Our “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Santa Claus Policy

My daughter is about to turn 12 years old. She’s in the sixth grade—her first year in middle school. She’s involved in a lot of activities, has a great group of friends, and is making fabulous grades in advanced courses. By now, we’ve had all of the prerequisite “talks” with her about her body, including a modern-day version of the old “birds and the bees” talk, and she saw the film about puberty last year as a fifth grader (which she declared to be, “embarrassing, awkward, and horrible”). I shudder to think of what words and phrases she’s heard on the school bus.

All of this to say, there’s little in this world that remains a mystery to her anymore. But, there’s one topic in our home that no one has had the nerve to bring up yet: the truth about Santa Claus.

Confession time:

I’m not sure if she still believes in Santa Claus or not.

This is my internal dialog during the holidays:

I mean, surely she knows the truth, right?

Who am I kidding? She’s probably known for years and has been humoring us all along.  

On the other hand, she has a very active imagination. I can almost see her steadfastly believing in Santa on some level, regardless of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Then again, she’s a smart kid who picks up on things. These days, more often than not, she’s on the inside of our inside jokes. She’s fluent in sarcasm and plays along beautifully when we deadpan around the dining room table. She’s got to know there’s no Santa. Right?

But here’s the thing: I’m not willing to come right out and ask her if she still believes, and I have a hunch that she’s not willing to talk to me about it either. Maybe she thinks that she’s playing along for the sake of her dumb parents? She either still believes or still wants to believe, but no matter what, we’re going to play along for as long as we can.

I hope she knows that Christmas won’t stop being magical and full of wonder once she knows the truth. I hope she doesn’t think that we’ll just toss her a gift (probably underwear) on Christmas day and be done with all of the enchantment and whimsy. If that’s what she thinks, then she doesn’t know her mother very well.

What she may or may not know is that on this December 24, things will happen the same way as always. Just as we’ve done for the past 10 Christmases, once she goes to bed, her dad and I will go to work creating a scene of wonder and magical chaos. Santa will still wrap the kids’ gifts in that special, never-before-seen wrapping paper, which is (obviously) a direct import from the North Pole. When she wakes up, which might be closer to noon, as seems to be par for the course in these tween years, she’ll find the usual Christmas morning display: gifts piled high, stockings overflowing, Santa’s cookies nibbled, reindeer carrots noshed, and the milk mostly gone.

It’s such a rarity for kids to be allowed to entertain fantasies these days. Their days are filled with active shooter drills, homework and tests out the wazoo, and expectations that most fully functioning adults couldn’t meet. There’s so much heaviness in the world that I plan to facilitate as much magic as I can in my kids’ lives for as long as I can get away with it.

Even if it’s just for one day of the year.

And even if they’re just politely playing along at this point.

I’d love for my kids to remember Christmas as a time to cast plausibility out the window, entertain the notion of delightful absurdity, and relish in the whimsy, no matter how old they are.

Jenny is a 40-something, married mother of two (Anna, 2007 and Jack, 2009), who migrated to the Hill Country after doing a 14 year stint in Houston. When Jenny isn’t walking her slightly neurotic (and completely beloved) rescued Weimaraner, she enjoys writing, making to-do lists, and folding laundry (and sarcasm). Jenny holds a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Texas A&M University--Corpus Christi, and completed graduate coursework in Guidance and Counseling. She is a freelance writer who writes a weekly pet column for a Houston newspaper, and is a contributor at Dog Friendly San Antonio, New Braunfels Monthly and San Antonio Woman, as well as assorted other publications. You can also find her on Instagram (introvertsguidetosobriety). Favorite Restaurant: Bohanan's Favorite Landmark: The Alamo (duh) Favorite San Antonio Tradition: Wurstfest (not technically SAT, but closer to Jenny's stomping grounds).