Imagine your child coming home in tears.
When you ask what’s wrong, they look at you and say, “Is there a Santa?”.
“Is it true? Do you and Dad bring the toys?”.
What would you do?
For many parents this question poses serious problems.
Is it right to lie when you have been asked a direct question?
Is your child old enough to know the truth?
Will they be laughed at for believing?
When I was a young mother to three small children, I thought the Santa years would last forever.
I really enjoyed the innocence and magic of it all.
I rarely thought about the day it would all end but whenever I did I imagined that if asked I would tell my children the truth.
Then one year a friend of mine died of breast cancer.
She died in November when her youngest of three children was just eleven. As Christmas approached we wondered about her still believing.
Her aunt and I thought in our infinite wisdom that if she asked “Is there a Santa?”, she should be told the truth.
After all she had been through we did not want her to be laughed at at school, or in the New Year, when she went back to school.
I can still remember her fathers reaction when we voiced our opinion.
“No one will be telling her anything. She lost her mother this year, I’ll be damned if she loses feckin Christmas too”.
As it turned out she did not get laughed at and in fact the following Christmas enjoyed continuing the magic, even though we knew she knew the truth.
Then the big question came to my own front door.
My eldest was aged eight when one beautiful May evening (yes May evening!) she stops me just as I am leaving to go for a walk with a friend.
“Mom, she says, I do not think there is any Santa”.
I was gobsmacked. Where had this come from?
She continued, “I have looked up encyclopedias and none of it makes sense. How can he travel around the world and no one sees him?“.
I paused for a while to let this sink in. Inside I was panicking.
What would I say? Why was she saying this?
Luckily years of ducking and diving in life taught me to think quickly. My daughter is a Catholic and was getting close to her first communion. This meant a lot of religious instruction in school. I had an idea.
So I said “Do you believe in God?”.
She was a bit puzzled by the question but answered “Yes”.
I continued, “Why?, have you seen him? How do you know he exists?”
Then I asked her about our friend who had died. “Where do you think she is?”, I asked.
“In heaven” she said.
“Really? I asked, Did she tell you? Have you seen her there, or any pictures of it?
“No, she replied, and seemed a little bit less sure of herself. “But Mom, I still think it’s impossible for him to deliver all those presents in one night”.
“It’s magic darling”, I said, “there is no way of explaining it”.
She looked completely unimpressed.
“Okay, I said, Who made the world?”.
“You know who, she replied, God did”.
“Ye you’re right, I said, Zap! There’s the sky. Zap! There’s the earth, and the trees and the sea!”. “How ridiculous does all that sound? I asked, How did he do it?”.
She was quiet for a while and then said “I suppose it was magic”.
“Exactly, I said, so magic does exist darling We just have to believe.
She was suitably quiet after that and I was happy that she had enough doubt to begin believing once more.
Thankfully we did get quite a few more Christmases out of her.
My youngest is now coming up to that age of 11/12. She is in a class where I know some believe and others do not. For now she really is in the believing category but what if next week she looks me in the eye and asks, “Mum, Is there a Santa?”
For me the answer is simple.
I will look her straight back in the eye and with a lifetime of learning how to lie, I will without hesitation say “Of course there is”.
And that will be that.
Because she is not the only one who needs some magic this Christmas.