Photo Credit: Jamie Grill/Getty Images
I love everything about Christmas. I love the music and the lights and the smell of pine in my house. (Okay, I hate the needles everywhere, but they’re a necessary evil.) I love shopping and wrapping and hiding presents and more than anything, I love the excitement and awe on my daughters’ faces when they pad down the stairs on Christmas morning and feast their wondering eyes on the massive freaking haul Santa has so generously left for them.
For this last bit at least, according to some, I am surely sending my daughters into someday-therapy to deal with the disappointment and betrayal I’m heaping on them like so much tinsel on a tree.
My girls are 10 and 8, and trust me when I tell you it hasn’t been easy pulling off the mother of all lies magical ruse these past few years. There have been questions. (“But how does Santa get all the way around the world in a single night?” they want to know, a question deftly deflected with a simple word on my part: “Magic!”) There have been doubts. (“If this sweater is from Santa, why does it have a Macy’s tag on it?” they demand. “Santa makes deals with all of the stores in case people need to exchange things,” I trill.)
There have been hilarious moments of confusion. (When “Santa” dropped into a friend’s holiday party the day after we’d visited him at the mall and he asked my then 7-year-old what she wanted for Christmas, she looked at him like he was mad and replied, “I just told you yesterday!”) And through it all, there’s been my husband. (“They are going to get their asses kicked on the playground if they go to school talking about Santa,” he’s insisted for years. “They’re too old and we just need to pull the plug already.” Me: “You kill Santa and you’re sleeping on the couch until the spring thaw, buddy.”)
I remember the exact moment I found out there wasn’t actually a strange fat man bringing me every Barbie accessory my little heart could ever yearn for, and I didn’t feel an ounce of outrage. I was too busy fretting about the fact that I was never going to get any presents ever again. (I hadn’t quite absorbed the fact that it had been my parents all along, but believe me when I did I wasn’t about to be mad at them!)
Sure, you can’t perpetuate the Santa illusion without telling a few tiny white lies whoppers. And I’m okay with that, because this is it, the end of the innocence. Life is hard and complicated and sometimes reality bites; what’s the rush to teach that brutal lesson? As soon as my daughters know the truth about the big guy (and it hurts my fingers to type these words), the magic will be gone. I believe the older they are when they make that disappointing discovery, the better equipped they’ll be to handle it. And I’m pretty sure they’ll forgive me.
Jenna McCarthy is an internationally published writer, TED speaker and the author of five books including If It Was Easy They'd Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-so-handy Man You Married (Berkley Books, 2011). Find her at JennaMcCarthy.com, Twitter and Google +.