"God knows I'm not kidding. Santa knows I'm not kidding. Everyone who is magic knows I actually did brush my teeth." - Emile, 6
All year long I tell my son that lying is bad. Not just bad but the worst. And then every December my wife and I lie to him all month long.
We do it for him, to preserve his fleeting belief in magic for as long as we can. So we tell him that a fat man in a red suit will fly here on Christmas Eve, his sleigh pulled by bullied, red-nosed reindeer, and somehow descend through our non-functioning fireplace to leave gifts for him under the tree as payment for good behaviour.
Or, as he put it this morning while waking us up: "ONLY THREE DAYS UNTIL SANTA GETS TO COME BY AND BRING US PRESENTS!!!!!"
This year, with E recently turning six, we're really feeling the lie even though he's still buying-in. There have been no doubts yet expressed or uncomfortable questions asked, even when we went Christmas shopping in downtown Toronto and saw Santa walking down Queen street.
"That's weird," he muttered, but then simply accepted it as a logical thing that might happen.
As much as I hate lying to him, I am also very wary of messing Christmas up before I have to.
He also accepted as fact the letter that
Canada Post Santa sent to him in response to his mailed request for a "Spy 101 Booklet and Glove," despite the fact that only his name, and a genuinely sweet comment about the drawing of Santa he included, was handwritten.
But as much as I hate lying to him, I am also very wary of messing Christmas up before I have to.
I already messed up Fan Expo too early. The massive Toronto comic book convention is an annual event for Emile and I, and has been since before he could walk. For those first few years he believed that every superhero he met was real. Even when I bought him a Storm action figure, and he saw a woman dressed as Storm, he simply walked up to her and proudly showed off that he had her in toy form.
When he met Thor and Captain America, he told EVERYONE for weeks after that he had met Thor and Captain America.
Oh, and at age three he even let Darth Vader pick him up for the most adorable photo-op ever, gleefully yelled alongside scary Sand People and chatted to Jawas. But the next year I told him that these were regular people in costumes just like he wasn't the real Superman and I wasn't the real Captain Marvel.
And with that I wrecked everything.
E was scared of everyone. He wouldn't go near storm troopers, he hid away from Spider-Man. R2D2 was the only character he'd approach because it was a short robot with no adult inside. Apparently real Darth Vader is huggable, but fake Darth Vader is a creepy grown-up in costume that sets off his stranger danger radar.
Which is very hard to argue with, but I still feel like I robbed him of one more magical Fan Expo in ignorant bliss of the reality that superheroes and Star Wars weren't real.
And I don't want to do that to Christmas.
My wife and I have gotten increasingly ambiguous when asked direct questions.
I won't even let him watch "Elf" yet, because the plot revolves around the disbelief in Santa and I'm not going to be the one to introduce doubt, even if my wife and I have gotten increasingly ambiguous when asked direct questions.
We really don't want him to think of us as hypocritical liars, even if he doesn't know what a hypocrite is. Interestingly, Justin Bieber's mom -- stay with me here -- told him that there wasn't a Santa for a similar reason.
"This was her logic," Bieber explained to AOL Canada a few years back while promoting his Christmas album, "she thought if I grew up knowing about Santa then finding out he wasn't real, that it would be like she was lying to me. And then when she told me about God, I maybe wouldn't believe her. So she just wanted to be straight-up and honest with me all the time. But I didn't tell my friends or ruin it for anyone -- I was a good kid!"
This Santa business has also complicated the religion issue for us, actually, albeit in reverse. He comes home from school talking about God and Jesus all the time. For instance, this is an actual thing he told me at bedtime during the Toronto election last spring:
"God is magic even though God is already dead. God is a ghost and he lives in a tower in the United States, somewhere dark. And if you vote for devil or Rob Ford or Doug Ford, God is going to make you dead. But if you're a good guy and say I believe in God he'll actually keep you alive forever. I'm not kidding."
Now I don't believe in God any more than I believe in Santa -- though I very much enjoy the tradition, culture and ritual of the holidays celebrating both, and being a culturally mixed family we also do Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Chanukkah-- but for the time being I have to play along with both.
I don't remember exactly when I realized that my parents were lying about Santa, and they were really lying. Even though we're Jewish, there weren't many others in our small town, so we celebrated Christmas as well as Chanukkah.
But because my dad was a drama teacher, he was enlisted to dress up as St. Nick at the local community centre, a thing he explained by telling me worked for the real one. I never even wrote letters to Santa because my dad would "call" the North Pole and I'd tell him what to say to his jolly old boss.
It's not just your parents but an international cultural conspiracy designed to trick them into thinking fiction is fact.
I think I probably knew for a while but didn't admit it to myself for fear of the Christmas presents going away. I certainly never held it against them. Maybe no kid does. After all, it's not just your parents but an international cultural conspiracy designed to trick them into thinking fiction is fact.
Still, as much as I can't wait to bask in the joyful power of his sincere belief when he descends the stairs to see what Santa brought him, I'm also looking forward to being honest all 12 months of the year.
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