When my oldest child was a baby, a friend told me she wasn’t going to lie to her child about Santa Claus. In her house there would be no Santa because he wasn’t real and she didn’t want her son to grow up thinking she lied to him, about anything, ever.
“Really?” I asked.
I’ve got no problem with the big guy in the red suit. With my older two kids it was easy. The idea that Santa came down the chimney with presents without getting stuck, burned or dirty died a natural death in the first grade. But this time, with the third child, she’s not letting go. She’s hanging on, desperate to believe and full of questions, which we all answer with, yup, more lies.
“Well, how does Santa get back up the chimney?”
My 12-year-old answers, “He’s got sticky suckers on his gloves and boots, like an octopus, that help him climb back up.”
A kid her in first grade class told her last week that Santa Claus didn’t exist and her parents put the presents under the tree. She told him that wasn’t true, even her older sister believed in Santa. And then she told him about the sucker gloves. We now call that kid names and point him out in the class picture. “There’s that kid, the one we are going to look out for in seventh grade. What a killjoy.”
In hockey carpool, a kid on my son’s team told my daughter, “There’s no such thing as Santa Claus.” So my son smacked him upside his head and put him in a headlock until the kid finally decided, “Well I guess since you’re hitting me, Santa does exist.”
We’re all in on the lie in our family, resorting to physical violence, name calling and sucker gloves to keep perpetuating the myth.
As part of the entire thing, we also have to go see Santa — one more thing to fit into busy schedules. Last year, we were down to the last weekend before Christmas. In between racing to this thing and that other thing, we bolted out to the mall when it opened to stand in line for over an hour. My younger daughter was desperate to see Santa; she begged to go see Santa; and we were going to deliver.
When it was finally our children’s turn to sit on Santa’s lap, my older children hedged and sat off to the side, not telling Santa what they wanted. But my youngest sat for a while on Santa’s lap, talking, smiling, basking, believing. When they all walked out of the Santa sleigh and an elf handed them a candy cane, I asked my younger daughter what she asked for.
That year our dog ate the legs off her sister’s favorite doll. We sent the doll back to the company to be repaired. One day, after the doll had been back for months, my older daughter took her out of the box. It was not her doll. Instead of repairing my daughter’s doll, the factory had replaced the chewed doll with a new toy.
My older daughter was grief-stricken. There were tears and hugs and the painful realization that her doll, the real doll, was gone. There was nothing I could do to bring her back. I wasn’t magic. Santa Claus is magic, so my younger daughter, desperate for every toy she’s ever seen on television, didn’t ask for any toys for herself. She asked only for Santa to bring a toy for her sister.
“Please, Santa, bring my sister’s doll Kirsten back. She misses her. I know you are magic and I know you can.”
It was my favorite act of love and kindness that Christmas season. A 6-year-old child wanting Santa to bring joy to her sister and make the world, her world, right and just and safe — a place where lost toys return home again.
It proved to me that good things do happen when you believe. And that’s the truth.