The blog of photographer and musician, Kim Ayres

The Truth About Father Christmas – Warning: Do not read this if you are under 14 years of age!

How did I get myself into this situation?

Is it possible for a 10 year old not to know that Santa doesn’t exist? The problem is that I don’t know if my son knows or not. If he still believes then I’d like him to enjoy at least one more year of the fantasy, for once we have eaten of the fruit of knowledge we can never go back. But at the same time, I’d hate for him to suddenly find out at school and suffer that awful, gut churning embarrassment by being teased mercilessly.

What is the parental role here? At what age am I supposed to sit down and have a heart to heart talk with my son and explain the reality of Father Christmas? And how am I supposed to break the news without it shattering not only the enjoyment of the fantasy, but his confidence in the honesty of his parents? If your parents can lie to you about Santa, then how can you trust them about anything important ever again?

I’ve tried dropping hints to see if he suspects anything, but he has utterly failed to respond. On Saturday I went for my biggest shot yet, when the two of us went into Dumfries to get a bit of Xmas shopping. After fighting our way through heaving crowds and getting completely disorientated in only a handful of shops, we felt we deserved a break. We headed off to a café for a hot chocolate and to create a more viable plan of action.

We discussed what he wanted to buy and then I said he could help me look out for wee presents for his mum, as I liked to create a Christmas stocking for her. Did he flinch? No. Did his eyebrows knot ever so slightly? No. Did his eyes narrow? No. “OK then” he said without the slightest flicker of concern.

So I’m still left wondering whether he’s known for years and long since come to terms with it, or whether he thinks that because he’s a kid it doesn’t apply to him – Santa only delivers to children after all.

I mean, he’s an intelligent lad. Haven’t all the logical inconsistencies of the Santa story occurred to him yet? But at the same time, when we let slip about the tooth fairy last year, he was devastated.

We have friends who completely refused to indulge their children in the Santa fantasy: they were not going to lie to their kids and were very principled about it.

I don’t know. The fantasy seemed like a great idea at the time. And my 7-year-old daughter absolutely loves it. She got as excited as could be when she saw Santa in the supermarket the other day and got her photo taken with him.

Being caught up in the fantasy is great. Having known the truth for a while is fine. But it’s that transition between that’s the killer, and I’ve not found the bit in the parenting manual that explains how I guide my son through.

Still, as it’s only 5 days to go, I guess I can put off the decision until next year...

11 comments

Chris Black said...

It's a tough one. But I think the fantasy is worth it, and the discovery didn't upset me, as fas as I can recall.

The fantasy benefits adults as well as children, because somehow Christmas wouldn't be the same if 5 million people in the UK didn't believe in Santa!

Dr Maroon said...

I can’t tell when you’re at it.

HE will tell YOU about Santa.

However, if you judge the time right, you could direct him to the link below, but maybe leave it till Boxing Day.
(I will understand if you delete this comment, but not forgive you. [Kidding])

http://el-barbudo.blogspot.com/2005/12/terrible-truth-about-father-christmas.html

Dr Maroon said...

It's an old one, but I saw this written in huge letters in the dirt on the back of a white truck.

SANTA IS DEAD

Gyrobo said...

Not indulging would've been the wisest course. Teach 'im not to be gullible.

But the funniest way to convince a child Santa isn't real is to show him one of these.

Gyrobo said...

After all, you wouldn't want this to happen.

BStrong said...

Kim,

I would probably leave it alone for one more year; let him believe. Rogan (sp) probably has friends; I wonder what their thoughts on Santa are. Your worries of having to tell your son about Santa may play itself out without you. Kids learn more than math, science, and history in school.

Cheers,
B

Kim Ayres said...

Chris - I guess I'll find out in about 20 years whether I've taken the right approach, or whether my son will be in therapy discussing how his parents really screwed him up.

Dr Maroon - I have to confess there's a part of me that really enjoy's El B's posts. They may be gutter mouthed and not for the faint hearted, but there are times when I think he sees the world more clearly than any of us.

Gyrobo - love the foil cartoon! However, when the time comes, I don't think he'll need any convincing. Part of the awfulness of the discovery of the truth is that feeling of embarrassment that you didn't realise the truth earlier.

Again, if you're not offended by bad language, then I'd recommend you take a look at this entry called The Day Santa Died, which I thought summed up the feeling pretty well:
http://justbreathe28.blogspot.com/2005/11/day-santa-died.html

Bstrong - I guess being Jewish means that this problem isn't one you'll have to deal with. Is there anything similar for your family? Do you go in for the Tooth Fairy or anything else?

Naomi said...

Wait 'till he asks you. This has come up on a message board that I read and a couple of parents with older kids said they just waited until the child asked them if Santa was real and then just replied asking what they thought.

It seemed to work for both those families and it means the child works things out for themselves rather than you shattering the fantasy.

It could also be that he already knows but thinks that he wont get any more stockings if he lets on.

BStrong said...

My kids are a bit too young for the tooth fairy, but when they start losing them, we will make sure that they fall for it hook line and sinker.

On Passover after we have Seder (a very large meal that has many biblical traditions, symbols and customs to it we open the door for Elijah who is supposed to come in to your home and take a sip of wine from the goblet that we place out for him. It’ a long story, so if you want to know about it use Google. He is obviously not real, but my kids believe that he is an angle that does come to visit us. We leave the goblet on the table over night. When the kids are a sleep I take a sip from the wine so that when they wake up and go down stairs the next morning they will see that a sip was taken. We’ll let them believe in Elijah probably until they are 9 or 10.

B

Andraste said...

I'm going to go out on a limb and say he already knows. By 10, most kids have seen enough in the media and heard enough at school to have it sussed out. It doesn't come as one big epiphany, but leaks in over the course of a few years, through osmosis.

For most kids, I don't think it's a big shock. It starts to dawn slowly on them, and then they start putting pieces together. Most kids aren't even disappointed, I think. They realize that their parents have been the ones doing all of Santa's 'work' over the years, and somewhere in their little souls they appreciate it.

Kim Ayres said...

Naomi - waiting until he asked was my original plan, but as he's now 10 and a half, I've been waiting for 3 years, and I worry the shock will be worse, the longer it's left.

BStrong - but do they discover for themselves about Elijah, or do you have to sit down and tell them?

Andraste - I would have thought that most kids do know by 10, but I must admit JustBreathe's account (see my last comment above) probably exggerated my concerns a bit.

As for kids appreciating all the work their parents do for them, I have to ask, do you have children?

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