fat man. Took another year to convince her. The next two were easy to convince, though. *sigh* You sure are right about them pushing the buttons all the way up to Christmas.

jcamp2020 said...

Yep, you lost Brownie points on that one mom! Don't worry, you make those new year dumplings and you get them back. Come and go. :)

I wonder who keeps track of those Brownie points..is she/he real? Yikes! Oh, another can of worms.

planetnomad said...

I wish I knew you in real life because I would have so much fun tormenting you about this! Crushing your child's dreams! Ruining the holiday magic! But it's a bit risky to do that in comments. So I'll just say, we've all been there. And she'd prob have needed therapy anyway ;)

MommyK said...

Mine are 5 and 3 and they believe. The way I feel about it is, when they start to question it, I'm not going to bend over backwards to make them believe. But seeing them so excited this year was worth the pain it is to pretend about Santa.

Patricia L said...

Oh the Santa dilemma. Our oldest knows so the whole thing has really just begun for us. Sadly, my daughter found out when she found all of her letters to Santa that I'd stowed away for keepsakes...oops. And it really is a slippery slope from there-- easter bunny, tooth fairy, all the "magic" disappears.

RefreshMom said...

I blogged the "What do you you about Santa?" question myself recently. I never told my kids (4 and 6) about Santa, but the concept is out there and they hear it especially now that they're in school.

It is a dilemma, I think, waffling between telling our kids the truth and letting them have some of the magic of childhood for as long as possible.

At least you won't have to puzzle over how to handle it next year, right?

sassypriscilla said...

My little boy is 6 and believes whole-heartedly. When he asks me questions about things being real (superheroes, magic, etc) I respond by asking him what he thinks. I kind of like that he believes in the magic of it all - it is so sweet. This year he was convinced that Rudolph wasn't real so I know he has an inkling yet when he saw the Norad tracker and saw Rudolph on it and said, "Now I believe in Rudolph!" He told me a classmate told him she didn't believe in Santa and I was thinking that was it for him and then he said, "I guess she isn't getting any gifts this year." LOL.

sassypriscilla said...

Ugh. Poor grammar in my last comment. Sorry.

J at www.jellyjules.com said...

Oh, the parenting moments we are most proud of. Sigh. Do something equally fun next year, and you'll have enough coal for a snowman's eyes at least. Not sure you want to go for the whole mouth.

We always told Maya that Santa et al are lies, but she wanted to believe anyway. I asked her, "Has Santa EVER left you a gift?" "No". Ted asked her, "OK, we'll take back the gifts WE bought you, and see what comes from Santa, OK?" "NO."

That was the end of that. But boy, she WANTED to believe.

Carinne said...

I'm guess I"m surprised that you think Lillian was too old for it. I remember that I was 8 before I found out. EThan was almost 9 and he only found out after we told him. He walked in on us on Christmas Eve putting together a puppet theater for the girls. We really had to spell it out for him the next day. He was totally confused. Maybe my kids are just a little thick. :) Isabel still believe whole heartedly. She asks questions about how he does it, but we just answer that he's magic. That satisfies her. IF/when she comes as really wants to know, we'll tell her. But, she still really and truly wants to believe. She still desperately wants fairies to be real.

Kendall still teases Ethan and says that he believes in Santa and gets presents from Santa. I guess I don't see the harm in it all. Why put a stop to things that keep them young, innocent and little just a little longer? Kids grow up way too fast as it is.

Linda said...

So the whole "Santa" thing came in really handy this year. My 8 year old (Savannah) still believes - and frankly, I'm not trying to dissuade her (she still has younger siblings). When she chose to be "can't be any worse than I've already been" (her words, not mine) for THREE WEEKS before Christmas, "Santa" wrote her a letter to go with the real, live, lump of coal that she did get in with all the other things in her stocking. I'm hoping that it brings a change in behavior, otherwise, she "ain't gettin' nothin' for anythin'". EVER. Part of the coal in the stocking was that she flat out told me "Santa wouldn't dare put coal in my stocking". Now. Wether I believe in Santa or not (we have the same don't believe, don't receive policy as another commenter), I WILL not be challenged like that. And it so happened that we've been burning coal in our kitchen cookstove. Teach her to challenge Mrs. Clause!!! I figure she'll get it soon enough, but until that day... I was in the 6th grade before I actually figured out that Santa went by Mom and Dad the rest of the year.

