A family dilemma: The truth about Santa

In my house (Spoiler Alert!) I’m Santa. And what’s more, my kids know it.

I grew up in a pro-Santa household. Though my parents insist I should have been able to read the signs–i.e. our Santa liked Diet Coke with his cookies instead of milk–I really had no clue. The cookies were crumbs in the morning. The Diet Coke can was empty. What more proof did I need?

So naturally, I wanted to continue the Santa tradition with my children.My husband had other ideas. His parents did Christmas in a big way, but they did not “do Santa.” He and his two siblings were sworn to secrecy, lest they stomp on the innocence of their little friends, but they knew what they knew. The other kids were deluded.

So, when our daughter was born in July 2005, Phil and I talked it out. More than once. For more than a year.It always went something like this…

Phil: I don’t want to lie to the kids. Here we’re trying to teach them about the Truth about Baby Jesus, and at the same time we’re lying to them about Santa.

Me: My parents did Santa. It didn’t mess me up.

Phil: The kids should know who gave them the gifts.Gifts don’t appear out of thin air.

Me: But the Magic! Childhood needs Magic!

First Christmas came and went. Now we had two kids, one of whom was 18 months old and ready to participate in Christmas traditions. We were at an impasse. I had to find a compromise, or Phil could (and I have no doubt would) undermine any moves I made Santa-ward. So I thought it through.Could we be clear about the Truth while still playing around with all the Santa traditions?

What if I signed the kids presents “from Santa,” we sat on Santa’s lap at the mall, we even set out cookies for the Big Guy in Red, but from the first, I would tell the kids the Truth.I bought the gifts.I ate the cookies. “Santa,” I would explain, was a game. A game that made the secrets of buying and hiding and wrapping gifts more fun. Could that work?Could I live with that?Could Phil?

We could, and we did. Seven years later, our Santa plan is still going strong. It’s fun! There are many jokes about Mommy’s closet being off-limits because “the elves are working in there.” When I come home in a minivan loaded with mysterious shopping bags, the kids say, with a wink and a smile, that I must have “met Santa at the store.”

Sometimes the kids choose, with the single-mindedness of childhood, to believe in Santa for an hour or a day. But then they’ll sneak up and wetly whisper in my ear: “I know that you’re Santa, Mommy. But you don’t mind if we play Santa as a game.” No I don’t mind. I love it! I can have my Christmas cookies and eat them, too.

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