About a week ago, I received a message from a woman I have never met.
She informed me that although Number 4 had actually spoken to her daughter, she had told a couple of her daughter’s friends that Santa Claus wasn’t real, and then she continued with, “I was hoping maybe you could ask her to please stop telling kids that if they believe in Santa they are stupid. Telling Number 4 was what you believe was the right thing to do for her -I have chosen to tell my daughter when I feel she needs to know – it is not up to Number 4 to do so. She has not said it directly to my daughter but has said it to a couple of her friends and this sent them home in tears.”
This message kind of pushed me over the edge last week.
I know Number 4 often has no filter and she tells it like she sees it and she doesn’t hold back.
But I was kind of shocked by this message.
I also know all kids are jerks sometimes, so I had to keep an open mind that Number 4 really could have said all those things.
But I really didn’t think that was probably exactly how the conversation actually went down.
I fired back as restrained a reply as I could muster, but I’ll admit.
I was fucking pissed at this woman. especially since her child wasn’t even involved in whatever conversation took place between Number 4 and these other girls.
She apologized right away for having sent, the message.
And I know where she was coming from. I get it. This is one of those milestones parents don’t look forward to.
Later I spoke with Number 4 about what I had been told.
She was in tears immediately. And not because she had been caught in a lie.
She adamantly defended herself telling me she never called anyone stupid.
She could still be lying.
But I don’t think she is. I can tell when she’s lying most of the time. And when she does, it doesn’t take long for her to come around and be honest with me about what really happened.
I believe she was telling me the truth.
In any case, it doesn’t really matter.
The point of this post isn’t really to defend Number 4. Or myself.
The point of this post is to give parents a reality check.
Number 4 is ten years old.
A couple weeks ago, she asked me if Santa Claus was real.
She is an extremely bright and perceptive kid.
If I had lied to her, she would have known.
And I knew, that in her case, I had to be honest with her. If I wasn’t, she would know, and she would question anything else I ever told her in the future.
So I told her this story.
She wasn’t angry.
She wasn’t upset.
Her response was,
“I KNEW IT!”
Anyway, after I told her that story, I also asked her not to say anything to her siblings or her friends.
Back to the point of this post.
Number 4, like I said, is ten years old and in fifth grade.
She is in middle school, and she rides the bus with fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth graders.
Last year, when she was nine, she learned what a blow job was from an overeducated twelve-year-old in the locker room after swim practice.
If you have nine or ten or eleven-year old kid who is around other children of the same age or older, they are going to hear stuff from other kids.
Lots of stuff.
Stuff you don’t want them knowing about for years.
You must also be aware that if you have a ten-year-old kid who asks his or her friends if they believe in Santa Claus (which is actually what happened with Number 4), their friends may reply with an answer that you don’t want them to hear.
It’s the way things go. It’s life.
You can’t control what other kids are going to say to your children.
The only thing you can do is be prepared.
I don’t want my kid to be the a-hole who ruins the myth of Santa Claus for all of your children.
But even after I told her the story how Santa Claus came to be and that he was, in fact, a real person at one point, and then when I asked her to maybe respond to the question “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” with I believe in the magic of Christmas, and leave it at that, Number 4 said to me,
“MOM! IF SOMEONE ASKS ME WHAT I THINK, I’M NOT GOING TO LIE TO THEM!”
So I tried my best to explain how being sensitive to other people’s feelings is not exactly the same as lying. And how we are really all Santa Claus.
I don’t know if she got it or not.
She said to me, “Mom, I believe that all things can be backed by scientific evidence.”
What? I don’t know if that comes from school or not.
And what ten-year-old even says that shit?
I told her that I definitely believe in miracles. That a couple years ago, when we didn’t know how we were going to buy food, let alone Christmas presents, I went to the mailbox one day and when I opened it, there were two gift cards from an anonymous person totaling $500.
I told her that was Santa Claus right there.
She said, “Mom, if my friends still believe in Santa when they are grown ups, their kids will wake up on Christmas morning and bawl their brains out because there will be no presents under the tree because parents need to buy them.”
She continued. “And what about that song Feed the World? They need to know that there are kids in Africa who don’t even know it’s Christmas. They don’t even have water, Mom! If Santa were real, he would not forget all the kids in Africa. It doesn’t make sense, Mom. He would at least give them food so they weren’t starving!”
Again, I tried to explain to her about understanding where other kids and parents are coming from. How some kids really want (or even need) to believe in Santa. And I explained to her how one of the biggest joys at Christmas is to be a parent and to see your children innocently and truly believe and how it’s something you want to hold onto as long as you can because your kids grow up so quickly.
Maybe the next time someone asks her if she believes in Santa she’ll be more tactful.
I hope so.
But I’m not counting on it.
And I know she’s not the only one.
A friend of mine has a daughter in third grade who no longer believes in Santa after a kid in her class spilled the beans.
That’s the reason I was honest with Number 4.
If she’s going to hear the truth, I wanted her to hear it from me.
Not from a kid on the bus or a kid in the cafeteria or a kid in the locker room. And now that she’s in middle school, everything is pretty much fair game. There’s not protecting her from what the other kids say.
Whether that kid who feels the need to reveal the truth is doing it to be a dick or because she is genuinely concerned that her friends will grow up to be parents and their kids won’t have any Christmas presents on Christmas morning doesn’t matter.
It’s gonna happen.
Your kids are going to learn all sorts of stuff you don’t think they are ready to learn from other kids.
It’s how my brother learned the f-word and subsequently carved it into the hardwood floor of my parents’ bedroom when he was five.
It’s how Number 5 learned about blow jobs.
And it’s how your kid could very likely learn the truth about Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy or just about anything else.
So consider yourself warned.
And if an opportunity to tell your kid the truth about something before you really wanted to presents itself, you might want to seize it.
Because as much as I’d like to, I can’t guarantee that my kid (or someone else’s) isn’t going to beat you to the punch.