It can be stressful to have a seven-year-old at Christmastime. Why? Because there is questioning. A lot of questioning. You know, about that plump guy in the red suit.
I have to be honest; Grace’s prying questions about Santa make me more uncomfortable than the few questions she has already asked me about S-E-X. Questions about sex, while a little awkward, haven’t been that hard to answer because I am making sure she has accurate facts, giving her knowledge that not only makes her feel okay about her own body, but will hopefully lead to informed and responsible decisions in the future. I subscribe to the very wise motto of G.I. Joe: Now you know, and knowing is half the battle.
But answering all these endless questions about Santa means I am doing the exact opposite: I am perpetrating a lie.
It all started at the very beginning of December. We were in the car, sitting at a stoplight. The car behind us caught my eye in the rearview mirror because it had those little reindeer antlers on either side. I glanced at the driver for a glimpse of this person with undoubted Christmas cheer, and lo and behold…it was an older gentleman, with a round face, a long, fuzzy white beard, and a red shirt. I couldn’t believe my luck! Last year we happened upon a reindeer in our backyard just before Christmas, and now this! So I announced to the kids, “Look who is driving the car behind us!” They both quickly turned around, and Michael yelled, with an energy like the one that comes from eating too many pixie sticks, “SANTA!!!!!!”
Almost on cue, the man behind us smiled and waved at the kids. It was, for lack of a better word, precious. Just as I was feeling my own giant boost of yuletide glow, Grace said, a bit accusingly, “What would Santa be doing driving around here?” I explained that maybe he was making the rounds, checking up on kids, getting reports from all the Elves on the Shelves. She was quiet for a second. “I kind of think Santa is real. But I kind of think he is a fairy tale.” Well, isn’t that just Grinchy. And then the questions began…
I know what she’s doing. I can tell she is conflicted. She wants to believe Santa is real, but that maturing brain of hers is feeding her more and more of this thing call “logic,” and she’s not so sure she likes the taste of it. Therefore, instead of coming straight out with the question, “Is there really a Santa Claus?” she is asking every possible question about his practicality to see how I respond. Grace: What is Santa’s address?….Me: Just write “Santa Clause – North Pole. The post office will know where it goes because there is only one Santa….Grace: But if no one has ever seen Santa and his workshop is secret, how does the mailman know where he lives?….Me: (crap)
What am I supposed to do? Tell her that I am incredibly impressed with her abilities in deduction, throw up my hands to the fact that I will likely soon be out-smarted, and say, “Congratulations! I think you have just about figured it out. I will spare you the last two zillion questions you were going to ask me and just confirm what you are hinting at. THERE IS NO SANTA CLAUS. And your parents are liars. Merry Christmas.”
Nope. That is not what I do at all. Instead, I conspire with my husband to dig ourselves even deeper in this jolly old lie. Ladies and gentlemen, witness our deception:
A few days ago, I was at the computer sending some emails when Grace asked me if the reason Santa knew all this stuff about her and Michael was because I emailed him. I confessed that I had absolutely no idea what Santa’s email address was. So Miss Smarty Pants said, “Just Google it.” I hesitantly typed in the words “Santa’s email address,” fearing that an entry would pop up saying something like “Trick your kids with this fake email address to Santa…because we all know Santa is not real.” Luckily, the first entry was an actual site where kids could send emails to Santa. And it was adorable. Grace entered her information and her note to Santa, then hit send. A screen popped up with a message that the email was being sent…then it said Santa was reading the email…then it said he was writing one back to her. Within a few minutes, Santa’s email was ready for her to read. She was a bit skeptical that he had written it so quickly, but that doubt was soon squashed once she read the email. It was very personal and even somehow had picked up from what she had written in the free-form comment section the fact that she had a brother. I was relieved to see she seemed quite satisfied.
But apparently her wheels had been turning all afternoon, because at dinner time she informed us she had a sneaky idea. She wasn’t so sure Santa had actually written that email, or that there really was a Santa to even email. So she had devised an “experiment.” She wanted my husband to go back to the site and enter in his name, but say he was 6-years-old and from Canada. By her reasoning, if Santa was real and really writing these emails, he would certainly know that Kurtis was actually an adult…and not living in Canada.
Well, *%$#@. But I have to admit, she is kind of a genius. And a little maniacal.
We knew we couldn’t talk our way out of this, so my husband agreed to do it. He went downstairs and started the email. All of a sudden, he came racing back upstairs, whipped into the family room and said in a hushed voice, “QUICK! Get on the Kindle, pretend you are Santa, and send an email to me saying that you know I was tricking you!” OOOOOH! You handsome devil you! But there was just one problem. I panicked, “But the site doesn’t send it to your email address! Santa’s email just pops up on the site after a minute or two!!!” But my enginerd had already taken care of that. He had unplugged the router so when they hit “send” nothing would happen. Then when he plugged the router back in, he quickly opened his email to find this message waiting in his inbox:
Subject: Naughty, Naughty
HO HO HO! You tried to trick old Santa! I know you don’t live in Canada.
P.S. Rudolph thought that was a funny joke!
I know. The tangled web of lies we weave. But I have to say, it was totally worth it to see the look on her face and hear her exclaim, “YES! The email was really from Santa!”
Maybe I am setting her up for a bigger disappointment when she finally does learn the truth. Maybe I am being selfish. I know that the elaborate lengths my husband and I have gone to in order to keep Grace believing are in part for us. We see her losing pieces of “little” every day. Sure, her innocence still outweighs her worldliness. But childhood starts to look different around this age. It isn’t necessarily better or worse, but change is always hard. Every parent knows that faint tug of longing that comes whenever you catch a glimpse of a photo of your child during younger years. Remember…that squeaky voice…the way that tiny hand felt around your finger…that unquestionable belief in anything that could be imagined…it was adorable.
But seven-year-olds can be pretty adorable, too. Grace reminded me of that when she took a bit of offense to Santa’s use of the word “joke.”
“It wasn’t a joke. It was an EXPERIMENT.”
Maybe I will remember that line when Grace finally does come to the real conclusion about Santa Claus. And then I will let her eat the cookies her little brother leaves for him. I might need a lot of cookies.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!