The Lie

Today, after he got home from school, one of the first things out of Sam’s mouth was, “Is Santa Claus real?”

I casually walked him a little distance away from his brothers and asked him why he was asking.

“Some of the fifth graders on the bus were talking about it,” he said.

“Do you think he’s real?” I asked.

“Yes,” he answered.

“Me too,” I said.

And that was it. Well, except for what seems to be the seed of an elaborate plan to somehow catch Santa in the act this Christmas Eve complete with instructions to “tell Dad not to go in the living room on Christmas Eve, and you too. And I’ll tell the brothers not to go in there unless they have to get to the bathroom.”

I’m curious as to what he’s planning. I’m worried that it may involve snares.

Part of me thinks it adorable and sweet and a sign of his impending maturity. And the other part is all “Fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck.” I vividly remember reading Maria’s post last year about how she never started the whole Santa myth with her daughters and incredulously thinking, “You can DO that? Why didn’t someone tell me that eight years ago?”

Because, honestly, I want to come clean. But I’m in too deep. The lies have stacked upon the lies and now it’s not just Sam believing in Santa Claus, but it’s Quinn believing in the Easter Bunny and it’s Jack believing that a giant tooth called the Tooth Fairy leaves him money under his pillow when parts of his body fall out.

I wanted to be all flat-out, “No, Sam. Santa Claus is not real. We made him up because that is what the whole damn world does, and it’s fun and please don’t wreck it for your brothers or your classmates, and it’s okay, just because we lied about that doesn’t mean you can’t trust us, and Santa is really more the spirit of Christmas and the embodiment of our love for you than an actual person, so really he does exist, right? But, no, he’s not real.”

But I didn’t say that because I didn’t really want to snap his little heart into sixteen pieces five minutes before I had to drag the whole family out of the house to go to Jack’s speech therapy.

Anyway, before I ask to hear your stories of Santa and the devastation he wreaks on the 8- to 10-year-old set, I leave you with this awesome response to my tweet about the conversation I had with Sam:

I love twitter.

So, bring ‘em on. I wanna hear your stories of The Lie and the devastation that followed. (Or is coming. Because, yeah, it’s coming. You can almost feel it, huh? It’s like a 500-pound reindeer lightly pressing his left front hoof on one of your shoulders and you just know the other 499 pounds are going to come down on you soon. And at an inopportune time. Oh…it’s coming.)

36 thoughts on “The Lie

  1. Some stooopid teacher told our sons whole class in the third grade..he was devastated.
    Our grandson who has aspergers announced he knows that Santa is really Grandpa and we said,’ and why do you think that?’…he says becuase I only tell grandpa what I really want..and I get it,LOL

  2. i really didn’t want to do the whole santa thing with our kids–i didn’t growing up and hated the thought of lying. but my husband grew up with it and loved it. for now, i’m trying to appreciate their delight in the magic of it all. but have worried about the “coming clean” time.

    my daughter started to figure things out with the tooth fairy. so we told her the truth and brought in santa claus as well. we told her that it was very special for her to know about it and she should participate in keeping the magic alive for her siblings. she seemed pretty excited by that…so far she hasn’t decided that we’re always full of lies!

  3. I remember, like Melanie’s daughter, figuring out the Tooth Fairy first and then extrapolating to Santa et al. My mom told me the same thing, that since I was a big girl I needed to keep the magic alive for my little sister, and I remember being a little bummed but totally okay with being “in on the secret.” My sister, on the other hand, was pretty devastated when she figured it out a few years later.

    Our son’s still too young to even have a notion of Santa. I figure we’ll just ignore it as long as we can (though now I’m off to read the post of Maria’s that you linked).

  4. Before I had kids I laughed at those silly stories of finding out about Santa…what was wrong with those people, total suckers? Then I painstakingly explained to my xmas obsessed husband I, as a Jew, would not be lying to our kids about Santa.

    Fast forward 7 years, my husband could have cared less what I did and I am holding desperately onto the myth of Santa because it’s so damn cute and helpful to get them to behave once in a while. My son keeps asking all these pointed questions, and I just keep using the same two lines…”what do you think?” and “magic”

  5. I can vividly remember my parents telling me that Santa Claus was not really (I was probably around 5), but, again, that I shouldn’t spoil it for my friends. Being the youngest, they probably figured my brothers’ would convince me soon anyway…

    Personally, I find it very hard to lie to my kids, even if it’s for something fun. Not saying I don’t do it, but I don’t feel comfortable.

