My 6-year-old came up to me yesterday, her eyes shining with some concern.
“So Eva told me yesterday that Santa is not real. Is that true, Amma?”
“Eva said that parents are actually Santa. Are you actually Santa, Amma? Have Appa and you been getting me all those Christmas presents?”
I paused. This was a huge, pivotal moment in any child’s life. They’ve spent years believing that a jolly, rounded man sits at his table and reads all their sappy letters. They’ve imagined his fat, fluffy beard bouncing in the moonlight as he shimmies down chimneys and leaves them presents. The magic of waking up on Christmas morning, knowing toys are waiting. The thrill of jumping out of bed and almost tripping as they race down the hall and tear open the presents. All those beautiful presents, so lovingly picked by dear old Santa Claus in his bright red suit.
So when said child finds out Santa doesn’t exist — in fact, never existed at all — it can be a bit of a shock. I’ve heard of kids sobbing with confusion and dismay when told that Santa is just Dad and Mom, armed with a credit card and 2-day shipping. A friend’s son didn’t speak to her for an entire week because he felt so cheated.
And — in the spirit of full disclosure — some 30 years ago, I threw the most impressive tantrum when I found out the truth about Santa. With dramatic tears and angry screams, I begged my mom to bring Santa back to life. As if she’d secretly murdered him or something.
So when my daughter came up to me yesterday and asked me the big question, I paused. I wanted to be honest with her but break the news as gently as was possible.
“Reya, come sit here with me. Let’s talk about this and try to keep an open mind, ok? Ok, darling?”
We sat. I opened my mouth, then shut it. What exactly was I going to say? (The irony of a writer unable to find the right words isn’t lost on me.),
But 6-year-olds aren’t known for their patience.
“Amma Amma Amma Amma. AMMA. AMMAAAAA! Just tell me, Amma!”
“Ok, so look. Here’s the truth.”
I told her everything. I started off with a silly Christmas joke, rambled a little, hit all the essential points about gift-giving, and finished with a rousing “Oh darling, I hope you don’t feel too sad. Santa may not be real, but my love for you is!”
She blinked and bit her lip. My stomach dropped. “Here we go,” I thought.
“Hey Amma, so if you’re Santa, does that mean I can get extra presents this year?”
“Yes, Amma! I usually asked Santa for only a few gifts because I didn’t want him to think I was greedy. But now I don’t have to worry. You can get me 10 presents, and Appa can get me 10 more.” Her eyes gleamed at the endless possibilities.
“Oh, I’m so, so happy, Amma! Santa isn’t real, and now I can get as many presents as I want.” She ran off delighted, possibly to compile a 3-page toy list.
Soon, a voice blared from the next room. “Amma, are you the tooth fairy too? Can I ask you for money? I really want money, Amma. I have to buy many things, and my piggy bank is almost empty. Ok, byeee!”
I sat there for a long time. Well, now she knew. The huge, pivotal moment was over. No more lies about Santa, and no more secrets about the Tooth Fairy. Only the absolute truth from now on.
A minute later, a little head popped around the doorway. “Hey Amma, one last thing. Can we celebrate Christmas next week? I can’t wait to get my presents.”
OH GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE?