I never wanted my children to believe in Santa Claus, but now that my oldest is on the verge of disbelief I want to hang onto the jolly old elf at all costs. What changed?
When we found out my wife was pregnant we had a sit down talk. You know, the kind of deep discussions that couples have when they’re about to make a big decision. That decisions: whether or not we would allow our child to believe in Santa Claus. Now, I’m not against magic, but I am against misleading children for the purpose of keeping them in line. “Because I said so,” is a good response for me, not “Santa Claus is watching. Do it for the gifts.”
I didn’t grow up with Santa Claus. Could you tell? My mother didn’t believe in telling us lies about the holiday time, so she didn’t. I grew up knowing that anything I got for the holiday was from my mother, or from my father, or from other relatives and family friends, which was fine with me. But regardless of what we believed in our household I wasn’t that kid who wanted to ruin things for others, so I kept my mouth shut around the Santa believers.
My wife was one of those very believers, even though she lived hundreds of miles away, and she grew up just fine too. Her belief in the white bearded one kept mystery alive, and brought an aura of magic that I just didn’t have. So our conversation when we found out she was pregnant was a heated one. She was on the side of Santa and magic, while I pushed for no Santa and a sense of practicality.
We hemmed and we hawed, the back and forth one of the most important conversations in our relationship to that point, but we weren’t coming to a conclusion, until I remembered baptism.
In my mother’s religion baptism was reserved for those who made the decision themselves, and I myself was dipped under the water on my tenth birthday. I thought it was a great way to do things, but once again my wife was from a different background, one where they baptized babies soon after birth. So I told her we could make a deal: I would give her Santa Claus and everything that came with him, and she would forego baptizing our child, allowing her to pick for herself when she came of age.
It was a win-win, and one of the first significant compromises we ever made, and I’ve upheld my end of it. For nine years I’ve pretended the man from the North Pole exists, buying presents from him, making up stories of chimneys, reindeer, and cookies with milk. But now she’s asking how I know Santa’s real and I know the time is coming, sooner rather than later, when she’ll figure it all out. Maybe there’s something to be said for a little magic in this world, even if we have to make it up as parents, to keep the fiction alive.
So this may very well be the last Christmas when my daughter doesn’t know the truth about Santa, and it’s a bit sad for me, but I’ve still got baptism. You know, if she wants it someday.