How Do You Handle the ‘Santa Situation’?

Santa clausWhen my son was younger I, like many other parents at this time of year, went to great lengths to weave the special magic that is Santa Claus – I supervised as he carefully wrote his painstakingly detailed letter to Santa, we waited dutifully in line at the mall so he could have his picture taken with the Big Guy, we thoughtfully left gingerbread cookies and milk for old St. Nick on Christmas Eve (and snacks for the reindeer, too!).  He believed wholly and unquestioningly in Santa, and as that belief was nurtured and grew year after year, I started suffering from what I call ‘Claus’-trophobia – a fear of the day when my son would question the existence of his beloved Santa Claus.

I was recently asked by FamilyCorner.com to write about this very subject – here are some points to consider when your child eventually asks you:  is Santa real?

Listen to their concerns: Lend an ear first before you begin any explanations.  Give them your undivided attention; if they come to the conclusion on their own, share with them the story about how you found out the truth about Santa when you were their age.  Kids are intuitive and sometimes know the answers to their own questions, and just need a sympathetic ear from parents.

Be prepared for their reaction: Some kids might take the news in stride, as I did when I found out the truth. My parents were a little sloppy in hiding the presents, so after finding way too many new toys under their bed one year the secret was out.  And I was okay with it.  As long as everything else stayed the same and I could still pretend that Santa was real even though I knew he wasn’t, things were cool.

Others may feel betrayed – as my son did when the curtain was pulled back on this part of his childhood.  To this day I still feel awful as I recall the hurt in his eyes as he incredulously accused, “you mean. . . you’ve been LYING to me all these years???”  Yes, that was a bad, ugly day.

And, some may cry. So. Many. Tears.  It can be a momentous event – having doubts, kids turn to their parents for confirmation of Santa’s existence, only to find out otherwise. Help kids feel better with an explanation that, although he’s not any one real person (but really mom and dad, grandma and grandpa, etc.), the symbolism of Santa Claus embodies the true spirit of Christmas – the joy of giving and putting others first.  Remind them how wonderful it feels to be with family and friends, the special traditions you share at this time of year, the significance of any religious customs in your family, and reassure them that there will still indeed be presents on Christmas morning!  Let them know that the Christmas spirit is very real, even if Santa Claus isn’t.

Enlist their help: This is a good time to let them know what an important role they can play in the preparations if they feel ready for it.  Now that they know “the truth,” they can help in making the holiday special for the younger members of the family. Recruit them to help shop, wrap presents and fill stockings. Have them help the younger kids with their letters to Santa. Asking them for their help in maintaining the tradition will add a positive new dimension to the experience.

A sympathetic ear and a positive outlook can help take the sting out of the big reveal.  After the shock wore off (and he was able to trust me again), my son began to enjoy taking a more grown-up role in the preparation and festivities of the Christmas season, and keeping the lie –  I mean, the magic – of Santa Claus alive for the little ones in our family (and the big ones, too!).

Have you had to face the “Santa Situation” with your kids yet?  How did you handle it?  Let me know in the comments!

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The Substitute

On Saturday morning I took my son to the neighborhood barber for a desperately needed haircut.  After much protesting and eye-rolling, he agreed that his curly hair was out of control.  Two weeks of wrangling with it unsuccessfully was enough to get him in the chair and see if the barber could reach that happy medium between messy and controlled – messy enough for him to think it’s cool and controlled enough for me to resist the urge to blow on his head like a dandelion and have all the overgrown hair magically fly away.

We walked into the barbershop and he sat in the chair and told the barber what he wanted – long on top and short on the sides and back.  The barber (with a wink to me) suggested taking an inch off the top just to clean it up a bit, to which my son agreed as I wisely kept my mouth shut.  Sitting there I recalled a conversation my son and I had some years back, when, as a decidedly less snarky six-year-old, he told me he might want to be a “haircutter” when he grew up, among other occupations.

The list at that time also included being a musician, an astronaut, a ninja warrior, a preschool teacher, and a chocolate factory owner.  The more his world expanded around him, the more interested he became in what folks did for a living, and whenever he learned about a new occupation, he would declare that that’s exactly what he wanted to be when he grew up .

One day, perhaps overwhelmed by all the myriad employment options in the world, he told me that when he grew up, he wanted to be a substitute.

“A substitute teacher?” I remember asking him.  “No mom, just a substitute.  Like, when a grown up gets sick and can’t do their job, I’ll go in and do it for them.  Like on Monday I can be a rock star, on Tuesday I can be a chef, on Wednesday I can drive a school bus. . .”  Well, I figured with this plan he would certainly never be bored or unemployed.  I remember smiling and telling him that he would have to know about a lot of different things to do all those different jobs.  How would he learn them all?

And with that beaming bundle of confidence only a six-year-old can possess, he said very seriously and matter-of-factly, “well I don’t know, but I know I can do them all.”  As far as he was concerned, it was a foregone conclusion.  How could I possibly have any doubts?  Sitting in the barbershop and thinking about that exchange reminded me of the inspiring and magical ability children possess to believe that all things are possible and within reach.  As adults, to be dusted with a bit of that magic every day is a blessing.

Currently the 11-year-old’s list still includes musician but filmmaker has also entered the fray.  As his mom, of course I believe he can do anything he sets his mind to.  And as far as I can tell, he hasn’t stopped believing that either.  I’m sure if I remind him of this conversation now he would just sigh and tell me to stop embarrassing him.  But if I did that, then I wouldn’t be doing my job. 🙂

Photo courtesy of Google Images

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