Anonymous said...

Ouch.

Anonymous said...

You are so honest! I love that about your blog.

Even the most saintly mother I know admits to falling into what we call the "ugly mom voice". Thank God that kids are so resiliant...

Rosanne said...

Ohhh, this almost made me cry. Well, we all do things that make us not even make the honorable mention list for mom-of-the-year award. ;)

Kelly @ Love Well said...

We've never pretended Santa was real with our kids, but man. I think I would have reacted the EXACT SAME WAY. Good grief. I'm sure you look back and wish you had handled it more gently, but sometimes, you just get pushed to the breaking point. And it's not like she's 3 or anything.

Mrs. Ohtobe said...

I felt SO lied to about the Santa issue when I was a child and I refuse to tell my kids he doesn't exsist. I know my kids (16, 16, 20, 20 and 21)are way too old to believe but I threaten them everytime I hear them say that Santa isn't real or that I'm Santa. What can I threaten them with? Why no stockings if you don't believe of course!

Tammy said...

We've told our kids from the start that it's a fun story to pretend, but that "Santa" is Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, Granddad - the people who buy the gifts. I want my kids to show their appreciation to the people who have bought their gifts. That way we can do the letter and cookies, and the kids know we are playing along.

That's just how we handle it, and we don't judge or care how others do it. :0)

Elizabeth said...

We never told our kids Santa was real. He has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas. Both my husband and I "did" Santa growing up but we just felt that it's not necessary. We don't lie to our kids about anything. And I appreciate that we get the credit for the awesome gifts that we work so hard to provide for them.

My kids have never believed and it has in no way hindered their love of Christmas. It caused a huge stir in my family when we told my parents that we weren't doing the whole Santa thing. We tell our kids not to spoil it for anyone it's a secret and it's not their job to tell.

I don't have a problem with people doing the Santa stuff but when you have to keep convincing them and making it more elaborate it just gets crazy. I remember a little girl that was older than me telling me the truth and her mom made her apoligize and tell me that Santa was real.

Sorry it didn't go as well as it could have.

Kathryn said...

This was such a funny post to me. I don't have any memories of believing in Santa ever in my life. Neither do my 3 younger sisters. (I believe my Mom's reasoning is that she didn't want us to find out that Santa isn't real and then question Christ's reality.)

I didn't really want my son (now 4) to believe in him but my Husband was really into it. So we did the whole Santa thing this year and it was fun. But then there is the issue of thanking Grandma and other family members for presents from "Santa."

I haven't figured out how we will proceed with the Santa issue as the kids get older.

I do need to say that I admire your patience though! I would have lost the "nice mommy" voice much sooner and probably given a very similar similar statement about the reality of Santa!

Janet said...

We do Santa big time. I have a much younger sister, so my brother and I got much longer Santa time than we probably should have. I was probably 8 when I figured it out, but I kept my mouth shut!
I try to instill magic in everything we do. I knew a family once who didn't do Santa Claus, and the poor kids were convinced that their parents only said Santa wasn't real because the kids were on the naughty list and they didn't want the kids to be disappointed. So you never know what is the best thing to do until well after the fact.

Anonymous said...

I like the TRUTH! Santa is a lie. I always wanted my kids to know that presents were from me and dad, from someone they know and love. And if you lie and tell them Santa is real and knows everything and then they find out later it was all a lie, then why would we think our children would believe in God. Santa can not do what God Can. You did the right thing. I'm with you. Don't feel guilty. Be glad you told the truth.

Daisy said...

So, so tough -- hugs to you, and Lillian, too.

ParkerMama said...

You have two boys on a mission? Our just came home last week!

Try not to sweat the Santa thing too much. Chances were Lillian was already questioning the whole gig. Spend some Mom and Lillian time together talking about her favorite Christmas memories over a cup of hot chocolate.

hugs~

everydayMOM said...

hilarious! sounds like something I would do.

we all eventually lose it and handle things in not the best way at some point. thanks for your honesty.

Lara said...

