Mom Confessional: I Was so Wrong about Santa

Mom Confessional: I Was so Wrong about Santa

One mom on why she refused to tell her son about Santa — and how sheepish she is now.


By: Lexi Walters Wright

Wow, did I used to judge other families around holiday time before I had my own kid. And am I ever ashamed now.

My ghostly gaffes of holidays past include passive-aggressive holiday food jabs (“Wow, it’s so generous of you to let them eat gingerbread for breakfast!”) and an unconvincing appreciation for seasonal gimmicks. Long before we’d entertained procreation ourselves, I’d return from family friends’ houses and tell my partner, “Their kids think they’re being watched all season long. Isn’t that so deceptive, the whole he’ll-tell-Santa bit? Can’t these people just control their kids’ behavior instead of threatening their gifts?”

So annoyingly naïve, I was. (And undoubtedly rude. And wrong.)

Around our son’s first holiday, his dad and I decided to forgo any mention of Santa. As we watched our seven-month-old ingest wrapping paper that snowy morning, we agreed that Santa would be meaningless to him then. In fact — can you feel our over-confidence building, here? — maybe we wouldn’t mention the fat guy at all to him. Ever.

We didn’t like the idea of lying to our kid.

We didn’t want to set up some artificial conflation of love and loot.

(Stay with me, the self-righteousness does wane…)

Introducing Santa felt like conforming, somehow. And without Santa, the holiday traditions were ours to create. Santa and his excessive gift-bringing and his behavior ultimatums stood for something that made us uncomfortable.

So our son’s second and third holidays came and went without our discussing the magic man.

But over the past year, as our emotional, unreasonable toddler has grown into a (somewhat more) logical, (marginally) self-aware preschooler, I’ve watched how he’s come to adore surprises, both giving and receiving them. I see how the spirit of unexpected joy affects my son. When his grandma sends him coloring books in the mail, I hear him squeal with unfettered delight as he reads his name on the envelope. He spent an entire afternoon designing and redesigning a birthday card for his dad, “to make him so, so happy.”

Recently, my son and I were sitting at the table, him rolling out craft clay, me writing a check. He asked what I was doing, and I explained the charity I was contributing to. I told him that our town was coming together to give money to people nearby without homes.

“You’ll give them the money?” he asked. Mommy doling out dollar bills like fruit snacks must’ve seemed odd. Not quite, I said, trying to explain that the charity would do something with all the funds they received, that the homeless people might not know who gave what but that they’d be happy all the same.

My son looked up from his rolling pin. “Like what Santa does?” he asked.

Boom, went my heart.

And so, with our fourth holiday as parents approaching, my husband and I are reconsidering our Santa approach. Our ideals — like all of our convictions relating to how we raise our child — are evolving as we gain experience. The holidays are still ours to make into whatever we want them to be.

We don’t have to invent traditions entirely from scratch, and we don’t have to adopt any that don’t feel genuine for us.

I know that the excitement and anticipation of giving feels important to our family, and that we want our son to be involved in delighting people he loves. And, as my online shopping cart confirms here in early December, I want him to experience unexpected abundance and joy on one magical morning. And I wish for him to be moved to spread that feeling throughout the year, and internalize how incredible making other people happy feels.

So no, I don’t quite know yet how we’re going to incorporate Santa. But this year, he’s hired.

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