Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Other Talk I’m Not Ready For

I don’t remember how old I was when I learned the truth about Santa Claus. I do remember how it happened. It was like the song says:

She didn’t see me creep, down the stairs to have a peek.
She thought that I was tucked up in my bedroom fast asleep.

However, instead of catching my mother kissing Santa Claus, I caught her setting out gifts. I had snuck down quietly, though, and went back upstairs to hide my deception. The next morning, when I rose at 5:00 a.m. for my annual ritual of playing card games with my older sister until it was time to go down and open presents, I wavered about informing my sister of my discovery.
“Sis, do you know there’s no Santa Claus?”
“Yes, but keep pretending to believe, at least for the parental units” she said. “You get more stuff that way.”

My kids are ages eleven and six and both still look forward to Santa Claus. However, my wife and I have a concern with our older one, Andrew. It’s not that he doesn’t believe. It’s just that he doesn’t question things like other kids do. We know that his friends are asking questions and likely many of them, like the kid in the movie The Polar Express, are at their crucial years. This may be the last time for them.

For Andrew, though, he may carry his belief for another few years…and that worries my wife and me. Andrew’s speech and social challenges already make him different and kids will make fun of him, as he gets older, particularly at middle school which he will start next fall. My wife and I work hard to help Andrew with his social skills, to minimize the chances of other kids regarding him as “different.” And it’s because of this we wonder…will we have to tell Andrew about Santa Claus.

For many of you, you may think, “Why bother?” You may regard it as lucky that we get to enjoy for a longer time what many parents wish they could have had. But it’s not an issue of what we want to enjoy at home. It’s an issue of making sure there’s one less thing at school for which kids can make fun of him.

At the moment, there is a ping-pong table in the basement. It’s Andrew’s gift from Santa. I was up until 2:30 a.m. last night assembling it. I had to do it early, as I didn’t want to chance discovering on Christmas Eve that there were parts missing. There’s nothing in the basement that Andrew would go down and see, but I have to hope that he doesn’t go down early to scope out where a table might be placed.

My wife and I will decide sometime after Christmas what we plan to do about next year. For now, we’ll let him enjoy 2008. And I would love to hear from parents about when their kids learned the truth about Santa Claus.


Robin Kaye said...

My daughter Anna asked me to tell her the truth about Santa last year when she was 12. I cautioned her that she shouldn't mention this to her little sister because Isabelle is not only younger, but she's quite immature for her age. I was upset to find out this year that the Anna spilled the beans. Isabelle is not handling it well at all.

I understand what you're saying about worrying about your son being too "different." It's something I struggle with too. My youngest daughter Isabelle has physical disabilities as well as learning disabilities. She's different. There's no way to hide the fact she's got short arms, bad balance, and limited motion in her fingers. I decided a while ago that instead of ignoring the differences, we'd embrace them. It's working for us.

I'll never forget the day her teacher called me to tell me about something that happened. A little boy was teasing Izzy saying she was weird because she had small hands. Izzy laughed and said "You must not be too smart because I don't have small hands, I have short arms."

I know every child is different, Izzy happens to be highly sarcastic and has incredibly quick comebacks. This works for her. I'm sure you and your wife will find out what works for Andrew.

Just be careful with the whole Santa thing because once the cat is out of the bag, your six year old might find out too. Especially if your Andrew is anything like my Anna.

Happy Holidays!

Robin :)

Anne Barton said...

Walt, you're not the only parent who struggles with this. :) For me, the dilemma was balancing the beloved childhood tradition with the desire to be honest.

When my kids starting voicing doubts and asking intelligent questions like "How does Santa make it to all the houses?" I'd say, "How do you *think* he does it?" And if they asked, "Do you believe in Santa?" I'd say, "Let's go see what your Dad thinks about that." ;)

You'll know when the time is right to break the news. I think it helps soften the blow if you assure them your family traditions won't change. (Translation: they'll still get the same amount of gifts.)

Enjoy Christmas and the ping-pong table, and good luck with whatever you decide. No matter how hard we parents try to do the right thing, we'll probably still end up scarring our kids. It's our job! :)

Walt M said...


Yes, that is one of the problems we face. I can't imagine Andrew keeping such news from Christopher.

I love your daughter's attitude!

Walt M said...


The kids are asking questions, but more of them are coming from Christopher. I've been trying to explain to Christopher that Santa starts in Japan and works his way around the world, but he isn't getting it. Andrew's trying to explain it to him, too.