My Kid Told Carpool There is No Santa

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I don’t know why my 7-year-old chose to divulge this secret on this particular day in October. We were driving home from school with her brother, 5, and our neighbor, 6. No one was talking about anything in particular. I had an educational podcast playing. All was well — or so I thought.

Then, out of the blue, my child, my darling daughter, my precious cherub, said, “Santa isn’t real.”

“Huh?!” her brother responded.

“The parents do it,” my daughter said. Her voice was cold, unwavering. Her confidence was chilling.

“What makes you think that?” I said, refusing to go on the defensive until I had more information. Maybe I could smooth this over.

“I discussed it with my friend and I know it’s the parents and that Santa isn’t real,” she said.

The boys were quiet. Thinking it over. Going over the logic of the argument.

“But we met Santa,” her brother said.

“That wasn’t the real Santa. That was just a man,” my daughter said. My heart was breaking.

“Can we talk about this at home?” I said. “Alone? Just you and I?” I was panicking. I was in damage control mode now. We had to shut this down.

“I’m just saying…” she replied. 

We arrived home. I told the neighbor’s father what had transpired. He wasn’t mad but did look a little sad in a resigned way.

The boys were off playing in the yard, and I pulled my daughter to the side.

“Let’s say, hypothetically,” I said to her, “that you think it’s the parents. Can’t you let the other kids believe in it? Can you keep your theories to yourself? They still believe. Can you let them believe?” My mother had asked something similar of me when I first hypothesized that perhaps no one was actually coming down the chimney.

“No.”

“Please?”

“No.” 

She went inside.

I didn’t know what to do. I want her to believe in magic — not because I want to lie, but because I think it’s fun. It’s fun to go see Santa at the mall. It’s fun to write him a letter and make him cookies and leave them out. It’s fun to wake up in the morning and see gifts under the tree. As a parent, the Christmas spirit came back alive for me with my children, and I cherished our Christmas mornings.

As is my style, I took to the internet. There were options. I could implore her again to let her brother and friends keep on believing. I could let her in on the secret definitively and let her help on Christmas Eve, like I did once I stopped believing. We could have a conversation about symbolism and spirit and the power of ritual.

Or, I could let it rest. Say nothing. Let it go, like her favorite ice queen suggests. 

That’s what I did.

She didn’t continue her attack on Christmas after that one car conversation.

November came around and she started drafting a letter to Santa. She didn’t mention that it was merely a gesture. She didn’t wink at me like she does when I tell her she and I can stay up after her brother goes to bed. As far as I can tell, she believes again.

I believe in telling my kids the truth. I also believe that telling my kids the whole truth isn’t always necessary. Sure, they know their parents are divorced, but they certainly don’t know the why and the nitty-gritty of the how. That would be inappropriate.

Maybe by not confirming or denying it, my daughter was convinced that Santa’s real. Maybe it was all a test, one that I passed. Maybe she’s decided it’s more fun to believe. Maybe she forgot.

No matter the reason, the season of giving is upon us. We’re all excited that this year, Christmas is more or less “back to normal,” and we get to celebrate with our families and see our friends. My daughter’s letter to Santa is ready to go, and, until something changes, I’m going to go ahead and let the magic of Santa live on.

Tags: Christmas, holiday season, parenting, santa, Family

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Written By

Laura Wheatman Hill

Laura Wheatman Hill lives in Oregon with her two children. She has been published by CNN, Real Simple, Parents, and others. See Full Bio

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