What I Did When My Kid Asked If Santa Is Real

"Momma . . . is Santa real?"

WHAT. No way. We're not there yet. Those were my immediate thoughts upon a seemingly innocent question. It wasn't because I didn't know what to say; it was because I knew why she was asking. However, like any true parent, I had to ask:

"Babe . . . why are you asking me that?"

"Well, Johnny's mom told him that Santa isn't real, and I wanted to know if that's true."

Dang it. I knew it. I am SO MAD AT YOU, JOHNNY'S MOM.

Look, Johnny's mom, I get it. I know that you felt like it was time for Johnny to know the "truth."

But did you think about what was going to happen next?

No. You didn't. We weren't ready. Now we have to be.

That is exactly why I get frustrated with not just Johnny's mom, but society as a whole. We feel the need to be the "educators" of one another. To be right, no matter what the potential cost might be.

The cost, in this case, being me making the decision to eliminate one other part of my 8-year-old child's innocence. Or, if I chose to, make the sweetest lemonade out of a lemon.

So, as I sat there and contemplated my next step, I thought deeply about what that looked like.

I knew whatever I would say would be regurgitated. I knew that my perspective would be disseminated. I didn't want to call Johnny's mom a liar because she isn't. However, I was about to have a conversation I was forced into.

Santa, as a person, might not be a real human being. I mean, I've never seen the guy, so I can't say he is or isn't. I'm not completely lost on the idea of what Santa really means.

Santa lives in all of us. Santa should inspire good behavior. Santa isn't the idea of a free reward. Santa is a reward for doing the right thing.

Santa and the Elf on the Shelf are intended to inspire that behavior. We should be good. We should do good things. We should set that expectation for our kids and live by it ourselves.

That's why this year, as my child ages and so do I, I am now more aware of the fact that we can't just have a conversation about a controversial figure being real; we must live good behavior as well. In order for C to gain presents from Santa, she's going to be tasked by her Elf to do good deeds and to learn that in her heart.

She will make good contributions to society as a whole. Whether it's donating items to the food bank, donating toys to underprivileged kids, or simply visiting folks who don't have anyone to visit them, that's what's happening here.

And I, coincidentally, will as well.

That doesn't necessarily eliminate her innocence; it does further her progression to be a successful and accountable adult. Making the sweetest lemonade out of a lemon.

As mad as I am at Johnny's mom for starting a conversation I didn't think I was ready to have, I am somewhat thankful.

I'm thankful for this teaching moment, to preach the word of good behavior in a world darker by the day.

So, what did I say to C?

"Yes, C, Santa is real. He is real because we are good and good people are rewarded for their good deeds in due time. You'll learn that soon enough."