Mama Madison: Keeping the Santa myth alive

It gets more complicated every year

Honesty. It's a virtue most parents agree we should encourage in our children. From the first time we ask "Did you hit your sister?" to "What did you get on the math quiz?" to "Just tell me, was there drinking at the party?" we are constantly asking our kids to be upfront with us. Yet this time of year I am always reminded of the one permissible "little white lie" that many parents rally behind -- and he comes with a long white beard. Many parents genuinely want their kids to believe in Santa Claus, often for as long as possible.

I didn't grow up with St. Nick being much a part of my life --just an occasional trip to the mall to watch others sit on the lap of an overstuffed imposter. Santa's existence was of little concern to me. I was well taken care of present-wise on Hanukkah, and birthdays were even better. But by virtue of interfaith marriage, I now get the opportunity to mull over Virginia's age-old question year after year. And while I often defer to my husband on questions of Claus, there is one thing I know for sure: "Keeping the magic alive" starts to get a bit complicated as kids get older.

My gosh, isn't the holiday season stressful enough without having to worry about Santa vs. mere-mortal wrapping paper, remembering to put out cookies for the man and carrots for his reindeer, and finding creative ways to eliminate bar codes on gifts purchased at Target? I have to say, I felt nothing but bittersweet relief the year my oldest son "figured it out." Yes, in retrospect, Emily Post's The Guide to Good Manners for Kids was probably not the smartest choice as a present from Kris Kringle. It was a gift only his mom could have picked out. But it was nice to finally be able to let down a bit on the machinations that it took to perpetuate the "magic." And, as Grinch-like as it sounds, it felt good to finally get a little credit for the giving. I had been suffering from Santa Envy.

Yet all my Claus-anxiety aside, I don't find myself purposefully sabotaging the belief with my youngest. The Man in the Red Suit will probably give her Playmobil or glittery makeup this year -- something that could have reasonably come from elves and a workshop. Am I perpetuating a myth? Perhaps. It is also possible she already doubts, and is just humoring her parents -- kind of a North Pole double agent. But these types of myths (I'm talking about you, Tooth Fairy) make us feel good, especially when we clearly aren't ready for our babies to grow up. Yes, I think we'll keep it going, maybe just for one more year.

Do you encourage your kids to believe in Santa Claus? Did you tell them the truth at some point, or did they gradually figure it our on their own?

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