Parenting

How do you explain Santa?

Tracy tries to keep the holiday magic alive — by limiting Santa exposure.

The one and only decent photo of my girls with “Santa.”

My thoughts about Santa are… complicated. Everyone I know is concerned with preserving the magic as long as humanly possible. I’m not opposed to it, but I don’t think I’m an Elf on the Shelf kind of mom. (Though I should never say never.) I remember telling my friends when my kids were littler that it felt wrong to lie. They rolled their eyes at me. But I’ll be honest: My six-year-old is so off-the-charts inquisitive and observant that I’m shocked she hasn’t pulled the curtain down already. Part of me is a little bit “You really buy this, Anna?” Of course, I’d never say it out loud. Because I do believe in magic and the fun and innocence of childhood and I know, in a few short years, it will all be over.
 
To do my part, I try to reduce Santa exposure. I’ve failed miserably this year because, somehow, my kids have seen “Santa” four times this week. First, I took them for the annual mall picture. Anna is happy to hop up and chat with St. Nick, but Avery usually wants to keep as much distance as possible. At the very least, she sits on a block in front of him, turned away, and lowers her head unless I’ve succeeded with some ridiculously sweet bribe. This year, she sat on the block in front and actually faced him and gave the stiffest smile ever for the shot. But she smiled! It was quite a coup. Then, something unimaginable happened: Anna was talking to Santa and, suddenly, Avery was shaking Santa’s hand, smiling, and then — for reals! — she hugged him. Hugged him! I looked excitedly at the bored teenaged photographer, who was chewing on a nail, to capture the moment, but she clearly didn’t understand the monumental nature of what was unfolding.
 
The girls understand that these are Santa’s “helpers” and though Anna put up a good front to his face, as soon as she left Santa, she declared, “His beard is totally fake. You can see the Velcro!”
 
Little did I know, the party we were attending the next day also had a Santa appearance. I thought Avery’d be cool, but she shied away this time. Then I found out that Santa visited Anna’s school mid-week. Then, the girls had their daycare Christmas concert and “Father Christmas” (a really good one) joined them. Luckily, Avery was jacked up on enough sweets to stand beside him and smile, so I have a decent picture of the two of them with Santa for this year (that’s the one featured here).
 
But I’m hoping this is the end of our Santa sightings. Nothing’s worse for keeping the dream alive than seeing “Santa” around every corner. We don’t talk a lot about Santa at home because I do really try to make the holidays less about the wants and, instead, focus on the baking and wrapping and giving and get-togethers. The girls did write their letters to Santa, though. We let them ask for one thing and, much to my surprise, this year Anna asked Santa to “surprise” her with a gift. Avery decided to follow suit (once she confirmed that she wasn’t actually asking Santa to “surprise” her by showing up somewhere unexpected!). Not only does this make my life so much easier, it reminds me that my kids can be pretty awesome.
 
How do you handle questions about Santa from your kids?