OUR TURN: Lying to my kids
One of my mother's hard and fast parenting rules was, "Never lie."
I appreciated that growing up, so when my husband Gabriel and I started talking about what kind of parents we wanted to be, I firmly defended that perspective.
"But what about Santa?" Gabriel asked.
"He's not real, of course," I hastily replied, not anticipating the controversy ahead. My mom always said she didn't want to lie about his existence and she didn't want someone else getting the credit for the gifts she bought. I agreed.
Gabriel and I were raised with strictly nativity-based Christmases. No Santa-believing allowed. I felt wise and superior to my fairytale believing friends but Gabriel had the opposite experience. He wanted the Christmas magic.
After many hours of discussing, deliberating and debating, we decided to intentionally lean into the lie. We're officially a Santa believing family.
This is the first year our 3-year-old son could interact with the idea of Santa and it's a joy to watch his imagination run wild with Christmas excitement.
"Mommy, I haven't really met Santa," Theo stated out the blue one morning during breakfast.
"You met him when you were a baby," I replied, showing him photos of baby Theo dressed as Santa sitting on the big guy's lap. He giggled and began postulating about whether this year Santa's beard will be big or not. He's used to his daddy's changing facial hair.
"Santa's deer!" He shrieked with delight when he saw reindeer at a zoo. He asked where their wings were and I explained that Santa's reindeer fly with Christmas magic instead of wings. He was in awe.
We've been discussing what cookies Santa might like to eat and whether or not we should leave water or milk for his reindeer.
"We should make man cookies and a sugar house. Santa loves that," Theo suggested, meaning gingerbread cookies and a gingerbread house.
He plans to tell Santa he wants a real horse with white and brown spots this year for Christmas. He might be slightly disappointed to find no real horses under the tree this year, but I'm sure there will be enough Christmas magic (and presents) to distract him.
We still keep to our "no lying" policy in everyday life and I know the Santa question is controversial for some families. But for us, it's working.
It took me awhile to get on board, but now I see the benefits in making space for a little childhood magic. The world can sometimes be a gruff, grim and dangerous place. I want my children to see the magic before contending with the bitterness.
Obviously, someday he'll learn that a big man with a red suit, shiny boots and a fluffy white beard isn't responsible for all his Christmas gifts (I'll take my credit then) but we'll be ready with open ears to process whatever feelings he has about that.
But for now, he'll be listening for reindeer hooves on the roof and baking cookies to refresh Mr. Claus after the hard work of delivering our presents. We'll tell bedtime stories about sleighs that soar through the snow-filled sky and little boys who visit the North Pole to see the elves hard at work.
For now, Gabriel and I will exchange sly smiles and address a Christmas card to Santa, just like Theo asked.
Maybe it's a lie but that doesn't mean it isn't magic, too.