Here is a conversation that I recently had with my nine year old. His six year old brother was standing in the same room.
"Mom, I've been wondering about Santa Claus."
A little nervous - and completely ready to change the subject, I answer. "Yes, what is it about?"
My son stares at me , "Is it true that you and dad really buy the presents and put them under that tree?"
(Okay, I'm so not ready for this conversation yet.)
I quickly answer, "No - of course, not. ... Ian, how was school today? Did you do well on your test?"
My son, realizing that I'm changing the subject, stays his course. He does not answer my question. "Mom, do you and dad sign Santa's name on the presents? Because if you do, I'm going to take the wrapping paper and compare his signature to the signature of my friend's presents. MOM, I am going to compare THE HANDWRITING."
Nervous, I look at the concerned face of my six year old who is listening to the conversation I'm having with his brother.
(Where is my husband? He's quicker on this toes and can handle situations like this better than I can.)
"Don't be silly, Ian. Do you honestly think that your dad and I can actually afford all those presents on Christmas morning? We don't have that kind of money. ... You never answered my question. How was school?"
My son still staring at me says, "Mom, you know it's wrong to lie."
My heart at this point is pounding. What do I do? Do I fess up? Do I pull him out of the room and tell him? Do I plead with him to not ruin things for his little brother? What do I do? My husband is not even in the house to help me. At this point, all I want is one more year of two - yes two - boys - dreaming about Christmas and reindeer and cookies and presents under the tree. Just one more year.
Finally, I tell my son. "Yes - I know it's wrong to lie. But do you know how important it is to believe in
things we can't see. Well, that is what Santa is. He's someone we can't see."
(I'm thinking about the movie Polar Express. This used to be my son's favorite movie.)
I continue, "Santa will stay real - as long as you believe he is real. That is the truth. If you stop believing in him, Santa will just fade away and eventually stop coming around altogether. Again, Santa is real ONLY to the people who believe in him."
I then added, "And Ian ... if you really want to compare handwriting - then, of course, you can do so. I don't think Santa will mind."
From across the room, my six year old son smiles.
My nine year old looks at me and then looks down at his feet. He smiles too, and says "Okay". He then
turns on the TV. The conversation has ended.
More than ever, I wish I knew what he was thinking. Did he believe me? Did I postpone the inevitable for possibly one more year of magic? Or did I just force my son to give up in a conversation he knew he could get no answers? I don't know.
What I do know ... is I'm currently printing computer labels with Santa's name TYPED on them.