Screwing Up Santa: That Time I Blew the Big Secret


“Mama? Are you Santa?” Those words are etched into my heart to this day.

Big was 7 and, still believing in Santa, gathered around the Thanksgiving table with both sets of grandparents for some pie.  Her attention turned to Christmas (because, seven) and she talked about how great Christmas was the year before.  My dumb self, with pie in my mouth, sputtered out: “I got a great deal on that Barbie Dream House!”.

She looked at me with confused horror.

“You did?  I thought Santa brought it?!”


Her face fell.  Her dad looked at me with horror.  It took a minute to realize what I had done.

“Mama?  Are you Santa?”

Crap.  Crap crap crap crap crap.

And there, in her big blue eyes was both disappointment and wonder.  Disappointment that mom sucks and screwed up Santa; wonder that her parents created the magic of Christmas.  My dear husband, bless his heart, came to make it all better.  He explained that now that she knows the truth about Santa, she can be part of the magic.  Big went from kid to Santa’s Elf.  The man can think on his feet.

So, if you have screwed up the Santa business like I have, here are three tips to get your kids in the spirit even if Santa is no longer part of the equation:

Make them Santa’s Elf

Big helps me shop and wrap Little’s presents.  She goes with dad for stocking stuffers and stays up late on Christmas Eve.  If your family enjoys that god awful creepy son of a…um…festive Elf on the Shelf, include them in moving it each night.  You’ll be surprised by their creativity!  When kids play a part in the magic, it does wonders for their holiday experience.

Do Goodering

Yes, I just made doing good deeds a verb.  Sue me.  What charities and causes are close to your heart?  Getting your child involved in those things outside of themselves tunes them into the incredible gift of giving. Check out these places to give back in Cedar Rapids.

Cultural Celebrations

How do other cultures celebrate the holiday season?  If not Christmas, then what?  Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Diwali, Solstice, and other celebrations can open a child’s mind to the world outside their home and sphere of influence.  Some religions and faith traditions don’t even celebrate holidays!  Explore the world around you.

The True Meaning of Christmas

In addition to making Big a part of the Christmas magic, a large part of helping her cope with the truth about Santa was teaching her the core of our faith and why that, more than Santa, was the reason for Christmas.  Materialism is not real high on my list of things I find important, so driving home the point that gifts are secondary to the true meaning of Christmas for our family is essential in giving Big a well-rounded view of the holiday season.

So, Big found out that mom got her Barbie Dream House off some dude on Craigslist and hid it in the basement for 3 months.  She knows that dad stuffs the stockings with all sorts of dope stuff.  Now she knows that Christmas is about far more than gifts and wonder; she knows that she is part of the wonder.

At least that’s what I hope she tells her therapist someday!

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