Raising Richmond: Is Santa going to eat us for dinner?

Is telling your kid that Santa is real the same thing as not telling her that Santa’s made up? I don’t know. You try telling a four-old-anything she doesn’t want to hear and then let me how that works out for you.

My daughter is big on asking if things are real or not. I’m sometimes not sure what to say.
She’s asked me if bad guys were real (I said yes, but so are good guys), is Nutzy real (yes–I felt like that was a lie, but she has high-fived Nutzy and has been held by him, so that’s pretty real), are giraffes real (sure), are dinosaurs real (they are but they don’t exist anymore), and are unicorns real (no).
When she asked me if mermaids were real, which they are not, I had a long pause. I actually didn’t know if I should tell her they weren’t. Mermaids! They don’t matter! There’s no holiday-related reason to keep that hope alive. Mermaids don’t swim into your toilet on Arbor Day and deliver seeds so that you can plant local shrubs and plants in your yard to help to conserve water. They should though; that’s a really good idea. Useless mermaids. I said no, that I have never seen a mermaid, but some people say they have.1
I have never told her that Santa was real before. Last year I held firm that he was just a character.2  When she asked me a few weeks ago if he was real, I said no, that he was just a story.
“I’m going to tell all my friends,” she said.
Don’t worry about it, parents of her classmates and Santa-enthusiasts–she spent the past weekend talking about Santa and how excited she was to meet him. She also said that he was real in her imagination, and when she asked me questions about him (like if he was going to meet us for dinner, which I misheard as “eat us for dinner”) I answered without adding the disclaimer “also he’s not real.” 
While having your child believe in Santa is not a radical idea, I’m still getting used to it. Looks like Santa is a go in our household because: 1) she only selectively pays attention to me and 2) I don’t think it will make me a liar or a fraudulent person in any way if I don’t tell her that he’s not real (anymore, anyway).
She’s going to see a real-life version of him several times in the next month, including at a school fundraiser. She is very excited to meet him and can’t wait “to ask him what I want for Christmas.” She’s the most devout Christian in our house, so she will learn that Santa and gifts are not the reasons we celebrate Christmas. She will get a few gifts whether she is bad or good, but they won’t be from Santa.
It’s easy when your kids are babies to say you’ll not do things like talk about Santa or buy into princess craziness, but when the kid grows up and is a person whose interests you no longer control, you find yourself hearing all about Santa while she wears her new Cinderella shirt she found in a clearance stack at Old Navy. Four-year-olds live in a magical world of Santas, fairies, fun pirates, and apparently giraffes. That magic won’t last long. We took her to see Thomas the Tank Engine last year, just a display prop with moving eyes, and we worked hard to support the idea that it was really Thomas. Why am I okay with that, but feel like Santa is a lie? There really is no difference to her.
When it comes to legendary characters, here is where we stand:

Santa: Is he real? Maybe? Go ask your Dad.
Tooth Fairy: We will probably put a dollar under her pillow when she loses a tooth.
Easter Bunny:  Do kids actually believe in the Easter Bunny? I have no interest in pretending that’s a thing. Plus every time she has done an Easter Egg hunt, she could clearly see us adults hiding eggs.3 
Uncle Sam:  We’ll leave a firecracker from Uncle Sam in her bike helmet on Fourth of July, as I assume most families do.
While she’s won’t hear it from me that Santa is going to break into our house on Christmas Eve to give her presents, she at least has the excitement of meeting some old guy dressed like Santa at a pancake breakfast at her school. What’s the point in ruining any of that for her?

Photo by: martinak15

  1. Very recently, I had to stop and ask myself if dragons used to be real because I couldn’t remember. I blame Game of Thrones
  2. Everyone else tells her he’s a thing. I don’t know why she would believe that Santa delivers gifts to her grandparents’ house for her even though they live two hours away and we don’t see them on Christmas. Maybe it’s because we don’t have a chimney. 
  3. She was at an Easter egg hunt at my aunt’s house in Powhatan, and while we were coming in I found a real rabbit head on the ground. Easter magic! 
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Kelly Gerow

Kelly Gerow lives and writes in Richmond. She probably does other stuff in Richmond, too.

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