One of the signs (sometimes laced with a bit of sadness) that your child is growing up is when the inevitable question comes, Is Santa real? While it seems so simple, it is one that puts many a parent into a tail spin. What should I say? Should I tell him the truth? Should I lie? Won't he be so disappointed? What if he accuses me of having lied to him when he finds out the truth?
Let me put your mind at ease. You have not been lying to your child if you have allowed Santa Claus to be part of your Christmas celebration. Santa is a cultural myth; he is part of our folklore.
Almost all young children's celebration of Christmas has included Santa Claus at some point. He is part of the magic of the holiday. And it is thrilling for children to believe that there is a guy with a white beard and a red suit who flies through the sky in sleigh pulled by reindeer that carries enough toys for all the children in the whole world. He lands on your roof, finds the exact present you want, comes into your house via the chimney, leaves the gift, eats the cookies, gulps the milk and climbs back up that same chimney, now off to the next house. You'd have to believe in magic to buy that one! How lucky are young children that they do. Oh, to believe in magic and Santa again.
Your child will ask if Santa is real. It might come when he is 5 or even much older, at 8 or 9. The impossibility of the story might just dawn on him, or his buddy who has an older brother might burst his balloon.
But when your child comes to you, what do you say? "Well, what do you believe?" Because he wants the magic, he'll believe. But then that questioning, growing-up voice will persist. "But what do YOU believe?"
I am not someone who wants to rain on a child's parade, and I don't think you are lying. I think you are doing what your mother did for you, and what her mother did for her. You are passing down the folklore, keeping up the tradition and allowing your child to fully enjoy the magic while he can.
"When I was a little girl, I believed in Santa Claus. Now that I am grown up, I have different ideas about him. Each person gets to decide for himself if he thinks Santa is real. What I can tell you for sure is that the story of Santa is part of celebrating Christmas, just like Frosty and Christmas trees and lights and wreaths."
And when your 10-year-old is on the verge of spilling the beans, bring him into your inner circle. "When Grandma was a little girl, her mommy told her about Santa, and when I was little, Grandma told me about Santa, and when you were little, I told you about Santa. And now you get to help me keep the story going and let your little brother believe in Santa. One day, he will figure it out, just like you did. But he's just a little boy, so help me to pass on the story to him."