I was in the second grade when I unmasked Santa. I’d had my suspicions for a while: the handwriting on the gift tags, the fact that Santa used the same wrapping paper as my parents did, and I’m sure I’d heard rumblings around the playground or maybe from my older brother. But whatever evidence I brought before them, my parents stood by Santa. Coincidence, they said. Santa’s helpers, they said. Go to bed, they said.

I spent that Christmas season snooping. I finally found my proof on Christmas day, not long after I received a beautiful Barbie dream house, pre-assembled under the tree. I was probably helping clean up wrapping paper, or perhaps making a last-ditch effort to make my point, but I found the box for the Barbie dream house in the garage, and my parents could pretend no longer.

I was not angry. I did not feel betrayed; I felt proud. Proud of myself for figuring it out. And I was grateful for my Barbie dream house, whoever gave it to me.

As I prepared to have my own children, I wondered whether I’d uphold the Santa myth. I didn’t want to lie to my children. Then again, I didn’t want to burden them with knowledge they couldn’t share with their classmates. I heard a lot of young parents considering the same conundrum. When they were babies, though, it was all academic.

As soon as the kids were old enough to believe in Santa, academics went out the window.

Every kid I know believes in Santa, and my kids are young enough that I don’t know many for whom the myth has been unmasked. Which is amazing, if they’ve ever spent time with me. I might have decided to let my kids believe in yuletide magic, but boy do I tend to say the wrong thing. I’ve had to double back on myself so many times. I’ve woven elaborate tapestries of BS to keep from blowing the secret–Magic doesn’t exist. I mean, the magic in Harry Potter doesn’t exist, and the magic tricks Gramps does are just tricks, but I mean there are different types of magic and Santa is very special and of course the term magic is a relative thing and imagination is magic isn’t it except I mean reindeer can totally fly, do you think reindeer can fly?

Ultimately, my kids want to believe and so they believe. I’ve thrown some blanket statements over the whole problem, too: No one has ever seen Santa, so whenever you watch a movie or read a book about him, it’s just somebody’s guess as to what he might be like and If you ever see a Santa at the mall or a store, that’s not really Santa because Santa never comes out in public–that’s just Santa’s helper.

I’ve also told them, partly in an effort to cover my own butt if they get mad at me about lying to them and partly because it’s true, that Santa is whatever you want him to be because Santa is the spirit of Christmas.

How have you handled it? Or, like me, are you just waiting with your fingers crossed, hoping for another year of blind belief and a smooth shift when that moment of truth finally comes?

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