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There’s so very little magic left in the world. Such small droplets of innocence floating around waiting to land on just the right sweet child. So why should I break my tween’s heart, and finally answer truthfully when he asks me, ‘Is Santa real?’

For the past three years or so, my 12-year-old has posed probing questions just as the mince tarts and tinsel start to appear on the shelves. Sometimes he’ll phrase them in an offhand way, so as not to draw too much attention to the subject.

Him: “The kids at school say Santa’s not real.”
Me: “Yeah? Which kids?” Deflect, deflect!!
Him: “Just kids.” Such a tween answer.
Me: “Well, what do you think?”
Him: “I dunno, mum. I mean, how does he get to every single house. How does he make every single toy?”
Me: “You know … it’s sad for those kids. They don’t believe. Remember, Santa’s all about believing. If you believe, the magic happens.”

It’s the same answer I give each year. A little vague and wishy washy, a whole lot of deflection riding on a wing and a prayer. But how long do I keep up the ruse?

I remember my very first Christmas as a mum. He was only nine-months-old. Way too young to remember any of what was happening. But we did the lot – Santa visit and photo, milk and cookies, snowy footprints, handwritten letter. And we’ve kept it going every years since.

But it gets me thinking, do we do all this for our kids or for ourselves?

I like to think it’s a bit of both. Yes, it makes us feel warm and fuzzy, but the reason is the joy it brings to our children. The wide-eyed surprise when they see fresh presents laid under the tree on Christmas morning. The giggles as they spot how many carrots the reindeer ate. This type of pure happiness can’t be bad, can it?

He’s now 12 years old. Right on the cusp of becoming a teen. Heading to high school next year. And with a good deal of cynicism about so many things in the world now. But this one thing, we’re still holding onto it.

I’ve had people recommend we break the news gently to him before he starts high school. For fear he’ll be ridiculed, or have his heart broken by someone who finally lays out the truth in all its innocence-shattering glory.

And then there’s his younger sibling to consider. Will he be able to help keep the secret for his little brother? Or will it come blurting out in the middle of a brotherly dust up?

Perhaps I’m holding onto the Santa secret for fear of letting go. He’s currently straddling that precarious world between still being my little boy, and becoming a man-child. It’s just one more thing I have to let go of as he grows up, and if I’m honest, it makes my heart ache for the chubby-cheeked innocence of his baby and toddler years.

My other fear is grappling with his inevitable realisation that I, as his mother, has been lying to him for his whole life. But my instinct tells me that he’s a smart kid, he’ll understand that this lie was not malicious. It wasn’t intended to deceive in a hurtful way. I hope he’ll get it.

Maybe if I do finally have ‘the talk’, he’ll be relieved. He’ll tell me that he knows. That’s he’s known for a long time, but he didn’t want to break the spell.

As Christmas creeps closer, and the questions are no doubt brewing, I’m pretty sure I’ll do what I’ve always done when it comes to mothering. I’ll just feel it.

If it feels like the right time to finally lift the lid on the truth, then so be it. And I’ll let him become part of the next stage of the journey. To become the custodian of the Santa secret for his little brother, and eventually his own children.

When do you think is the right age to let kids in on the Santa secret?

  • They get to a certain age and they just know but you keep up the pretence to keep the magic alive. I think what this Mum is doing is keeping that magic alive and it’s not hurting anyone.

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  • There really isn’t a lot of magic left in the world so I think holding on the way you have is wonderful.
    As a child I knew before I was 12 but my parents didn’t have the conversation with me until the end of primary school.

    I just don’t see it as a lie, it’s withholding the truth, yes, but you’re allowing your child to continue to have magic in their lives and a little imagination.
    Remember imagination doesn’t come as easily to teens.

    Tell him about Saint Nick, tell him that families have continued to carry on his legacy for many years to come and now he can continue to keep the Santa secret for his little brother.

    Good luck, and I hope all goes well

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  • My kids already know bout Santa. They talk about it with their friends no secrets here.

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  • I will never confirm or deny the existence of Father Christmas. Something in me still wants to believe in magic and I don’t see a reason not to.

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  • He’s 12, pretty sure he already knows Santa is fictional. My son was around 9-10, he would have conversations with his younger sister about Santa not being real, but tell me he is real because if you stop believing, you stop getting presents. But he knew the truth

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  • When children start to become suspicious, it’s probably a good time to tell them about St Nick and how the whole Santa tradition came to be.

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  • We asked our older 2 when they were that age what they thought about Santa. They were honest and not fazed by the truth. Now with their younger brother still in that believing stage, they love keeping it up just for him

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  • I think if they ask its important to be honest, but letting them know it’s not necessarily a person but the whole concept behind giving which makes Santa real.

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  • Hmmm I think the kid is obviously old enough to know the truth if you keep him believing he’s just going to get teased by other kids. There are other ways to make Christmas magical without Santa. The magic of sharing gifts is what makes it special.

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  • If your child is asking whether Santa is real I think that’s the time to be telling them the truth no matter how old they are. 12 does seem a little old to be believing in Santa, I don’t think it’s fair to continue lying to your child especially when they are constantly questioning it.

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  • I was 9 when I found out, My mums horrible ex purposely left a present under the Christmas tree written to me from Santa weeks before Christmas, I asked mum and she tried her best to cover it up but I knew his hand writing. Mum always wrote in diffrent hand writing for Santa presents. Later that night I herd them arguing about it and how dare he do that ect.. breaking it to kids gently is definitely the way to go..

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  • I loved keeping the magic of Christmas going as long as possible. However, we confessed as our son was in Grade 6 heading into High School. We knew he needed to know by then or he would fight to the death in an argument. He did have very strong ideas already, but then obviously he started questioning everything. It was a funny story him recalling all the ways we had tried to pretend Santa was real.

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  • There isn’t a right or wrong age to tell kids the truth. Instead, take cues from them and their understanding of the world. Usually, somewhere between the ages of five and seven kids begin to think a little more critically.

    Personally I think it’s important to be truthful to our kids. When my kids would ask if Santa is real, I answered that Santa is real; that he is a saint who once lived who reached out to the poor and gave gift. And that with Xmas we live i his spirit

    The fun of Santa is playing the “Santa game”: writing a letter to Santa, leaving out cookies and milk, having the gifts appear magically overnight! You can still play the “Santa game” and have all the magic of Christmas without lying to your kids. Kids can handle the duality of knowing that Santa is/isn’t real all at the same time. They will still believe in magic! You won’t be taking anything away from them.

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  • You have to tell him before high school. Don’t set him up to be the one kid that doesn’t know and get teased for it. That age is hard enough without putting him in that position when it is completely avoidable.

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  • My kids are still a bit younger so can’t give any real life experience on what age they stopped believing or when I told them. But my gut tells me they will / should probably know by high school.
    We had Santa visit us well into our adult lives…I think because my Dad and Mum just loved giving us presents. My sister was also 8 years younger so they probably kept it up for a little while longer for her sake and then just loved being Santa.

    Reply

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