I have been unsure what to do this year. My oldest is 9 and she still believes with all her heart. I don't want to ruin it for her, but my 6 year old is starting to figure it out, although she wanted to believe this year. Maybe it will all be okay next year.

We've never made a huge deal over Santa, I don't think. But it's just hard. I've been overthinking it this year, I'm afraid. I think if we let them believe as long as they want to, it will be okay. I don't even remember how I figured it out!

The Source said...

Oh my. I have one extremely gullible twelve year old who's convinced...absolutely without a doubt convinced 100%...that Santa's real. Nothing will make him believe otherwise. He marched himself to the mailbox and mailed a letter to the North Pole this year. With no postage. And the stinking mailman wrote him BACK. Complete with a postmark from the North Pole. His twin laughs at him behind his back.

I'm hoping he won't be too cruched when he's 30 and Santa doens't show up with a sack full of toys for HIS kids.

bigguysmama said...

Ah, I've been there! On the brink of insanity and having the children push you right over, without a second look back.

At least you won't have another ride like that one discussing Santa!

Happy Upcoming New Year!

Lori said...

I was a bit upset on Christmas that my father in law asked my husband to dress up as Santa and hand out presents at a local shelter. It was an amazing thing, but it meant inventing lies for our kids. Suddenly there were Santa helpers that dress up as Santa to help kids in need. My daughter bought it (she had to be an elf, after all) but it was a bit irritating.

I don't know where I'll stand when they stop believing. It'll be interesting to say the least!

Jolanthe said...

I just read this and am CRACKING up! :)

Our kids don't believe in Santa...but they do. It's all a sad, sad cycle. Sigh.

Lump of coal, huh? Or a ceramic frog???? :) hee hee...

Peggy said...

We have yet to broach the reality of the Santa issue here. My oldest is Lillian's age, and although I think he suspects I don't think he wants to really know. He knows I am the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny is a farce but Santa is still a possibility. I just feel like a liar - and a huge part of me wants them to know that all these great things come from me and their dad. I will keep your story in mind as an example of how not to explain Santa. Hopefully all guilt washed away Christmas morning when excited kids (Santa or no) woke up to a tree full of gifts and time with family.

Nancy A. from Two Mountains said...

We're going through something similar this year and our youngest is 9 years old! He started off at the beginning of December stating he knew (for a fact) that Santa wasn't real...and I answered that he finally knew the truth - but then I'd hear him ask his older brothers or his sister (13, 16 an 19 years old) about Santa...more than twice. And I got to thinking he's actually wishing he IS real. My older kids like keeping the 'magic' alive but they always look over at me and their eyes seem to ask 'Are we still helping him believe?'. Every night for a week, I read him When Santa fell to Earth (which is about a different kind of Santa...more magical; the bad santas being the ones bringing the expensive gifts) and he loved the book. Yet even though we were dying to finally let it drop my husband decided he was going to go out backwards from our backdoor (no fireplace) with his boots, make a trail and pick up the carrots Matthew had left for the reindeers... We decided that when he turns 10 in April, he'll get to learn that mom & dad are actually Santa (and play their role very well). LOL

Heather said...

My oldest is almost 12 and still believes (but don't let his friends know that). I'm determined to keep it going as long as I can. Kids lose that innocence too early these days. I'm hoping I have at least 5 more years of Santa tracking on NORAD and playing santa since my youngest is only 7. I enjoy watching their excitement as they track Santa all day Christmas Eve and seeing them try to keep their composure when they sit on Santa's lap even though they feel like jumping out of their skin from the thrill of seeing the big guy. I'll be sad when it all ends.

Jennalee said...

I loved this post. Just found your blog and I will definitely check back in. Wonderful, honest writing and fun stories to boot! My kiddos (9,7,5,4,1) are all still believers. I asked a friend with older kiddos and he said he never had to have the conversation, it just happened naturally. I like that idea - an evolution of thought to find the true meaning behind the Santa story. Anyway, wonderful post. Read you soon!

a Tonggu Momma said...

They all need therapy for one reason or another, so I say don't worry about it! My daughter will probably head to see a shrink because I LIED this year... I reassured her of the existence of Santa Claus. This is the same daughter whom I adopted, which - the adoption experts will assure y'all - will heavily scar her for life. Because if I lied to her about Santa? Then that means I've destroyed her trust forever and she'll never believe me when I share with her the known facts about her life before adoption. *sigh*

Stephanie said...

