Santa Has Left The Building

Fiona Adams bids Father Christmas a fond farewell.

“Mum, please tell me Santa is real,” begged my 10 year old. Lana had just found out at school that “The Tooth Fairy is really your mum and dad”. She was devastated, and I silently cursed the child who had let the fairy out of the bag. She then demanded to know the truth about Santa, so I told her what she wanted to hear: I lied. The look of relief on her face made the lie oh so worthwhile.

I don’t like lying to my children, and yet I was desperate to keep hold of Santa for as long as possible. And I, like many other parents, used to lie to my children on a far too regular basis when they were younger, usually to keep the peace and avoid tantrums. For example, “There is no chocolate left; it has all gone,” or “This shop doesn’t sell toy cars”. But Santa is the biggest lie of all. We use him to deceive our offspring from the time they are babies until they discover the cold, hard truth –usually from an undesirable source, such as a not-so-well-meaning friend out to spoil the fun. A friend told me that her Year 4 daughter had found out from a teacher. She was so upset she was considering suing the school!

My childhood journey with Santa ended at age 10, when I raided my mother’s wardrobe one December to find a large bag that held, among other things, a box containing Barbie’s Pool Party, the item that I had coveted for months and begged for in a letter to Santa. The spell was broken, but I didn’t own up, fearing the consequences. Similarly, my now-13-year-old son Jacob wisely never let on that he didn’t believe in Santa any more, although I’d had my suspicions for several years. I hoped he was being chivalrous and protecting his sister, but it was more than likely that he was protecting his own interests. (A friend put the wind up him a few years ago when she said, “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive”.)

But believing in Santa can have its downfalls. Lana was so terrified of him that her dad had to stand guard at her bedroom door on Christmas Eve until she fell asleep. He was only too happy to oblige, saying how wise she was not wanting some strange, old, white-bearded man walking into her room in the middle of the night. As she got older, she progressed to writing notes to Santa, leaving strict instructions that he was not to enter her room but to leave the presents under the tree. At that point, we did fun stuff, such as leaving Santa’s footprints on the floor (Dad’s work boots in talcum powder), and half-chewed carrots on the front porch.

My husband always maintained that lying to your children from birth was totally wrong, as it taught them that lying is acceptable. Yet, the look of wonder and excitement on my children’s faces at Christmas when they were young is something I wouldn’t have missed for anything, despite the guarding-the-door episodes and Jacob becoming hysterical at age three when we tried to do a Santa photo at the local shopping centre. Lana followed suit, and as a result, our albums are sadly devoid of the traditional child-on-Santa’s-knee photos.

But neither child believes in Santa any longer. (When Lana finally found out about the fraud, again at school, she responded, “So you’ve been lying to me all this time!” She then congratulated me on my choice of presents over the years.)

Yes, Santa has definitely left the building, and so have those small, wide-eyed faces of Christmases past. Yet the children still get a buzz out of opening their presents on Christmas morning.

I suspect that Santa isn’t just about children. I realise now that, like many other parents, it is me who misses Santa the most. I miss the magic and the excitement and my favourite DVD The Snowman. I miss tiptoeing around the house in the dark, laden with presents for the tree.

So that’s how it goes. We had him for many years and in the blink of an eye, he was gone. And while I can see my husband’s point of view, I can’t wait to start the whole lie all over again in the future, when I have grandchildren.

Illustrations by Alex Wegner