  6. We’re probably going to go the route my parents did: Santa is real. But he’s not what you thought when you were a small child. Santa Claus gives giving and living a human face, and as you get older, you inherit the red suit and get to act for Saint Nicholas.

    After all, this is about mythology, and how it works. As a child, you need tangibles. As you mature, you need understanding.

  7. Woot! My tweet made it onto Stimeyland! I’m famous!

    So what I couldn’t say in 140 characters was that it actually started with Em, who believed until she was 10. It started when she was little, and declared to me, “Santa wouldn’t skip me just because I’m JEWISH, right? He wouldn’t be like that!” How could I not let it go on from there? (We’ve always celebrated Christmas Eve and Day with close friends, and Santa visits them there, since our house is a No Tree Zone.)

    I do, however, refuse to lie straight out to them. When Em would ask, “Is Santa real?” I would just say, “What do you think?” And when she got older and kept pushing, I’d ask, “Do you really want to know the answer, even if it turns out to be something you don’t like?” She said yes immediately to the tooth fairy, but chose not to hear the answer for Santa for a long time. (And what is UP with kids still believing in Santa when they know the Tooth Fairy is fake???)

    Although, of course, you don’t ever have to say that there’s no such thing as Santa…just that it’s not one person who lives at the North Pole and rides reindeer around the world. But that we are all Santa and (and this is the part that got Em to smile about it all) now that he knows the ‘truth,’ he is officially part of the magic, and it’s his job to help make Christmas special for all the little kids…It’s his job to BE Santa.

  8. 17 knew for years-since early elementary school years, but she never spilled. 15 believed until 7th grade-seriously! He was heart broken~he kept saying “But we always got what we wanted and you didn’t have any money”(at the time I was working 1 full time, 1 half time and 2 part time jobs). I explained I just made it work-that’s what moms do. He hugged me with tears in his eyes. I was so sad to bust that particular myth…It hasn’t been the same since.

  9. Okay, I admit it, I was one of those kids who had a freaking nervous breakdown over the whole Santa thing. In retrospect, it might have been easier if my parents had told me a little earlier. You know? I asked, like Sam is now, several times for several years, starting around 4th grade. So by the time I really clued in, probably sixth grade or so, I was pretty pissed. It also really screwed with me in being able to really believe in religion as well but that is a whole nother thing.

    So, my kids. Believe it or not, after what I just said, we did do the Santa thing with my kids. However, I was always sort of tongue in cheek with it. Santa used the same wrapping paper that is in plain sight in the house and that we use for family gifts. Santa’s writing and Mom’s writing are the same. As soon as they could rub two brain cells together, they started putting two and two together. My daughter figured it out the earliest- she was about first grade or so. Even after she knew, though, she still really enjoyed the pretending aspect for a couple of years after that, which we were totally cool with. My second child is a sixth grader this year. He never came out and said he didn’t believe but I could tell that by last Christmas he knew there was no tooth fairy (maybe because she is a loser who kept forgetting) and hence, the others as well. I send a wink his way now when I mention Santa to my youngest, as a way to kind of confirm and “let him in on the secret.”

    The youngest is nearly 8. He still believes. He did ask this year but I could tell he wasn’t REALLY asking and didn’t REALLY want to know.

    Long story short- I think you can tell when kids get to an age where they really DO want to know. It reminds me of when tickling or wrestling is funny and fun and then you can sense things starting to shift and it is becoming NOT fun. Even before they start really wigging out, you know by a change in their voices or body language. I think the respectful thing is to try to figure out when they are getting to that point and then help them over the bump.

    Can you tell this was a big parenting issue for me?!

  10. Well having a precocious reader has already ruined the tooth fairy for my 5yo and she hasn’t even lost any yet. I’m assuming when she connects the dots she’ll spill the beans to the other two. I am totally going the St. Nicholas route using the history of website that pops up when you google. Still not ready for that day though!

  11. You handled Sam’s question perfectly. When I was in third grade, I expressed some mild skepticism to my mother when she was tucking me in one night, and she panicked and spilled (more worried, as usual, about my little brother than me. No, I’m not bitter). Upon hearing the truth, when I was just looking for reassurance, I burst into tears.

