Believing in Santa

By Beth Meleski
Reposted from Dec 2013.

A few years ago, my daughter started asking us about Santa. “It’s you, isn’t it?” she would ask as we sat at dinner. “I know it’s you,” she would state as we drove to her dance class. “C’mon, just tell me. I want to know. I need to know,” as we drove through the car wash. And, as she asked, her older brother would listen silently. Wondering too, but not really sure he wanted to hear our answer.

For a few reasons, my husband and I were ambivalent in our responses. We weren’t ready for the magic to be over and we didn’t think our kids, still in elementary school, were truly ready either. More importantly, they have a three-year old sister and we wanted to make sure they were mature enough to keep the magic alive for her.

So, we would shrug our shoulders and ask, “What do you think?” And once, in a fit of desperation, I opened a toy catalog to the picture of a toy I would never buy for my kids and told them that if it appeared under the tree on Christmas Day, they would know Santa was real because they “could be sure I wasn’t going to spend my good money on that.” Then I high-tailed it to the computer so that, lo and behold, the toy appeared on December 25th. All in all, we were pretty sure our kids knew (or at least strongly suspected) that we had a hand in the whole Santa thing, but we never confirmed or completely denied.

Then a few months ago, as I was shamelessly eavesdropping on my son and his friend as they talked in the back of my car, I heard my son say something like, “Well, he should just ask Santa for it.” His friend studied his face, trying to figure out if he was joking. I quickly broke in and changed the subject.

It was time for us to let our kids in on the Santa Secret. But I wondered, was it possible that we had waited too long?

Dr. Frank Sileo, PhD, a licensed psychologist and Executive Director at The Center for Psychological Enhancement in Ridgewood, NJ gave me this advice, “There really isn’t one right time to disclose to kids that there is no Santa Claus.  As parents, we need to take cues from our kids and listen to the questions they may be asking us. If kids are asking if Santa is real, chances are, they may know the truth and are seeking validation from their parents. Some kids feign believing because they are afraid of letting their parents down so they play along.”

So perhaps, my husband and I should have answered our kids truthfully when they first started questioning us. However, when dealing with multiple children, this becomes complicated. In our case, we had one child who was probably ready to know and one who wanted to believe a little longer.

According to Dr. Sileo, asking our kids, “What do you think?” was a good first step in determining their readiness. My daughter’s answer was always, “I think it’s you.” My son equivocated. He wasn’t quite prepared to give up the possibility of magic in the world.

Dr. Sileo goes on, “Believing longer prolongs the innocence, magic and wonderment in the holiday of Christmas, Santa Claus and in childhood altogether.  Our children are growing up way too fast.  Often, children are treated as adults and as a result their innocence on some level is lost.”

But is there a downside to believing for longer? Dr. Sileo says maybe. He expresses concern that if kids are allowed to believe for too long, they might be subject to ridicule from their peers. In our case, my son’s friend let the subject drop, but that conversation could have gone very differently. And, Dr. Sileo says, in the event that a child is taunted for his naïveté, he might turn his anger on his parents for withholding information and not being completely truthful.

I must admit I have loved keeping the magic alive for longer in our house. There’s that old adage that once one stops believing in Santa, they get socks for Christmas. And even though my kids will get plenty of surprises under the tree this holiday season, they now know that dad eats the cookies and mom drinks the milk and the carrot they left for Rudolph is back in the crisper. They know that when dad goes downstairs on Christmas morning to “make sure Santa has been to our house”, he’s really turning on the tree lights, grabbing the camera and starting the coffee. Some of the joy will have gone out of the secular celebration of the holiday.

Dr. Sileo advises, “When your child has figured it out, you can share the story of St. Nicholas, the spirit of love, the joy of giving to others and the concept of goodwill.  Santa teaches us to believe in something we cannot see and to have faith.”

As for me, I sat my kids down at breakfast one morning not long ago and told them that their dad and I “give Santa a little help”. And as we get closer to the big day, I plan to read my kids the eloquent and lovely article written by author, Martha Brockenbrough, as a reminder of the wonder that Santa brings, whether he actually slides down our chimney with their gifts or whether their Mom feverishly wraps them at 2:00 am the night before. I mean, let’s face it, magic, mystery and wonder are all fine and good. But sometimes, what we really need is a great pair of socks.

Beth Meleski is a co-founder of betwixtgirls.com, the lifestyle website for tween girls. She lives in Ridgewood, NJ with her husband and three children.

 

 

 


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Author: Heather Zachariah

Former Art Director for Home Magazine and Caribbean Travel & Life, Heather is chauffeur to 3 busy kids; the president of her Home and School Association; and VP of Marketing for TipsFromTown. And she's passionate about all 3!

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