This year my family faced that infamous question, though maybe not in a typical fashion.While at Christmas production rehearsal I get a text from my wife that reads:

“That mom of the year award I was hoping for, not going to get it again this year”

So of course I ask what happened, my wife explained to me that my oldest son had been crying himself to sleep the past three nights because “he was a bad little boy and Santa was only going to bring him coal and switches.” Being at her wits end and just wanting him to sleep, she finally took him downstairs and told him there was no Santa.To which I responded “You couldn’t have just beat him? It would have cost us less in therapy and might have been less painful!” All heart, that’s me.

But since she went with the nuclear option and that genie doesn’t go back in the bottle we now had to deal with this. The last text of the night she sent me was really telling:

“Yet he still wants to believe… the little masochist”

So after getting home and talking it over we decided that well we screwed this one up, and we weren’t sure how we were going to fix it. My son now had information he didn’t want, and I didn’t want to be the parent of “that kid” who ruins it for everyone else. So the next day my wife comes up with this letter, this is really the good part of this post. I wanted to include it so that parents who have to deal with kids who ask this question and are old enough to know the answer, might have a solution. Full disclosure here, my wife got the idea off one of her “mommy blogs” and tweaked to fit.

Dear M,

I figured if I put this down on paper, maybe I wouldn’t say the wrong thing. I want to share with you some things I’ve learned about Santa and Christmas over the years.

The truth is, there is no one Santa. Santa is an idea. A spirit, but not in the TV show sense of the word. Spirit is defined as:

noun: spirit; plural noun: spirits
  1. 1.
    the nonphysical part of a person that is the seat of emotions and character; the soul.
    • the nonphysical part of a person regarded as a person’s true self and as capable of surviving physical death or separation.
    • the nonphysical part of a person manifested as an apparition after their death; a ghost.
    • a supernatural being.
    • short for Holy Spirit.
  2. 2.
    those qualities regarded as forming the definitive or typical elements in the character of a person, nation, or group or in the thought and attitudes of a particular period.
    “the university is a symbol of the nation’s egalitarian spirit”

In Santa’s case, it leans towards the second definition. Santa himself is loosely based on Saint Nicholas, who, when he lived, often left surprises and gifts for children. We like this spirit of giving and surprising. The focus is not meant to be on perfect behavior, or what you will get, but on giving and surprising those you love. This year, I have ruined the magic behind this for you, and I apologize. But I am not giving up on the spirit of Santa. Just because the magic is revealed, this does not mean Santa won’t come. While perhaps Santa is not a real person, and there is no real magic that can whisk him around the globe, the spirit is there, for those who are willing to keep it alive. And your dad and I have committed to doing just that. There will be presents. There will be surprises. But perhaps by seeing behind the mythical mystery, we can work together to keep the spirit of giving and surprises and love going together.

Another thing the story of Santa does is that he teaches children to believe in something they can’t see or touch. In your life, you will need this capacity to believe:  In yourself, in your family, in your friends, and in God. You’ll need to be able to believe in things you can’t measure or hold in your hands.

Mostly I just want you to know that I haven’t done any of this out of a lack of love or respect for you. I did all of these things BECAUSE I love you. Because I love your smile and your laughter and your hugs and kisses. And that is also why our Christmas traditions won’t change because of this year’s revelation. There will still be surprises and gifts and stockings full of goodies on Christmas morning.

I also hope that by entrusting you with this secret, I’ve taken on a conspirator. I want you to be someone who can secretly help spread the joy and spirit of Christmas. It is important to respect the beliefs of others, and this is a good chance to practice that. You can’t let anyone else in on the secret of Santa. Because, in a way, it is still the truth. If you believe in Santa, even just believing in the spirit of giving and surprises, then he is still real in our hearts. And THAT is the part I believe in, even now.

photo credit: LadyDragonflyCC – >;< via photopin cc