For families who celebrate Christmas, Santa can be a pleasant diversion and a means for promoting good behavior, when children are young. But as they get older, the family might settle into an uneasy equilibrium. The children are old enough to know better: they couldn’t possibly believe that a man could deliver presents to millions of homes in a single night, powered by a few flying animals. Yet, perhaps, they are also wise enough to not question the clandestine delivery of presents which do not require a thank you note! It might be hard for a modern mother to know: Do they know? Or not? Will they be humiliated in eighth grade when they are the last of their classmates to discover the truth? Should we sit them down for a talk?
When there are multiple children of different ages, it becomes even more complicated. If an older child asks directly, “Is Santa real?” in the presence of his younger siblings, the modern mother faces a conundrum: spill the beans to all of the the children, or lie to her 8/9/10 year old. Alternatively, she could take an existential approach: “If Santa doesn’t exist, then he can’t bring you presents, so if you would like to take that risk, you may.” And thus, the whole Santa thing evolves into a “don’t ask; don’t tell” situation. Healthy? We’re not so sure. Effective? Yes. The older children become complicit in the Santa phenomenon, or maybe they just suspend disbelief for a few more years. Either way, the show can go on, even if it includes a knowing wink.
* Santa image from allposters.com