“So, who is Santa?” asked my five-year-old son as we drove to school one morning. Kids always save the big questions for car trips, don’t they? I guess they know that it’s the best time – no social media distractions, no “It’s time for bed, ask me in the morning” excuses, no escape.
I hesitated for a moment to consider my options. If I told him the truth would it ruin Christmas? If I lied would I feel like a hypocrite? Is it stupid that I introduced the concept of Santa in the first place?
“Well,” I finally replied, glancing in the rear-vision mirror, “The thing is, Santa’s not real. It’s just the parents. Me and Dad. We get you all the presents.”
“Oh,” my son replied. He was silent for a moment, so I turned the radio on, hoping for a bit of Katy Perry to lighten the mood. Then he said, “What about the Easter Bunny?”
“What?” I turned the radio back off.
“The Easter Bunny. Is that you and Dad too?”
“And the Tooth Fairy?”
And that was that. He didn’t seem bothered. He didn’t yell that I’d wrecked everything and killed the magic of childhood. He was fine.
Afterwards I actually felt relieved that the truth was out. It was a weight off my shoulders. No more remembering to wrap the Santa presents in different paper, no more awkward discussions about why there are Santas in every department store and shopping centre, no more eating the stupid reindeer carrot.
Then I discovered that some of the other parents at school didn’t share my relief.
“Now, Jean,” one mother said, pulling me aside one afternoon at pick up. “I just wanted to have a chat to you about something your son said.” I raised my eyebrows, intrigued. “He told Sophie that he didn’t believe in Santa.”
At first I thought she was being pretend-angry. She wasn’t. I was in trouble.
“And now I’ve had to tell Sophie that if she doesn’t believe, she doesn’t receive.”
Whoa. Are you kidding me? I thought. Was this woman seriously implying that I was wrong to tell my child the truth? That I ought to lie just because she has chosen to lie? That my parenting style should be in line with hers?
I didn’t say any of these things, of course; I just nodded politely and smiled. But later on, recounting the story to my husband, my blood started to boil. Okay, I get that most parents in Australia go with the Santa myth. That’s fine. Good on them. However, surely I’m entitled to be honest with my children, even if it goes against the majority.
I do believe that some situations warrant lying. I won’t explain to my kids what paedophiles or suicide bombers do. I haven’t told my daughter that I once found a spider in her bed, or that I think some of her friends are super annoying. But generally I try to be honest and open with my children.
“Is the ‘F’ word dickhead?’ my son asked recently. I was more worried about his poor spelling than his bad language. “No, dickhead is the ‘D’ word. The ‘F’ word starts with ‘F’,” I said. “It’s fuck. But don’t go around saying it.”
Last week – because it came up in conversation – I explained the difference between murder and manslaughter. “Have you ever killed someone by accident, Mum?” my daughter asked afterwards.
WATCH one of the most memorable scenes from The Santa Clause. Post continues after video:
I don’t expect other parents to be like me. They can talk about goblins and heaven and Santa if they like. They can tell their kids that eating crusts causes hair to curl or that pointing kills fairies.
But I can tell my kids the truth if I want to.
Do you agree that parents should tell kids the truth about Santa?