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THE MOM SCENE: The pressure of believing in Santa


There is more to Santa Claus than meets the eye. - 123RF
There is more to Santa Claus than meets the eye. - 123RF

Welcome to Veggie Village, the very boring column where we talk about forcing our kids to eat vegetables because we’re mean. Today I’m going to share my favourite methods for steaming broccoli and how to … OK, that should guarantee any kids have stopped reading.

I could say this is the year it happened, but it actually may have started last year when our son was in Grade 2. It wasn’t dramatic. He just came home from school and matter-of-factly announced, “Some kids on the bus said there’s no Santa Claus.”

My reply is always the same. “Wow, that’s not nice. Santa’s not going to like that!” He really isn’t.

Our daughter, who’s only in Grade 1, piped up another day that she’d heard the same thing. (Their bus ride is about five minutes long and yet it’s plenty of time to learn bad words, tell scary stories that will upset them later at bedtime and potentially ruin Christmas magic.)

“A girl on the bus said Santa’s not real, but I don’t believe her because I want presents!” she chirped. Our son quickly agreed.

I really don’t know what they believe about the big guy in red. We have always been a little loose about the details.

I’ve never pretended mall Santas are real. “They’re his helpers,” I’ve always told the kids. “Santa is far too busy to visit every single mall in the world. Think of how long that would take!”

(This is useful when the mall Santa is especially fake looking. We happened across a fantastic mall Santa two years ago — real beard, twinkly eyes, the whole enchilada. We all walked out saying, “Wow, he was a really good Santa. He looked just like the real Santa.”)

Our kids also know that we, the parents, buy most of their gifts. We’ve never hidden it. We follow a gifting process — something you want, something you need, something to play with, something to read and a new pair of pyjamas on Christmas Eve — and they are allowed to ask Santa for one gift. He brings them something modest, ranging from $20 to $40, and if they suggest asking him for a larger gift, we say “no.” Santa has millions of children to visit and we don’t want to ask him for much.

The trouble is that all families have their own way of talking about Santa Claus and it’s never been more important, now that the children in our circle are moving into the upper elementary grades. Older kids are the ones who ask the hard questions. They’re also the ones who make other kids question their beliefs.

So, while other parents are stressing about maintaining elaborate Santa traditions and holding onto another year of believing, I’m stressing about the fact that my children may ruin something for another kid.

We have friends who are careful to take their kids to the same mall Santa every year and they believe he’s the real one. What if my kids blurt out that mall Santas are just helpers?

We have friends who don’t let their children watch certain Christmas movies with the standard plotline of “they don’t believe, but then they believe in the end.” They don’t want their children to even entertain the idea of not believing. What if one of my loudmouth kids is the one to ruin their holiday innocence?

We have friends whose children believe Santa stuffs the stockings exclusively by himself, where I’m honest about the fact that I share that job with Santa. What if those other kids overhear my kids asking me to please buy mini cans of Sprite for their stockings again this year?

I completely respect that every family handles the holidays differently, but I’ll be relieved when we’re past this dangerous stage of who believes what about Santa Claus. It’s hard to keep track!

We have friends who are genuinely sad thinking this might be their child’s last Christmas of “believing in the magic,” but I don’t feel that way. Christmas is still totally magical for our son and daughter, despite them having a pretty good understanding of how things actually work.

For us, Santa Claus is about more than the belief that a legit human being is stomping across your roof and squeezing down your chimney. Santa Claus is about more than the fear your child will spot a gift in your closet that isn’t from you. Santa Claus is about putting out milk and cookies even years after you know, because it’s a special tradition.

I truly do believe in the magic of Santa Claus — the love, the spirit of giving and the magic of time spent together — and that’s something I hope my children never outgrow.

Heather Laura Clarke is a freelance journalist who married her high school sweetheart. They moved from the city to the country, where they spend their days making messes and memories with their eight-year-old son and six-year-old daughter. Follow their family’s adventures over at www.HeathersHandmadeLife.com.

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