Holidays · Parenting

Protecting the Dream

CAUTION: Contains frank talk about Santa. You’ve been warned.






I’m ambivalent about Santa. I never believed in Santa as a child. Paul didn’t either, and when we talked about it we generally decided we’d go along if they picked it up from other people, but wouldn’t lie if asked a direct question. (I’m a terrible liar, so this was a good practical decision if nothing else.) So these past few years at our house, Santa filled the stockings, but that was it.


Earlier this year, the boys came to me together and braced me on The Santa Question.

“Um,” I said, a little wildly, “What do you think?”

“We think he’s not real,” they said. “Are we right?”

“Well, you are. Sort of. Santa, the guy who wears a red suit and lives at the North Pole is not a real guy. But really Santa is an idea. He’s the idea of unselfish love and giving. Every time you give a gift and don’t expect anything in return, you’re part of The Santa Idea.”

They seemed fine with that, if unimpressed.

“Will we still get presents?”

Reassured, they tore off in search of other myths to bust. Realizing I’d missed a crucial point, I called them back.

“This is VERY IMPORTANT,” I said. “Santa is an idea, and a lot of people, especially kids at school, still believe. If someone believes in Santa, YOU do not tell them he is not real. That is not your job. You let them believe.”

A short philosophical wrangle ensued regarding the nature of truth and the importance of kindness, but when they finally took off I was pretty sure they’d cooperate.

Soon after Thanksgiving, one of them reported that someone in his class still believed in Santa, and he hadn’t said anything different. “Excellent!” I said.

This last Friday, Emily came to babysit for the day. Emily goes to church with us and sings on the worship team. She’s in college and consequently happy to pick up extra cash when the opportunity presents itself. She finds the boys mostly amusing and hasn’t yet developed a desperate need to wash her hair when I call with a possible babysitting gig.

Yesterday, as we sat in the music office between Christmas Eve services, she told me she’d been asking the boys about the upcoming extravaganza.

“Are you excited?” she asked.

Oh, yes, they were, they said, hopping up and down like frogs high on pixie sticks.

“And what did you ask Santa for?”

“Santa’s not r…” Elias got out, before Levi cut him off.

“ELIAS,” he said, in the loudest stage whisper in the known universe, “SHHHHH. SHE DOESN’T KNOW.”

And so they pretended for her.

Bless their sweet hilarious little hearts. We’re still working on when it’s appropriate to punch your brother (HARDLY EVER YOU GUYS), but they do know how to be nice. Only to other people, I guess, but it’s a start.

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