When one child believes in Santa and the other doesn't

When only one child still believes in Santa, the annual tradition of gift-giving can be a delicate balancing act for parents.

Santa-letter Elissa writes to Santa. Photo: Ian Mendes

According to a recent study, parents with two kids are the happiest.

However, there are some interesting challenges parents with two kids face that single-child families don’t have to deal with.

For example, at this time of year, there's the question of how to deal with the situation when one of your kids believes in Santa Claus—while the other child knows the truth.

This is a very awkward spot and something we are dealing with heading into Christmas this year. Our oldest daughter Elissa, who is 10, has known about Santa Claus not being real for about three years now. (Ironically, she learned the truth about Santa after reading a Today’s Parent article back in 2012 entitled “Is it OK to lie to your kids?” The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy myths were also taken down at the same time.)

But our seven-year-old daughter Lily still believes in Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. The poor kid is so naïve and impressionable she still thinks the Toronto Maple Leafs have a chance to win the Stanley Cup in her lifetime.

So as we head into the Christmas season, we have a bit of a dilemma on our hands: Do we need to buy the older kid a gift from Santa to keep up the façade for the younger child?


At first glance, this is a total money grab—like walking into a Build-A-Bear store. I have asked myself, “Why am I buying a gift from Santa for a kid who knows the jolly fat man doesn’t exist?” But if we don’t buy the gift, Lily will be suspicious as to why her older sister didn’t receive anything from Santa. I have toyed with the idea of buying Elissa some practical gifts and saying they were from Santa—so it’s a win-win situation.

“Wow! I guess those elves are knitting socks these days, eh Elissa? That’s a cool gift from Santa. What else did he bring you? A protractor set? Isn’t that exactly what you need for math class? That’s amazing! What are the odds?”

But Elissa is too smart for that. In fact, she knows that she kind of has us over a barrel here and, last week, she wrote out a long letter to Santa herself. She made sure she showed the list to her little sister to prove that she was writing a letter to the North Pole. Here is the text from her letter to Santa:

Dear Santa,

There’s a lot of stuff I REALLY WANT. Just like everyone else, there is stuff I’m dying to get. But to make this way easier for the both of us, I’ve narrowed it down to 13 things. Please make sure I get them.



She proceeded to list 13 items on the back of the letter, which included an iTunes gift card. I’ll give her credit, this kid is smooth.

I think Elissa likes having an “adult” secret she can share with us without her little sister knowing. In fact this year, I was thinking of having Elissa actually playing the role of Santa and sneaking Lily’s gift under the tree after she falls asleep. I’ll probably also slip her the envelope with the iTunes gift card that Santa’s elves worked so hard on downloading.

In any event, there is part of me hoping this is the last year of this weird dynamic in our household. While I appreciate our youngest daughter still believing in the “magic” of Christmas, this song-and-dance of buying the older kid a gift from Santa is getting a little old. I think I will just let Lily accidentally “find” this blog post next summer so she can find out the truth about Santa in the same way her sister did—by reading it in a Today’s Parent article.

Follow along as Ottawa-based sports radio host Ian Mendes gets candid about raising daughters, Elissa and Lily, with his wife, Sonia. Read all of Ian’s The Good Sport posts and follow him on Twitter @ian_mendes.

This article was originally published on Dec 18, 2014

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