I think I was about 8 or 9 years old when I learned the truth about Santa Claus.
I was spending time with my father, running errands around town, when we stopped in at a Radio Shack. My dad struck up a conversation with the clerk, and he brought up the fact that he'd bought a kareoke machine from that location the previous year, how the family was liking it, etc. Now, I'd already had some suspicions about the legitimacy of Ol' Saint Nick, but my fathers casual conversation that day sealed the deal. We'd been told the karaoke machine came from Santa, now I knew the truth. When I confronted my dad once we'd returned to the car, all he could say was, "Don't tell your sisters."
Whether or not I'd tell my kids there is a Santa Claus never really crossed my mind until I became a parent. By the time I married my husband, my bonus kids pretty much already knew he didn't exist, so it wasn't something I had to deal with. Then I gave birth to my first child, and when that first Christmas rolled around, I realized that whether or not Santa existed in our home was a choice I was going to have to make someday, and that it was something I was going to need to really think about.
I don't recall feeling devastated when I found out about Santa. As I said, I'd already had my suspicions, and finding out the truth about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy quickly followed. When I confided in my older sister, I learned she'd pretty much come to the same conclusions I'd had, and neither of us were too upset. I do vividly recall however how inconsolable my little sister was when she found out about the Easter Bunny. Why my mother chose to tell her in the middle of Kmart I've no idea, but the stares of passersby as she tried to calm my sisters heartbroken cries likely caused her to quickly regret that decision. The truth about Santa soon followed, accompanied by more heartache.
As my two year olds third Christmas quickly approaches, I've found myself contemplating more and more on whether or not I will tell my boys there is a Santa. When I mentioned to my father that I didn't think I would do things like Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy with my kids, I got a roll of the eyes and a shake of the head as a response. Guess I know his thoughts.
I spoke with my husband today and finally voiced what is in my heart. I don't want Santa for my sons. Why? The reason really boils down to this: I don't want to lie to my kids. I don't want the heartbreak they may suffer from finding a beloved idea is a work of fiction, and I don't want the betrayal they may feel knowing mommy and daddy intentionally told them something that wasn't true. There may be times in my life where lying to my kids may be my only option (though I certainly hope that is never the case), but this isn't one of those times. I am in no way judging any parents who choose to tell their children Santa exists, its just not something I feel I can do.
I didn't arrive at this decision lightly. I want my kids to enjoy the magic of the season and the wonder this time of year can bring. I want Christmas to be a time of love, laughter, and special moments, and I believe that can be accomplished without the assistance of Mr. Claus. I took into consideration my sisters heartbreak, my daughter telling me how upset and betrayed she felt upon learning the truth, and stories from friends about how their children reacted when they were told. I thought about how some kids get expensive gifts from the man in red, how some get clothes, and how some get "forgotten". I fought with myself, on the other handed, hemmed and hawed, and in the end kept coming back to the same conclusion. Sorry Santa, but ya gotta go.
My sons will be raised without Father Christmas, but they will also be raised to not ruin Santa for the children who do believe. I remember fighting as a child with a friend whose family didn't believe in Santa, vehemently insisting my parents wouldn't lie to me, as they just as passionately insisted he didn't exist, and there's no need for that. Just because he's not right for us, doesn't mean he's not right for someone else's home.
Santa won't be leaving any gifts under our tree this year, or any year. We will still sing songs about him, watch Santa themed movies, and maybe even take photos at the mall because I do think it's part of the fun. Just as dragons and faeries are fun to pretend, so is Santa. But he doesn't have to be real for us to have a merry Christmas.