There are many things about parenthood that look much more romantic on the front side than they actually turn out to be.

Rocking your newborn back to sleep in the middle of the night, for one.

Go ahead…take a minute to reminisce on what your pre-childbearing image was: long white silk nightgown, perfectly rolled hair, cheek-to-cheek with a snuggling, warm, delicious infant – just like on the diaper commercials.

Now picture what it was really like: half asleep, manic from lack of sleep, puke covered, possibly poo splattered but too dark to tell and you didn’t DARE turn on a light to check, desperately moaning lullabies and frantically rocking in hopes that the arch-backed angry baby would JUST SHUT UP FOR ONE BLASTED SECOND.

I propose that Santa is another one of those items of dashed romance.

Santa is just weird.

Maybe we’re terrible parents, but it seems completely and wholly unnatural to propagate a farcical story about a magical old man who has an entire colony of enslaved LPs building toys that could just as easily be bought at Amazon.

And don’t get me wrong – we went into this with the fanciest of ideas.  We debated heartily on the pro-Santa side of things when our friends cast their doubts.

But when our first kid actually got old enough to understand and actually…BELIEVE, things got weird.  It felt awkward.

But we stuck to our moral position.  We played the game.  We told the lies.

And quite honestly, were shocked when Ali bought it.

She’s the practical type – you won’t be convincing her that you pulled a quarter out of her ear or that you can remove your thumb.  Even at the very first mention of the Tooth Fairy, she scoffed and said, “Mommy – you KNOW fairies aren’t real.”

But she believed the Santa crap.

And last year, we finally figured out why.

She’s seen Santa.  He’s at the mall.

And plus, she gets other deliveries.  The UPS man makes regular stops at our house, and she’s well acquainted with terms like “Zulily” and “Tea Collection.”

So why shouldn’t Santa Claus make a stop once a year?

That’s right.  To her, Santa Claus is nothing more than a Glorified UPS Man.

What can Red do for you?

No.  Big.  Deal.

In fact, just this week she told me,  “Mommy.  My friend told me that Santa Claus isn’t real.  Isn’t that silly?? I guess she hasn’t seen him – he’s right there at the mall!”

However, she’s never wanted to actually visit him.  And, being that she was extremely shy since birth, we never once chose to put ourselves through the pain of forcing her.  The closest she ever wanted to get was to peer down at him from the upper floor of the mall and watch the chaos below.

And Chris and I  scoffed at those parents – the ones with screaming kids in the endless lines who paid $49.99 to have a 5×7 of their red-faced, snot-covered, terror-stricken kid being pinned down by some strange man with neglected facial growths.

But this year was different.

This year, Ali has been writing voraciously.  This proclivity spilled over into the creation of a Christmas Wish List.

“Mommy.  I made a list of what I want Santa to bring me.  So I need to go to the mall and give it to him.”

“You need to…what??”

“I need to take my list to Santa.”

“YOU.  Are actually going to go sit in Santa’s lap and talk to him??”

“No.  I will sit NEXT to him.  He has a big chair.”


That night, I told Chris of her plans.

“She’s going to WHAT???”

“I know.  She’ll never do it.  We’ll wait in line for an hour and she’ll back out at the last minute.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right.”

But Ali was insistent and often with her reminders of her impending errand.

Then the list got lost.

“Eh, it’s okay.  I don’t have to see Santa.”


But then another list was made.  And the plans were on again.


This time I ensured that the list didn’t get lost by
a) confiscating it immediately,
b) photographing it just in case, and
c) making plans that very evening to make The Big Visit.

So Wednesday night, I dressed my children in the expected hues of green and red, and as soon as Chris got home we set out for the mall.

We still had no faith in our daughter’s follow-through, but she was excited and insistent.


We had wondered whether the long line would give her time to work up her courage or talk herself out of it, but either way, it was not to be.  There was all of one family in front of us – one of those inexplicable couples that removed the swaddling blankets from their two day old infant for the opportunity to give her to an old man who’s touched at least 1,563 kids since he started his shift, 1,560 of them with green snot spewing from their facial orifices.

But whatever.

Ali peeked around as the too-young-to-focus infant stared at the ceiling while getting her photo taken with the Germy Claus and, I suppose, telling him her hopes and dreams via telepathy.

And then it was our turn.

We had already decided that we’d throw Noah in with her – after all, he yells “HEY!!” at every passerby – it wouldn’t kill him to sit with a felt-covered stranger for a second.

But before we could unhook Noah from his stroller, Ali had already run up to Santa.

“Hi there! Come sit on my lap and tell me what you want for Christmas!”

“No thanks – I’ll sit here next to you.  I have a list.”

Ali unfolded her list and she and Santa hunched over and perused it together, as I maddenly watched the camera people who were too occupied with selling Newborn Parents the biggest photo package possible to come back snap the completely perfect, un-posed, genuine photo of my kid, her list, and The Man.

I got so frantic that I very nearly pulled out my iPhone and broke the 1000-point-font rule screaming  “ABSOLUTELY NO PHOTOGRAPHY,” but I was too afraid that Santa would come unglued and go North-Polal on me.

By the time the photographer turned around, Ali had put away her list and I had plopped an oddly unwilling Noah onto Santa’s lap.

And they took the cheesy, posed, totally stereotypical photo with Santa.


And yes, I bought it anyway.

Because I’m one of those parents.

35 thoughts on “On Lying to the Children.

  1. I totally believed in santa as a child, nothing could change my mind. There was a little girl in my 1st grade class who announced Santa was not real and her parents had told her so. My response, “You are out of your mind- there is NO WAY my parents would buy me that much stuff!” Until my 85 year old great-grandmother asked me the day after christmas, “how are you enjoying that new bike!?!” “how did you know I got a new bike for christmas?” she said, “oh honey, that thing has been sitting in my basement for months.”

  2. I believed in Santa until my brother took the hinges off my dad’s workshop and showed me my presents a few weeks early. The only good thing about that was that I knew I’d be getting a Misfit instead of Jem, so I could practice looking pleased about it.

    I kind of wish my kids didn’t believe in Santa – he gets all the credit for the good gifts. :\

    1. Jessica, A good friend of mine gave me the greatest idea when it came to Santa and him getting all the credit. She told her kids that Santa filled the stockings and so all the presents were from her and she got all the credit. Even though we don’t do a lot of Santa stuff we do this.

  3. I would also like some fancy clothes, Ali! Yes, I am TERRIBLE at being Santa…I’m so bad because I’ll remember something 6 months later and I’ll say, “We got her – I mean, Santa got her…” Having a poor memory isn’t good for deception. AJ is big into Santa this year, but I don’t know if we’ll go see him for similar shyness reasons. And you know who I want to beat up? The ladies who invented Elf on the Shelf. Many of my friends are doing it, but WE are NOT!!! Santa is hard enough for me to keep straight.

  4. My son is 3 and a half and I have found that if I start early enough, I can convince him that the gift we decided on back in September was his idea and what he most wants. He is asking for a bigger kitchen to share with his 1 year old sister. We bought it like 2 months ago and he danced right up to Santa and told him he wanted a big kitchen to share with his sister, the one with the pull out sprayer and a coffee pot.

    Next year, I don’t think this will work. But Santa may just buy him a nerf gun that we could NEVER buy him.

  5. Posed or not, that picture is absolutely precious. :-) I’d love to have a picture like that just for the heck of it, but I’m positive my almost-3-year-old would not cooperate. He’s stubborn like that. He pulled it out yesterday – angelic and obedient ALL DAY, but the instant he actually needed to perform for a preschool evaluation? Nope. Not happening. Clammed up and shut down. That’s why I’ve never tried Santa pictures. He would decide at the last second to not cooperate. Except he would express it by screaming his head off. So, maybe next year.

    We sort of did Santa when I was a kid. “Santa” filled our stockings, but the presents under the tree were from Mom and Dad. There was never a big “OMG, he’s not REAL???” moment, we all just figured it out one by one as we got older. By the time we were all past it, our parents filling the stockings at night was just a fun tradition.

    My husband and I have talked about how we want to do Santa. I think I want to focus more on the actual tale of St. Nicholas, and the meaning behind hanging stockings on Christmas Eve. I love stuff like that, the history behind the tradition. :-) I’m kind of a history nerd.

    1. Veggie Tales has a really fun video about St Nicholas. Not sure how much of it is true (I’m pretty sure the Santa-Shaped Bundt Pans in Bethlehem are not), but it’s cute nonetheless!

  6. I, too, have a kiddo in LOVE with Santa but absolutely refuses to see him “in person”. Every year she writes a letter and we mail it off. I keep waiting for the day when she actually wants to go see him. :)

  7. My husband never believed in Santa and I did…we both seem (relatively) normal. We decided we weren’t going to make a big deal of Santa and my husband has even said once or twice that Santa is not real. However, our 4 yr old is DETERMINED to believe. I think he sees Santa as some sort of character like Dora or Buzz Lightyear – real in the sense that he exists but not a real person? Anyways, it fascinates me that even though we don’t hype up Santa at all, he still knows a lot about him and is really interested in him.

