Our family’s relationship with Santa can best be described as “tense.” Rob disagrees wholeheartedly with the idea of Santa. He feels it is dishonest and sets your kids up for heartbreak when they figure out the truth. I see his point, but didn’t want to rob my kids of the magic of Christmas (plus I really wanted that Santa picture every year). So we compromised: we still do Santa, but we make as little a fuss about Santa as possible. One present under the tree is from Santa; the rest are from Rob and I. However, over the years I have been pulled deeper and deeper into the Santa deception. Rob has stood by all these years shaking his head and judging me hard as I added more Santa-related rituals and customs: letters written and “mailed” to Santa, sprinkling the “reindeer food” the kids brought home from school on the front lawn, reminders that Santa doesn’t come until you’re asleep. Rob lost his fucking mind last year when I asked him to eat the cookies and drink the milk Phaedra left out. “Do NOT drag me into this bullshit! I told you I want no part of this!”
“I’m asking you to eat some goddamn cookies, dude.”
“You’re not making me complicit in this. I don’t like this at all. This is lying.”
“No, this is the last sugar cookie with frosting and sprinkles. Just eat the fucking cookie so we can go to bed.”
But this year I’m in so much trouble when it comes to Santa, and all because of the goddamn Tooth Fairy. A few months ago, I was unloading dishes from the dishwasher, high on the knowledge that the kids would be going to bed in the next five minutes, when Phaedra wandered into the kitchen. We started talking about her efforts at earning money to spend on an app. “Oh hey, don’t you have a loose tooth?” I asked her. “That’s another dollar you can put towards your Club Penguin fund once the Tooth Fairy comes, right?”
She looked at me with a mix of caution and annoyance. “Mom, I think it’s you. I think you leave the money under my pillow when I lose my tooth.”
To be fair, I was a pretty piss-poor Tooth Fairy. Of the four teeth Phaedra has lost, I had exactly one successful Tooth Fairy transaction. Once, I filled her bag of quarters with sprinkles, then left the goddamn sprinkles jar open on the kitchen counter for Phaedra to find in the morning. And technically, there was no third time for us, because I FUCKING FORGOT to do it at all. Phaedra woke me up crying at 6:00 a.m. on a school day because the Tooth Fairy didn’t come. I looked at Rob with the same “help me” look on my face that Tom Skerritt had when Sigourney Weaver found him hanging on the wall in Alien. After Phaedra left the room to get dressed, Rob looked at me and shook his head. “Dude. You fucked up.” I had to write Phaedra a note at work from the Tooth Fairy about how she was super busy and left the money on her pillow.
So needless to say, Phaedra was suspicious, and was having none of my denials and flimsy excuses this particular evening. Finally, after a lengthy good-cop-style interrogation where she assured me she already knew the truth, that everything would be okay if I was just honest, I finally looked at her and said, “Well, what if it was me? Would that be a bad thing?”
She burst into tears.
See, she thought she could handle the truth, but, well you know.
I spent the evening listening to her cry and rage at me, responding to the following statements and questions from Phaedra:
1. I had lied to her. (True)
2. She was going to go to school on Monday and expose this web of parental lies to all of her classmates. (“PLEASE DON’T DO THAT,” I begged. Visions of angry phone calls from parents danced through my head.)
3. She insisted on calling Rob at work and telling him what I had done. She also told him that she suspected I had gotten the coins from his change box on the dining room table. (This delighted Rob to no end, but the joke’s on you, motherfucker, because I did get that money from your change box.)
4. She now realized that the leprechaun had not trashed her classroom during recess on St. Patrick’s Day; in fact, it was probably their cool custodian, Mr. Dave. (Probably true)
5. Speaking of leprechauns, she decided that she also no longer believed in:
- Leprechauns (I never said anything about leprechauns; take that one up with your teacher.)
- Cupid (I mean, okay.)
- The Easter Bunny (whoa, whoa, whoa, let’s not get cra…)
- Santa Claus (RED ALERT)
I stopped her on that one. I knew, after watching her melt down for an hour over the goddamn Tooth Fairy that there was no way she was ready for the truth about Santa. She was just testing me. So I looked my daughter in her red, puffy, tear-filled eyes, and I did the right thing.
I lied my ass off.
I reassured her that Santa was most definitely real. After a few half-hearted protests from her, I used the argument that I thought would sound the most realistic and plausible to her: “Honey, do you honestly think I would spend all that money on presents? I don’t have that kind of money to spend on toys!” Her unshakeable faith in my tightness with a dollar turned the tide back towards believing in Santa. I also bribed her with a new knockoff American Girl doll from Target so she would forgive me, but that’s not really important.
So yes, instead of being vague and ambivalent towards Santa, I am now straight-up lying to my daughter about Santa’s existence. Is it the best strategy in the long run? No, probably not. And if you’re scrolling down already to leave your comment about how it’s wrong to lie to your kids and how dare I, well then you can just get the hell on, Felicia. I know that girl, and she is not ready to give up Santa just yet. When she periodically accuses me of being Santa as Christmas draws nearer, I know now that it’s her way of asking for reassurance. I’m still not pouring on the Santa schtick very heavily, but he’s still here, bumping into us time and again during those four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Also, there is a small possibility that I am not ready for her to know the truth, either. As cynical and wise as she is, she enjoys the idea of a little magic now and then. Life is hard, and my goal at this point in the child-raising game is to postpone as much of that disheartening hardness as long as I can. She deserves to be able to wake up and be swept away with happiness that Santa brought presents without being seen.
But if you think I’m putting Santa’s name on that PS4 we’re buying this year, you’re fucking crazy.
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