Extra Pulp: My White (Christmas) Lie

Laura Anders Lee believes in the magic and wonder of the season.

Before my husband and I even had kids, I daydreamed about future Christmases in our house and what wonderful traditions we would continue from both our families. One of the roles I looked forward to most was getting to play Santa. So when we did have children, it surprised me to learn that there is a pretty passionate parenting debate over Santa Claus. There are a large number of families out there who don’t do Santa for their kids because they feel they’re lying to their children. While trying not to judge other parents’ decisions, I still can’t help but think my lie is justified.

Being a kid is magical. My two sons see the world through rose-colored glasses. They don’t see income or race or political party—they just see people. They get the biggest thrill out of mundane things like riding an elevator or taking a different route to school. So at Christmastime, life is extra special, and their imaginations run unbridled.

In my Christian faith, December is a time to celebrate the Advent season and the birth of Christ. For me, Christmas is a time for being with family near and far, and for giving to both loved ones and to strangers in need. It’s a time to believe in a better world where love conquers all and every kid gets presents. And now as a mom myself, Christmas is a time for me to give my children what my parents gave me: the most cherished memories of my life.

On Christmas Eve, my younger brother, Will, and I always slept in the same room upstairs. In the morning, we waited in our pj’s on the top step until our parents gave us the green light—quite literally, on Mom’s 1980s-era camcorder. We made our way downstairs and found an abundance of presents and loaded stockings that had magically appeared overnight. I hardly remember what was inside them, but what I do remember is the thrill that shivered through my entire body as I waited on that top step followed by the sheer excitement of walking into the living room, discovering cookie crumbs and carrot bits, and squealing to my brother in absolute awe, “He came! He came!”

Today as a mom, the Santa Claus debate has made me conscious of other lies I tell my children. When I gave birth to William, I carefully dodged Anders’ questions about how William came to be in my belly and how he managed to get out. When William, now 5, tells me he is going to be a superhero when he grows up, I don’t shake my head in doubt. When Anders, now 7, overhears the morning news, I don’t share all the scary details I know about North Korea. And this December, when I catch my boys staring at the fireplace in wonderment, asking me how Santa can get to every house in one night, I will lie again.

I do remember the moment I discovered the truth about Santa, and yes, I was a little devastated. I actually found out the night before Easter, and it was especially hard realizing my parents were in on the bunny deal along with Santa and the Tooth Fairy.

But my heartbreak that Easter eve was just my first of many. That night on the front porch talking with my mother prepared me for what was to come. (It was on that same front porch that I confronted my mom and dad about how babies were made, after hearing the old “your-dad-parked-his-limo-in-your-mom’s-garage” joke. Talk about an appalled third grader!)

I never regretted believing in Santa, and I never felt duped. In fact, I went along with the story that year and the following year so my younger brother could experience that Christmas magic a little longer. And I’m going along with it today, because I want my boys to bask in their world of make believe, to remain innocent for as long as possible.It won’t be long before they discover the world can be a much harsher place than a trip to the timeout chair. Anders is already in first grade, and I know our Santa Claus days are numbered. Soon enough, they will face reality. But until then, I will give my children the most magical and perfect world I can, even if it means telling a lie.

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