Michelle, your candid story made me laugh.

Our girls are still very young so they haven't asked very many questions, but - when they do - we always tell them the truth about Santa. I think it's totally fine if others want to have their children "believe," but we've decided to just be forthright about the whole thing from the very beginning. Our 3-year-old still loves the whole "idea" of Santa Claus, but she also is very aware that he is just "pretend..." :)

stephanie@metropolitanmama.net

Cathi said...

You totally crack me up Michelle!
At our house, as long as you believe in Santa he will bring you presents. Believe in the magic of Santa but knowing he's not real. ;)

Laurel Nelson said...

Oh dear that didn't go well. I read an interesting article about Santa. Basically it was that there is ao difference between fantasy and lying and that when the writers kids asked about Santa, the parents said "what do you think?" and if the kid said yes, then the parent's said "that's your answer", and if they said that no, they didn't believe, the parents then took the kid aside, out of earshot of younger siblings, and then told about the historical roots of Santa, why we do it, emphasizing that it's a way to give in secret (kind of how Christ wanted people to do it) and that it's kind of also a way for parents to not take credit for all the presents, etc. Then what they would do, is Christmas Eve night, the child who just found out the truth would get a chance to sneak back out of bed later and help distribute the presents to everyone else, so they got to see the fun of it, and they also had to promise not to tell anyone who didn't already know. I thought it was a great way to let the kids know when they were ready, and to also let them see the fun of it.
I think kids lose their innocence too quickly these days, and I love the magical-ness of it all. I DO NOT think that telling your kids about Santa causes them to not believe in God (I believe in God, have gone to church my whole life, etc, and the Santa thing has not caused me to question anything). Kids can tell the difference between the spiritual and the secular, and they can know the true meaning of Christmas as well as the fun non-religious parts of it as well.
My own parents never really had a talk about Santa - I was in 1st grade when I found out about the Tooth Fairy, but my mom did say that when you don't believe, then Santa no longer brings you anything -so we always bought into it every year to keep getting stuff - though as we got older it wasn't presents anymore, just candy in the stocking.

Inkling said...

I'm just catching up on blog reading after a while away. (Funny how chasing after an almost-toddler sucks all my time away.)

I appreciated the honesty in this post, finding humor and seriousness in it. Your boys sound like good brothers - annoying but the perfect kind who will one day protect their baby sister instead of torturing her. They sound like they'd be fun to have in class if I was going to teach again.....in Alaska, no less.

As for Santa......the age old dilemma. My parents still mail me a gift from Santa. And I still wrap up gifts for my husband from Santa. Yet, they never taught us to believe in him. We always knew the historical story, which I really love still to this day. And then we got the fun of pretending that Santa really did bring our gifts and put our tree lights on, signing our guest book and eating our cookies and milk. In reality, it was the grandparent type neighbors up the street who did my parents the favor while they took us on a drive to see Christmas lights.

Tell Lillian that I'm with her. Even though I know the reality, there is still a little part of me that believes in Santa....and the tooth fairy. =)

If you really did get coal on Christmas morning, at least you can say Santa was practical for someone living in Alaska. But I know you are too great and creative of a mom to have actually ended up with only coal.

Alice Wills Gold said...

I broke the news to my best friend at about 8...she was devestated on Christmas morning when Santa brought her that E.T. doll that I showed her hiding in her mom's closet.

My husband broke the news to all my kids last year.

But, this year Santa came back to life at our house.


I hope my kids won't find your blog and be crushed. :)

Our almost nervous breakdown points as mothers aren't so pretty are they? :)

i do like that if you don't believe you don't receive policy.

No wonder why you got a ceramic frog...he he

I hope you don't need any outside reinforcement in the behavior dept this year...you can NEVER again use the good old "do you want Santa to bring you something on Christmas...because you are about to be put on the naughty list."

You would think that living in Alaska would make you a little more festive in the believe dept. :)

Alice Wills Gold said...

P.S. Somebody just came to me from a blogroll list that you posted in 2005. I never even knew I was on that list..or I forgot. thanks.