The Santa thing just wasn’t working for us.
We had three kids in grade school and a calendar already full with their activities — we had no time for Santa, or for photo sessions at the mall. An inebriated man had once strolled into our house and passed out on our couch — an event that made our kids anxious about the idea of someone (even someone bearing gifts) wandering through our home while they slept. And as parents, my wife and I weren’t thrilled about Santa’s secularized prosperity gospel or its effect on our kids’ worldview.
However, one does not simply ditch The Claus. We didn’t want to traumatize our kids. We wanted them to enjoy watching Elf every year. And we certainly didn’t want them telling their friends.
Such discussions require finesse. Once we entered the post-Santa world, there would be no return. Morpheus wasn’t walking through those doors to give a red pill/blue pill speech. We were on our own.
“Kids,” I said. “With Christmas coming up, we have something we want to tell you.”
“Santa’s bringing us a baby for Christmas?”
“No,” I said. “Absolutely not. That’s definitely not what we want to tell you.”
Having crushed one dream, the best course of action was to keep rolling this bulldozer down the road.
“Look, guys,” I said. “We need you to know that Santa is just pretend. It’s a game some people play around Christmas. But we decided to let you know that it’s just a game.”
We could tell by their expressions that they believed us — but that they were troubled.
“Do we still get presents?”
Perfect: an opportunity for a quick turnaround and a soft landing.
“Of course,” I said. “We’ll do all of the normal Christmas things we always do. It’s just that you’ll know your presents come from people who care for you, and love you for who you are, as opposed to a stranger giving you presents for what you do.”
My wife and I watched as they sat there, doing a lot of thinking and not much talking. We still had to address the final order of business. They would need to keep a secret, a skill as-yet outside of their interests or proven abilities. But we’d killed Santa. Now, we needed their help to bury the body.
“Here’s the thing about the game,” I said. “Your friends are still playing it. And even though we aren’t going to play it anymore, it’s really important that we don’t ruin the game for them. It’s one of the biggest jobs our family will have. And we’ll be in it together.”
Their eyes flickered with interest. All three of them had been converted into assets in our new Yuletide spy game.
To their credit, they still take their job very seriously. They update us each time they’re able to maintain their cover story. In fact, they’re so into the game that now they want to go even deeper under cover.
A couple of years ago, they ended up with the baby brother they wanted so badly. Now, he’s 2 years old, and his older siblings have decided that they want him to play the Santa game for a little while.
“Dad. Do you think Luke could sit on Santa’s lap next year, before he finds out Santa is just a game? He’d like it. And he won’t even remember the conversation we’re having right now, because he’s only 2.”
“Sounds like a plan, bud,” I said. “We won’t even have to use the special memory-erasing wand. Like you said. He’s only 2.”
If you happen to run into our toddler, he may very well tell you that Santa is on his way. I’m not convinced that he knows who Santa is, but he adores his older siblings, and they’ve talked up Santa so much that he’s all in.