  8. I have been trying to convince Ali that fairies are, indeed, real during my visits. But, I’m not that good of a story teller! haha :)

    I believed in Santa only because my late uncle told us at the end of the Polar Express story, “If you can’t hear the bell, you won’t get any presents tomorrow.” Yes, I was that gullible as a child. Of course, when he died I stopped believing and surprisingly, I still received presents! ;)

    1. Aha!

      So YOU’RE to blame for this conversation in the car the other day:

      “Hey Mommy? I’ve decided something.”

      “Yes? What is it?”

      “Well, I’ve decided that Fairies are real, and it’s FAIRIES that change the seasons, not God.”

      Way to go, Giann. Way. To. Go.

  9. We taught our kids that Santa was pretend from the beginning. We took a LOT of flack from family and friends about it, but we felt for our family it was the right thing to do. I remember telling a neighbor when I was a child “yes Santa is real because my mom said so and she doesn’t lie.” Ouch. As adults, my kids now say they never felt deprived snd actually enjoyed knowing the secret truth when everyone else was caught up in the tale. Of course we had to teach them to respect other families’ choices and it wasn’t their job to enlighten everyone!

  10. As number three of four children, I never had a chance to think for even a minute Santa was real. It wasn’t that my older siblings went out of their ways to crush any dream I had of Santa. Rather, I picked up on their wink-wink nudge-nudge to my parents whenever the subject of Santa was brought up. I grew up thinking that Santa was a way for my parents to do something nice for us kids and a little game of pretend that made Christmas a little more fun. I’ve got a few years before I have to figure out our Official Family Santa Policy but I’m thinking that might be our approach.

  11. When our daughter was 3 we took her to the mall for the Santa thing. She was fine standing in line. The little boy ahead of us started to pitch a fit and my daughter started to get that nervous look on her face like “should I be afraid too?” To try and make it like it was no big deal I whispered to her that the little boy didn’t feel good. My daughter announced to everyone “THAT BOY NEEDS SOME MEDICINE”

    She and her brothers just gradually figured it out and eventually had fun filling stockings for each other. Santa only brings the stocking stuffers and one thing on the list, we got credit for all the rest. One other tip, Look for the community events that have a Santa. The pictures are free or the purchase goes to a good cause.

  12. OF COURSE the photographer missed the sweet, innocent photo. But the one you have is absolutely darling! Neither one of my children (ages 2 and 4) trusts sitting on Santa yet, and like you, I won’t drag them screaming. I always wonder how St. Nicholas morphed into a fat man with a red outfit. (Was that Macy’s doing??) =)

  13. We don’t do Santa here, but Nathaniel and Nick really want Jake and Amelia to believe. That is hilarious to me. I already told Jake that Santa doesn’t exist, and he dismissed me out of hand. Does not believe me. ;-)

  14. Ok, Santa remarks aside, HOW DID YOU KNOW ABOUT THE WHITE NIGHTGOWN?!?! I snorted and laughed so hard I almost woke up my children. Between that and the talking breast pump, I think you have some sort of psychic abilities…

  15. Thats’ a great post! Also, I would totally enter the outlets madness, since I’m on a contest winning streak and all … but I no longer make my monthly treks your way and that would be a long drive from Maine. Maybe next year!

  16. Ok seriously – is that not the BEST uncreepiest Santa photo of all time?!?! Your kids totally make that shot!

    I am stuck doing the Santa thing for a bit longer… I found myself on the board for the Signing Santa event (I mean, it would be SCROOGISH if I didn’t help the deaf kids get their Santa!), so poor Itty Bit has to sit on a stranger’s lap who signs to him while he stares confusedly at him and finally mouths, “I want an army guy”.


  17. The only time I posed with a mall Santa, I was at the mall with 2 of my sisters and 2 friends and were all ~ 17 – 20 years old. When my kids pose with Santa, it’s at my aunt’s house and her brother dresses as Santa. He has his own white beard and decent belly. All it takes to get my kids to him is a candy cane. I think fantasy and make believe are very important but also is the ability to distinguish reality, so Santa is just a game for us.

  18. I have actually been questioning our no Santa policy this year! S is at such a great make believe age and I know she would buy it but then K will have missed out. Oh the dilemmas of parenthood! We have the added difficulty of spending Christmas w/the cousins who still believe.

  19. :) Her letter was precious. And, I love that even though he invited her to sit on his lap, she knew what she was comfortable with and wasn’t thrown off by it. You seem to be raising one fantastic girl there! Merry Christmas to you and your family!!… oh, and thank you for always making me lol for reals.

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