I got into a hairy conversation with my kids recently about the big guy coming to town. You know, the big guy. Santa.
I inexplicably found myself in the middle of a landmine of questions that started with trying to teach my kids about charity for others who cannot afford presents during Christmas and snow-balled into one confusing statement after another as my daughter asked why we have to give presents to people when Santa will do it.
Everything I said to explain this concept seemed to elicit another question, creating a whole monster of doubt and confusion for my kids about this whole Santa thing. My head started spinning. I didn't even know what I was saying anymore. I feared that I had literally ruined the very existence of innocence and happiness in my children forever.
Luckily, when the conversation ended, they seemed satisfied that Mommy doesn't really know anything and therefore Santa is definitely real and we can all go on with our merry little lives.
Sound familiar? Hopefully not. But, if your kids have ever questioned Santa before, you may have felt that same small ball of panic rising in your chest that makes you wish for your own mommy.
Take heed, I have found a few easy answers that should quell your fears and keep the magic of Santa alive and well in your house for a long time.
Scenario 1: Your kiddo gets off the bus and flat out says, “Santa isn't real.”
Do not panic! The jig is not up! She is most likely repeating something she heard another kid say and is testing to see if you are going to blow the whistle or if you are going to reassure her and allow her savor childhood a little longer.
First – ask her some questions. “Why do you say to that? What are the other kids saying about Santa? What do you really think about Santa?” Get her perspective. She might decide on her own that she can have a different idea. If so, awesome! Your work is done!
If she is still questioning, say to her: “It's okay if some kids don't believe in Santa anymore. Some parents might not believe either. That's their choice. You can still believe in him and help keep his magic alive. If she still gives you the side eye, just put your hands up and say, “It can't hurt, right?!”
Scenario 2: Your skeptical child asks unending logistical questions
“How does Santa get in the house without a chimney?”
“How does he fit through the door?”
“Why has no one ever actually seen him?”
“Remember that one year he didn't eat his cookies, and they were still on the plate in the morning?
How do reindeer actually fly? (And don't even think of giving your sweet analytic any of that “magic and fairy dust stuff.” That's for babies.)
If this sounds like your kid, rest assured you have a smart thinker on your hands. Tell him: “I see you are trying to figure this all out. It is confusing, isn't it? It doesn't all make sense. Sometimes it's okay for things not to make perfect sense and to still believe. It is always more fun to believe in Santa.”
With this answer, you're not lying, and you aren't placating them. You are validating their questions without bogging yourself down with answers trying to prove everything that simply cannot be proven.
Scenario 3: It's Christmas Eve and your daughter tells you that all she wants for Christmas is the American Girl Doll with the blue dress and she really really reeeeeeally hopes Santa brings it for her!
Unfortunately, this is the first you have heard anything about an American Girl Doll. Up until 10 minutes ago, the pink rocking horse was tops on her list and going to make a huge splash on Christmas morning. Agh!
Do not feel tempted to get up and run to the mall at 9:30 p.m., even if Toys R Us is open all night long. Asking Santa for something doesn't mean that your kid has to get it. Prepare your children early for this reality by explaining that Santa does his best to make special toys, but that toy lists are only suggestions, and kids will definitely not get everything they want. That would be impossible.
If you haven't yet dropped this bit of knowledge on your child, now would be a good time. Be gentle, be kind, but be honest. Say something like....
“What else is on your list this year? Sometimes it's the things we have wanted the longest that Santa works hard to make for us. I love your new idea for the doll. It would be a great birthday present if Santa doesn't have time to make one for you this year. Remember that kids don't get everything they ask for.”
If she has a hard time hearing this, you can reassure her that she has so many great ideas and will definitely get something she loves from Santa this year. Leave it at that. In the morning, she will be so excited she might even forget about the doll altogether.
If she's disappointed, let her be. It's a good life lesson.
Lastly, tell your kids you don't know how it all works, but that a belief in Santa is a pretty neat and magical thing. Remember that kids want to believe. They want to feel the magic and the excitement. If they doubt a little bit, it's okay. You don't have to make it your job to convince them. You might even try joining them in the wonder and ask your own questions.
When my kids start coming up with creative ideas about how Santa gets all those presents in the house so quietly, I guess along with them. After all, I have never seen Santa either, and I always wondered how he managed to fit three whole bicycles down my chimney, circa Christmas 1989. I mean, amazing, right?!
We may grow up, but we don’t ever have to stop believing in magic, or Santa Claus.