    My older son hung in there until 5th grade. I’m sure he had suspicions but really didn’t want to know. Wouldn’t you know it, he finally asked my husband point-blank on a rare weekend that I was out of town. My husband refused to lie about it to a kid that old. On the phone that night, my sad boy mournfully told me that it was “the worst day of my life” and ordered me to “NEVER tell [my brother]!”

    BUT — Once the cat was out of the bag, I told him that it wasn’t that there is no Santa; the fact is that EVERYONE is Santa, once they are grown up enough. And that now HE was Santa too, and got to help plan secrets…and to stay up later than his brother and help fill stockings.

    And he never complained again.

    As for the little brother (and spectrum-dweller): He is now 12 and has NEVER asked about Santa. I am sure that he knows but is operating under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. I go along, but make no elaborate efforts like I used to (separate wrapping paper for Santa’s gifts etc). He’s in the know…but still goes to bed before the rest of us on Xmas eve.

    Ho ho ho!

  12. My 9 year old still completely believes. He is no longer in public school so I think that helps. In first grade, he came home in tears because some older kids told him he was a baby for believing. I told him that he had the choice to believe or not to believe. The twinkle in his eyes on Christmas Eve is priceless, I am not sure I can break his heart at this point.

  13. I vividly remember sitting my Dad down one evening in the third grade and explaining that I had heard some rumors about Santa. I told him that he had to tell me the truth right then and there because otherwise I would go on believing in Santa until I was an adult and then I wouldn’t know the truth and wouldn’t prepare any gifts for my own kids, expecting some Santa guy to do all the work. So, in the interest of his future grandchildren, my Dad told me the truth. I don’t think I was too upset about hearing the truth since I confronted him with such a logical argument.

    So far this year M has role-played the whole Santa comes on Christmas Eve bit about 47 times already and then had to leave the building because of M’s hysterical crying when Santa made an appearance at the school staff Thanksgiving party. It’s a love hate relationship so far. Sigh. Maybe we should give up the whole charade now and get it over with.

  14. These ar some amazing stories! I agree with the person with “don’t ask, don’t tell”. Santa still brings at least one fun gift to our 19 year-olds, like the scooters or PS2, while mom and dad give the practical stuff. I am fairly sure the subject has never come up. I always looked at it as playing a game rather than telling a lie, and neither daughter seems traumatized. Young moms: chill out!

  15. I found out Santa wasn’t real the same year my mother had a mastectomy on December 26. While I don’t recommend the “mommy might not come home” method of offsetting “Santa isn’t real,” it certainly did put it in perspective for this seven year old.

    Really though? Lying? I get tired of the parents who don’t do Santa because they don’t want to “lie” to their children. I guarantee you they use alternate versions of the truth when it suits them otherwise.

    If you don’t want to do Santa, don’t do Santa. But please. Get off your honesty high horses.

    We do Santa because I love Santa and I want to believe. And because Buddy the Elf told me he was real.

  16. I don’t remember discovering the truth about Santa at all, BUT I do vividly remember my neighbor finding out. (Why do I think I’ve posted this story before?)

    When he was thirteen (13!) he came home from school heartbroken because someone had told him about Santa. His mom said, “And Todd, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy…”

    His response, “Not them TOO!”

  17. The story in my household goes that as a 3 year old my parents couldn’t work out why I was so worked up around the holidays. That was until they eventually discovered that I was absolutely petrified of the thought of some random old man stumbling into my room late at night and leaving stuff at the end of my bed. If you’ve seen the “clowns gonna eat me” Simpsons episode you’ll realize I felt exactly like Bart.

    So I had to be told as a three year old, and it was apparently the best news I’d ever heard. Still grew up somewhat well adjusted though…

  18. Last year Joseph (who’s 9 nine now) heard from some kids that Santa isn’t real. He was a little confused and asked me set him straight. He told me that he still wanted to believe so I told him that it was ok to believe as long as he wanted to. I said Santa was a symbol for kindness and giving and the Christmas spirit and that I still believed in that symbol. We’re an atheist/agnostic household so there was no conflict for him in believing that Santa is the “reason for the season”. This year he’s told me that he still believes in the “Santa who’s a symbol that brings you presents”.

  19. My five year old brother pointed out that Santa at the Royal British Legion Christmas party smelled of whisky. And then he pulled Santa’s beard off to reveal our next-door-neighbour under the costume. Traumatic.

  20. It’s odd that I have little memory of learning that there was or wasn’t a Santa. Life was pretty hectic around our house and I guess I just figured it out when we found a bunch of presents badly hidden one year. I don’t remember feeling any emotion in particular. Hmmm???

