“Mommy, tell me the truth.” My daughter, a very worldly third grader, stared at me with a grim expression. “Is Santa real or is it you and Daddy?”
The truth? If I continued with the story I’d been jabbering about for eight years, was it really a lie? Or does it fall in that vague area of polite untruths we tell to loved ones like, “No really, I always hoped someone would buy me a Chia Pet for Christmas” or “No, those pants aren’t too snug.”
My second thought came from a place deep inside me. A grinch-like place that found stress in the secrecy surrounding the Santa myth. Like when my daughters would ask “Why is Santa all over the place if he’s one man” or “But so-and-so doesn’t have a fireplace so how does he get in the house?”
Yes, there are lies upon lies we tell to keep myths alive. It was starting to feel just plain wrong. I’m very upfront with my kids, perhaps at times to a flaw. So how could I reconcile my guilt with the pile of lies offered in the name of fun, like the easter bunny and tooth fairy?
I believed I had many years before anybody questioned my cute tales. But now my maturing daughter stood before me, touting a truth heard through the grapevine in her classroom. Yup, the grapevine in Mrs. Trodhal’s third grade class was strong and scary, but I’ll save the sex questions for another post.
“Well, honey, are you sure you REALLY want to know.”
She nodded, her expression quite serious.
I took in a deep breath. “No, Nicole. Santa isn’t real. Daddy and I buy you all the gifts.”
I launched into the history of St. Nick only to realize tears welled in her eyes so I stopped my explanation. “What’s wrong?”
“No. I’m sorry, honey. You said you really wanted to know.”
“But, but…” Her lower lip quivered and she sniffled a few times. “But Rudolph is real. Right?”
Tears blurred my vision. I swallowed the hard lump in my throat and realized that sometimes the truth went down just as painfully. How could I answer this second probe?
I tried to buy time so I could think. “What?”
Then I did the only thing a mother could do. I took both her hands and stared into her large blue eyes. “Of course he’s real! Why wouldn’t he be?”
Her frown turned right side up into a wide smile. “Really?”
“Yup.” I wiped a spot on her damp cheek. “That’s why we need to leave out some reindeer food on Christmas Eve. It’s hard work to fly around all night.”
She walked off, blissfully unaware that the existence of one and the denial of the other made no sense. I suppose by now (she’s twenty-three) she’s figured out the truth.
Do you believe?