Santa, a white-bearded man and his wife stationed in the North Pole. Whose sole purpose is to prepare for the mass distribution of presents with the help of worker elves. And why? For the exchange in copious amounts of milk and cookies and carrots for the magical flying reindeer…silly right?
So why is it so hard to answer?
Well as you’ll soon find out, my own experience in answering this question was as difficult as it was….life changing.
Some families might engage in the Santa Conspiracy to aid in the Christmas cheer, which is perfectly fine. But for my husband and I, this typical parental dilemma was worse because of ‘how’ we used the Santa myth. You see for us, Santa was also a kind of ‘method‘ (or tool if you will) of good behaviour reminders. Most effective closer to Christmas yes, but not necessarily limited to then.
How did this mini person come up with such a practical, yet incredibly intelligent question?
Santa soon became our all year round (well almost) answer to positive discipline. Where bribes were creatively hidden behind a cheerful guise of red and white, and any hint of mischief could to be nipped in the bud with 3 simple words ‘I’ll tell Santa’ . And almost like magic, it was ‘situation normal’ or ‘crisis averted’ well before it had begun.
How it went down
It all started on a hot summer’s day, where the three of us happily kicked off our tree decorating ritual. But whilst we continued to decorate, something didn’t seem right. As I observed my then 5 year old daughter, an inquisitive ponder soon turned into a deeply questioning glance on her face.
My heart began to beat in my throat as it dawned on me. Today, the truth about Santa will be exposed. Or was it just a false alarm? The more I tried to compose myself, the more I was sure she could sense it. My thoughts soon began to get the better of me. Why weren’t we more prepared? We could have brainstormed plausible responses, role played possible scenarios, or even better, we should have learned those effective diversion techniques.
Except we didn’t and as a result, were left unprepared for what was to come.
As time passed, slowly the tiny glistening sweat beads on my face turned to bucket sized drops. Soon the awkward silence was broken by an angelic voice which asked, “Mummy, how will Santa get in when we don’t have a chimney?” Wait what??? Given we lived on the 13th floor of an apartment block, how did this mini person come up with such a practical, yet incredibly intelligent question?
Using quick wit and skilful delegation, I cowardly responded with, “Daddy knows” and ran away to fetch something very urgent in another room far away. When I returned, it would seem that Daddy had very cleverly pre-arranged with Santa for him to enter through the open balcony door on Christmas Eve.
The little dignity we had was now drowning in a puddle of our own parenting fail
First there was ponder, then a slight nod of what seemed like acceptance, then the tree decorating resumed.
Phew! As the blood to rushed back to my face, hubby and I began our own little party with secret high fives, celebratory back patting and happy dancing, lots of happy dancing. So there it was, hubby did it and Santa was still alive. But was that really it? Because of this very question, you often hear stories about families left devastated, divorce rates increased and Christmas’ cancelled. Yet for us, it was all a little too easy.
Despite feeling a little uneasy, we continued to revel in our achievement
Just as suspected, our mini Christmas Commander, Head of the Seeking Santa Committee wasn’t yet finished.
- Phase 1 Ask the foolish parents a hard/easy question to catch them unawares – Check √.
- Phase 2 Finish them off with the ‘Double Blow’ combo – Initialise.
As though she’d just lost her favourite cuddle bear, I could sense her grief building. Unable to look at us, she began to slowly and hesitantly ask, “bu…but i…is… is Santa real? My friends in class said he’s…f…fa…fake”. Silence.
Said out loud, those dreaded words pierced through our hearts, but it was our daughter’s sadness that followed which left us paralysed. Our dirty Santa secret was now the subject of her emotional interrogation… and we were the primary suspects. Desperately hubby and I looked at each other for answers, but it was futile. The little dignity we had was now drowning in a puddle of our own parenting fail.
Phase 2 – Check √
Had we gone too far? Did we entertain one too many fibs? Had we lost her trust completely?
We had to fix this, but what options did we have? We either:
- Kept the betrayal going in the hope of at least one more year of the beloved ‘Santa Effect’. Besides, she might just forget this ever happened; or
- Confess to the global conspiracy that is Santa and break her teeny tiny heart.
What you give to one person, will circle back by someone or something…
In truth, option 2 seemed so much worse given we’d literally conspired for as long as she could remember. So in a last ditch of desperation, I reverted to the Dodge’ technique and answered her question with the question, “what do you think my angel?” And with a brief pause, she replied “I want him to be real, because it’s nice that he gives presents to so many people”.
Then it all became clear
In an instant, the spirit of Santa had just mind-blowingly evolved into more than a method of bribery or a fun play-along game. It became real and it was because of the profound and selfless words of my then 5 year old daughter.
Why shouldn’t Santa and the belief in something bigger, exist in the minds of all of us?
In her eyes, Santa was the symbol of kindness and giving. Not the $10 generic Kris Kringle type of giving, aimed at ticking a box. Or the over-give to those more fortunate than appreciative.
I mean, the real type of giving found only in priceless gifts of quality time, belly laughter and unconditional love. Which reminds me of the Law of Circulation where, ‘what you give to one person, will circle back to you through someone or something else’. Not only because the universe is kinda cool that way, but also fundamentally, because good things happen to good people.
After all that, turns out the lesson here wasn’t exposing the truth about Santa to our child, but for our child to teach us to the true meaning of giving, in its purest and most innocent form.
So whilst we didn’t actually answer my daughter’s question, if asked today, I’d say the real question isn’t whether Santa is real or not, but rather, what do you believe Santa to be?
And if the thought of Santa brings excitement and joy; or encourages generosity and goodness, then why shouldn’t Santa (and the belief in something bigger) exist in the minds of all of us?
From my family to yours, here’s hoping you receive as much as you’ve given.