    Two year old Danny thinks that Mickey Mouse is Santa. I think. Ho, Ho, Ho! Guess we’ll have to start thinking about this whole cunundrum. By the way, you handled the situation beautifully. -M

  21. Oh I’ve been there. My kids believed until 5th grade. Wanting to come clean but not fess up, I just started leaving hints…really obvious hints. That way I was never really confronted, but my kids finally got it.

    Cowardly? Yes. But it worked for me.

    Glad I found your blog.

  22. I stubbornly believed in Santa claus when I was a kid, even after my younger brother stopped believing… mostly because I didn’t like changes, and because Santa made the holiday special and fun. Once my dad blatantly told me there was no Santa, Christmas was never the same!
    Monkeyboy has stopped believing, but he likes taking part in helping create the illusion of Santa for the little ones!

  23. I am pretty sure my fourth grader has figured it out (she stopped leaving teeth out for the tooth fairy without any discussion) but she isn’t willing to push and ruin it for me and her brother. Also, perhaps out of a fear that the abundance of presents will end.

    The one time she did ask, maybe in first grade, I gave the answer I got from my mother when I asked if she believed — Santa represents the spirit of Christmas and I believe in the spirit of Christmas.

    I give a slightly different answer to the Easter bunny question — I answer with a question — “Mommy HATES peeps, would I give you peeps?”
    When they answer “yes, because you love us and they make us happy” then I’ll know that they are ready for the truth.

    I wasn’t devestated when I finally admitted what I knew to be the truth and believe that the kids will be fine too — seeing it as a way of celebrating the season instead of some neferouis lie — I don’t lie to them about other things and they know it.

  24. I stopped believe when I was around nine, but didn’t tell my mom until I was eleven. No drama.

    BUT, Nelson set out to catch Santa when he was around Same’s age. He set up a tape recorder in the living room to catch him. His mom was “in” on it, and made fake Santa noises and stuff. He was totally fooled.

    I don’t know if we’re going to do the Santa myth or not. I like Mama Stacy’s idea.

  25. Whenever one of my kids asked if Santa was real, or said they didn’t believe – I told them that Santa didn’t bring presents to kids who don’t believe in him. I mean really, that would be so insulting for him!

    So basically my kids stopped asking and stopped making proclamations about belief – and at 25 and 23 – they still get a few gifts from the big guy in red.

    Worked for me!

  26. For us, Santa is in our storybooks, just like princes and dragons and pirates and Maybelle the trolley and trucks that talk. We haven’t heard the question yet — but we haven’t been asked about whether Maybelle the trolley can really talk either.

    Santa brings one present to each of our kids, because he’s got so many kids all over the world to deliver to … I think that helps keep the right emphasis for us on family, not some guy in a big red suit.

  27. When my sister and I were well beyond the years of believing in Santa, we told me dad the jig was up. We made him leave the house for church (when Santa visited us) before us, and wouldn’t let him out of our sight. Unbeknownst to us, he knew it was coming and he had a neighbor bring out the gifts so my dad could still parade around insisting there was a santa. We all still laugh about it.

  28. Somehow I never really BELIEVED in Santa, but still enjoyed the make-believe idea of Santa. Had all the fun with none of the trauma.

    But now as a parent, I don’t know how to create that with my own kids — particularly without having my kids be the ones to ruin it for people who really really BELIEVE.

  29. I have to tell you I was SHOCKED to hear my 6th grader ask me if Santa was real or not. I honestly thought she had figured it out. I had never said anything one way or another…just continued with the “Santa is magic.” Apparently she heard kids in English class talking about Santa and figured it out. My now 6th grader is also not taking a stand.

  30. Two comments on the believing issue-
    One, I did the same sort of “snare” type scenario when I was in elementary school… I’m gonna guess it was third grade? But for me the first doubts were about the Easter Bunny. It was elaborate, and involved hammering horseshoe nails into the ceiling, so that I could lead a string with bells tied on it from the front door to my bed. When the Easter bunny was “too shy” to pull the string like I asked, and his note was in oddly familiar mommish handwriting, I sort of figured out the whole bunny/Santa/toothfairy thing.

    Then there was my little sister. Who announced to her kindergarten class that “Santa’s not REAL, you know. He’s pretend and your presents are from your mom and dad.”

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