Will the real Santa please stand up?

real Santa

I took the kids to see Santa the other day. But not, as Master Six confidently announced, the “real” Santa. “How do you know he’s not the real Santa?” I asked him. “Because the real Santa lives at the North Pole,” he replied. “And he has reindeer. There aren’t any reindeer in New Zealand.” Master Six has been looking at a lot of books about New Zealand wildlife lately, and he was confident there were no reindeer among the photos of kiwis and keas, wetas and wekas.

And I’ll confess to downloading a “fake Santa call” app for my phone, which lets you pretend to call the “real” Santa, or makes it look like Santa is ringing your mobile. Fed-up parents can *almost* make good on the usually empty threat, “If you don’t go to bed right now, I’ll call Santa!” But I’ve learned that for Master Six, there’s a far easier way to get him to comply. I simply tell him I’ll ring his schoolteacher. Never mind that school’s out now and he has a different teacher next year. He adores his new-entrant teacher and is far more worried about disappointing her than he is concerned about me.

At this time of year, the “real” Santa gets a lot of credit for making things happen. Stockings filled, gifts under the tree, carrot nibbled and cookies and milk devoured… One year, the real Santa even left “snowy” boot prints on our front steps, except it was damp outside on Christmas morning and the boot prints hardened and didn’t wash away for two weeks (tip: Use icing sugar, not flour).

I know that as my children get older, it gets more difficult to keep the magic of Santa alive. That’s why it’s important to recruit your kids to the cause when the time is right. Earlier this year, Miss 11 started asking difficult questions about Santa, and I decided to handle it the way Martha Brockenbrough did: With a gentle discussion about the “real” Santa, and an invitation to join the grown-ups in bringing Santa to life.

And I knew it was the right decision when, after Master Six announced that the Santa we’d visited and taken photos with wasn’t the real Santa, he turned to his big sister and said, “That wasn’t the real Santa, right?”

With a sidelong glance at me, she replied, “Nope. The real Santa is very busy getting ready for Christmas! But that was one of his helpers.”

Then they both went off and ate half a bucket of Cookie Time Christmas Cookies between them, and watched How the Grinch Stole Christmas in the glow of the fairy lights on the tree, and went to bed after only 20 minutes of arguing about how it’s school hols and they shouldn’t have bedtimes, and I didn’t even have to threaten to call Santa before they were asleep, while visions of sugarplums danced in their heads. Or perhaps more cookies.

Katherine Granich

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