What to tell your kids about Santa

Is Santa a charming tradition or a terrible lie?

“I don’t believe in lying to my kids about Santa. Early on, my husband and I had a discussion about Santa and what we’d tell our kids. It’s a rare occasion when I feel that lying to your kids is okay, and this, for me, didn’t qualify. Sure, you could continue the ruse as long as possible, seeing the joy in their face, them experiencing the “magic” of Christmas, but inevitably they would find out the truth and find out that you lied to them. Then they would hate you for killing Santa.” – Jenny Williams writing at Wired.com last year

When my eldest was 2, the question of whether or not to introduce Santa Claus in our home was up in the air. If you think it through, it’s kind of a strange mix, Santa Claus. He figures out whether you’re naughty or nice, he requires a gift order in advance (but not if you’re poor), and he invades your home through the roof.

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus
Since we eventually decided to introduce Santa, it’s clear those weren’t deal-breaking issues for me. I never worried a whole lot about the “you lied about Santa” aspect. We at Casa Gruden have a healthy respect for the power of myth and story in family life, and a little dose of magic, fairy or otherwise, is always welcome.

Of course now my elder son’s eight, and he’s pushing the boundaries of Santa’s abilities. Here’s the conversation:

“I’m going to ask Santa for an XBox One!”
“Oh, I don’t think an XBox One will work with our TV honey.” (our television is older than our marriage)
“Then let’s ask Santa for a TV too! Because he’s magic, right?”

…um, no.

We had a discussion about greed and the capacity of Santa’s sleigh, but I also caught the undertone that my son might be trying to get Santa to bring him something impossible to prove his existence. Since he’s in grade three, I’m guessing some of the testing is arising from recess discussion.

So far my compromise has been that I’ll go a certain distance to preserve Santa in my child’s eyes — hide the stocking gifts at the neighbour’s, allow Santa to bring a Nerf gun that mummy would never permit — but there is no way I’m getting a whole new audio-visual set-up.

I think this will be the last year for Noah and the Santa story, whether it survives the schoolyard or not. Then we’ll initiate him into older childhood, bringing him over the line from “those who receive magical presents” to “those who create magical presents for others.” Maybe, in a world where we have increasingly few rituals to recognize our children’s paths from toddler to adult, admitting “the lie” will be a good experience.

If you believe in Santa, here’s how to send him a letter.

What’s your family’s approach to Santa? How did you or your kids find out about Santa, and at what age? Any recommendations for how I should handle it?

(Photo: State Library and Archives of Florida, via Flickr Creative Commons)

  • Susan

    Always gave a nice present from Santa to them when they were little – however, when they got to an age when Santa was no longer real – the presents from Santa were no longer real either – the stocking stuffers were usually from Santa as well, and the first thing to be opened while the parents arouse themselves and organise the breakfast before dawn! :)

    • http://www.canadianliving.com/ Jennifer Gruden

      That’s a great way to handle it Susan…and makes for better breakfasts, :)