To my surprise, Annika popped the big question to me the other day.
“Mommy, is Santa Claus real?”
I stammered for moment, wondering what to say. It had never occurred to me that she would ask at such a young age.
I guess my critical nature is rubbing off on her.
Let me just say, I was not prepared.
After stammering for a few seconds, I said, “Well, some people think he’s real.”
LAME ANSWER! My brain screamed. But at least I didn’t tell her a blatant lie.
Apparently it sufficed for the moment, because she began babbling and I vaguely remember something about Mrs. Claus and Rudolph before the conversation changed to more important topics like what kind of dog to be and the next thing I said was, “Stop licking my face!”
However, it wasn’t enough for the long term; the conversation didn’t end there.
A few days later, right in the middle of several days of learning Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, I referenced Rudolph in conversation as if he was real.
“Mama, Rudolph isn’t real!”
“He’s not?” I questioned.
“No Mama. Rudolph isn’t real. But Santa is real, and he’s fat because he eats too much sugar.”
I smiled. I guess our conversations about food are sinking in.
She’s mentioned Santa again several times since then. And to be honest, my answers still haven’t become less lame because I honestly don’t know what to say to her.
What I Thought Before She Was Born
Before Annika was born, and even when she was still a tiny infant, I always thought that I wouldn’t do Santa.
I would never lie to my child, I swore on it. It had been so long since I had looked at the holidays through the eyes of a child, I had forgotten the fun of Santa.
But then she started to grow. And we had our first Christmas, and our second.
I began talking up Santa without even realizing that I had soften my stance on the issue. It just came naturally.
I realized that I wanted her to experience the magic of Santa Claus. The letter writing, the excitement on Christmas Eve, lying awake, hoping to catch a slight tinkle or clip clop of reindeer feet on the roof. The wonder when she awakes on Christmas morning to find gifts and candies.
I don’t know why it’s so important, but there seems to be something so special about believing in magic as a child. And Santa is just part of it.
I recently made the mistake of introducing fairies in a poor manner and now she’s afraid of them and tells me she’s allergic to fairy dust.
I really don’t want to screw Santa up.
Then and Now
So when she asked me last week if he was real. And then brought it up again. And again, I began to wonder, what is the right effing thing to do?
Do I play it off? Do I outright lie? Do I distract? Do I encourage? How will she look back on this as an adult and will she wish I had done it differently? Will she be pissed that I lied to her? If I told her the blunt truth, would be happy about it? Or would she be angry that I didn’t give her the magic of Christmas for a few years?
She’s so young. She could easily believe in Santa for several more years.
Part of me says that I’m obsessing over it way to much. “Just answer her GD question,” my pragmatic brain says. Any other question, and my parenting philosophy declares that I should give her an honest, age-appropriate answer.
But the other part of my brain says, “But she doesn’t know what she’s asking you to do. She doesn’t know that if she finds out the truth at age 3, she will lose several years of magic and make believe. She doesn’t know that she will have to be in on an adult secret while her friends still believe that the North Pole is home to elves who make toys and believe in a man who can fly around the world in one night.”
So for now, I’ll be lame. Because I can’t honestly say to her, “Yes, Annika Santa is real.” But I’ll be damned if I’m going to tell her that he’s not. Not yet.