The "S" word

30 Nov

Fourteen years ago with a shiny new firstborn babe in arms I was told by a mother of many that in a perfect world we’d bring all our children up the way we bring up our fifth. I think her children were pretty spaced out, chronologically speaking. She had time to witness the consequences of decisions, choices, methods and either repeat or formulate new options. Cos it’s scientific this child rearing innit?

My first two were so close together they were, and to some extent still are, a homogenous unit upon which I practice being a Mum. Even Paul calls them “kids” as in “kids! tea’s ready!” or “can I wake up the kids?”. Like he’s something other, not one of the “kids”.

I foolishly thought that the experience of getting the first two through nearly 10 years more or less intact would give me excellent grounding for No3. I thought I’d have answers. I actually thought for one minute I’d know what to do. Well there are many many things that have bitten that confidence on its ever expanding arse. Many. Breastfeeding, co-sleeping, potty training and plain old eating have all been minefields I thought I knew the way through only to find I’d misplaced my route map somewhere in the 1990s. Four years on I am still looking for it, when really I ought to be taking notes for the teen manual, you know, the one I will lose in another 10 years time.

Recently I’ve been pondering, through the lens of my considerable experience, the “S” word…. Santa.

Yeah him.

I didn’t give a second thought to perpetuating the cultural Christmas icon that is Santa with my older children. Not a thought. In fact, when I heard of parents who didn’t deflect all kudos for giving onto the imaginary guy who breaks into our homes on Christmas Eve I was quite concerned that their five and six year olds would be wild and loose in public education spreading their Santa heresy and spoiling Christmas for all the good boys and girls who believe in him. Or more accurately, believe their parents. Despite the obvious terror he engendered in me from a young age, I carried it on.

Whether it’s my own doubts making me more receptive or not I am sensing a small but perceptible shift away from Santa. I have heard several parents tell of alternative Christmas traditions, ones they either grew up with or developed themselves, that I find myself drawn to. In one home, Santa fills the stockings whilst family give the big gift(s), with the advantage that huge, expensive, out of their budget gizmos are not automatically met with “I’ll ask Santa”. Santa never disappoints in that home. More and more people are just not figuring Santa into Christmas at all. Whereas before I found this a bit sad, lacking in magic and just plain old bah humbuggy, now I’m not so sure. I’m not so sure because of my daughter.

Actually it was my fault. It usually is. She was 9 at the time and we’d been watching a docu-drama about dragons. It was really well done in that BBC way of doing things really well. Actors played the part of archeologists and scientists who’d discovered the fossilized remains of dragons and it was all supported with stunning CGI and enough pseudo-science to fool a 9 year old. The lines between reality and fantasy were a bit blurred for Kathryn. She knew there weren’t and had never been real dragons in our skies, but she asked me where the myth of dragons came from. I can’t remember my whole reply, just the bit that broke her… the bit where I said dragons were “just the same as leprechauns and fairies”. She broke inside first, I saw it happen, and as long as I live I never wish to see again the devastating pain of betrayal that a child can’t hide… “you mean the Tooth Fairy?”.


There really isn’t anyway of digging yourself out of that one, so I killed the Tooth Fairy.

And she recovered.

Or so I thought.

Two days later, two days in which she’d obviously been thinking about it a lot, she asked the question I’d spent two days waiting for and hoping didn’t really need to be asked.

If the Tooth Fairy isn’t real… oh please don’t, please DON’T tell me Santa isn’t real, no, don’t, oh NO!”

I can’t even begin to convey how distraught she was. Over Santa. The same guy who scared the shit out of me and my sister…

I think Perth only had the one street Santa… that’s the same guy isn’t it? These photos are at least three years apart.

Anyway, I looked her in the eye and asked her if she wanted me to lie. She cried for a whole day. A.Whole.Day. Can you even begin to imagine how awful that feels? All my platitudes about the “spirit” of giving and the “magic” of fantasy were well met…. eventually. And being on board for her new baby brother, who hadn’t arrived yet, made her feel special and grown up and in on the “secret”. But nothing, none of it, was worth watching her break. Nothing was worth the anguish and despair with which she asked me if I’d been lying to her. With hindsight it was probably a combination of betrayal and embarrassment. By carrying on with The Santa Lie for so long I think she’d probably been defending my story to more street-wise kids at school. Yeah, if possible hindsight made me feel even worse.

I have very few rules I abide by as a parent, I don’t lie to my children and I always apologise when I am wrong. If I had too many rules I’d just end up breaking them. Except I did break one. And here I am thinking about breaking it again.

Andrew grew out of Santa with a wry grin on his face at my attempts to keep it going.  I don’t know what to tell Paul about Santa. He’s obviously heard of him and gets the gist of being seen, being good and getting gifts, the usual claptrap. Dare I be the parent who spreads Santa heresy? Do I tell The Santa Lie again?

I don’t know what to do!


5 Responses to “The "S" word”

  1. Barbara November 30, 2009 at 3:55 pm #

    Hmm, tricky one. I’ve been thinking the same sort of thing myself of late. I don’t want to lie to my children and the girl is young enough that her belief in Father Christmas isn’t really set yet. That said, I’m not sure I’m brave enough to fly in the face of every other child around here’s belief (if that makes sense).

  2. cartside November 30, 2009 at 5:22 pm #

    As a mum to just one toddler, I never thought of the consequences yet. So there’s where naivity comes in. On the other hand, Santa is short for St Nicolaus (or however you spell that in English) and he was real once upon a time. Not quite all made up! Is that any consolation? Not sure.

  3. Marylin November 30, 2009 at 8:15 pm #

    I’m on the fence at the moment about this one, Zack met Santa last week at the school’s Christmas Fayre and was SOOOO happy that he’d seen him, plus he was really *really* good the week leading up to it to make sure Santa wouldn’t think he’d been naughty.
    I remember being *so* sure that Santa was real, even when my friends would tell me he wasn’t – but my MUM told me, and she’d never lie to me.
    I did get over it though, as we all do. I think I’ll do The Santa Lie with my boys, they tend to not take things like that to heart quite as much as girls, so seems to be the case.
    I guess only time will tell though eh?

  4. Mwa November 30, 2009 at 8:33 pm #

    We have Saint Nicholas over here (Sinterklaas) and I have decided to go with it. The kids sing the songs for months, they draw pictures and look forward to it. It’s the only thing I lie about (along with the tooth fairy and the easter clocks and bunny of course) but I’m hoping they’ll forgive me. Just the way I forgave my parents. I already feel bad denying them the instant comfort of religion – this is one way in which I feel they must be allowed to be children fully.


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