That sounds a lot like a response I would give to my 8 year old daughters if I was asked such a question. Yes, it’s an outright lie! And yes, I should practice what I preach so I should not be lying to my kids when I have already told them a gazillion times that lying is bad.
But what do I do when the alternative would be the shattering of an innocence that when gone, is gone forever?
So what would you do?
This is uncharted territory for me. Growing up in Zambia as a Sri Lankan Buddhist child, I was surrounded by a multitude of different colored children who practiced a whole plethora of religions so when it came to Christmas, I knew what it was. After all, it is rather difficult not to know about Christmas because it is all over you during this time; Christmas songs on the radio, Christmas paraphernalia in every store and Santa Clauses around every corner. So I definitely knew Christmas and because I loved the idea of it, and because my parents are cool that way, I remember that we had a Christmas tree once or twice and they even left me a present once.
But I remember that though I knew about Santa Claus, I kind of always knew that he was a made up character and not real.
In western culture, there seem to be many made up characters that are presented to children in their formative years, like Santa Claus, the tooth fairy and the Easter bunny and there is an unwritten rule that everyone around should preserve this fantasy as much as possible, until at last, the child herself figures it out and asks outright, whether this character does indeed exist.
In my view, there are pros and cons to doing this and I won’t really get into it.
But like the saying, when in Rome do as the Romans do, here in Canada, my children are totally exposed to this. And I myself still love Christmas and the magical quality that exists (yes, i know it is perpetuated for commercial gain, but I choose not to think about that!).
So what do I do? Do I admit the truth or outright lie?
Well, the other day my girls actually asked me to my face, “does Santa Claus exist or is it you who leaves presents under the tree for us?” I balked and did what any self-respecting coward would do, I answered with a question, “what do you think?” So it turned out that a friend had declared that Santa is actually her mom because last year, she had seen gifts in her mom’s closet and a few days later, were the same gifts given by Santa on Christmas day.
“Maybe Sally saw the gifts that her mom was going to give her, not the ones that Santa gave her.”
“What??!! Does that mean other kids get more than one gift at Christmas?” Oops, I stepped in it this time! In our house, our gift giving is minimal, to say the least. There have been birthdays when we didn’t give gifts to the kids because they had way too many (in my opinion) gifts from their friends.
So that totally changed the subject, which was good and I got away without directly answering their loaded questions. But I know that question is coming and it is unavoidable. They are growing up and it is only a matter of time before they know that holes in trees are not fairy homes after all and that there is no such thing as flying reindeer.
But I hope that they still retain a part of their child self, even into adulthood. The part that is the eternal dreamer, the part of them that sees rabbits riding motorbikes when they look up, instead of the grey cloud about to send a thunderstorm our way. The part that knows there is a pot of gold waiting to be found at the end of a rainbow. Because it’s dreamers who bring greatness into the world. They’re the ones who dream big, no matter what others may say.