GUEST POST: The Time of Innocence Lost, by Debra Kristi

Today I’d like you to meet my friend, Debra Kristi, a writer and avid reader who’s never as happy as she is when she’s got a chai latte in one hand and a great book in the other.

Check out her fabulous blog here, and follow her on Twitter here.

Today Debra’s talking about a rite of passage many of us with kids have faced or will face: the reality that Ol’ Saint Nick, beloved by so many of our children, is indeed more myth and legend than fact.


“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening?  In the lane, snow is glistening…”

…Ah, yes.  That time of year has crept up on us all too quickly.  I totally get into it and you’ve caught me in the swing of things – pulling out the holiday decorations and prancing about to holiday music as I hang lights and place ornaments just right.

But this holiday will be a little different.  This year brings a special task for the husband and me.  Something new.  And we aren’t looking forward to it.  This year we’re going to break the news to our eldest regarding the Big Guy in Red…the Man with the Reindeer…the CEO of Presents, Inc…

You see, my son has asked me on four separate occasions if Santa Claus is real.  I’ve taken that as a sign it’s time to come clean.  But also the sign he’s ready for the truth.  Unfortunately, he has always chosen to bring up the topic in the car…with his five-year-old sister sitting right next to him.  Not the ideal time to break the news.

So, we’re about to go through the rite of passage that most parents and children experience.  We’ll explain the origins of St. Nicholas and how the stories of Santa Claus are still important by bringing special meaning to the holidays.  Of course, once the reindeer’s out of the bag, we’ll need to give the lowdown on Santa’s friends – the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.  Yep, the holy trinity for kids will take on new meaning for our boy this year.

With this milestone, a chapter in the Book of Childhood Innocence will come to an end.  For a lot of kids, they take the news with an air of grace and bravery.  I hope that’s the case with our son.  He’s already asked “the question,” so perhaps deep down he knows the truth.  He’s shared stories of friends who have caught their parents stocking the tree, and professes to have even walked in on me!

I could spend time analyzing what to do or how to handle this from a clinical standpoint.  Should we tell him?  Should we let him discover the truth on his own?  If you read through parenting message boards, you’ll see this can actually be a polarizing subject with strong opinions from both sides.  The way I see it, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.  Every kid is different.  Do what you think is right for yours.

Truth is, I don’t actually remember my parents telling me Santa isn’t real.  But my husband has a very clear memory of having the discussion with his mother.  He remembers starting to question why Santa always signed his name with the exact same handwriting as his mom.  She finally had to fess up, which she did in much the same way we intend to do – explaining how the spirit of Santa is important even if he isn’t a real person.

In a way, it doesn’t really matter if our son suspects the truth.  What matters is that he is young at heart and wants more than anything to believe there’s magic in this world.  Not pull-a-rabbit-out-your-hat magic.  Real magic.  The belief that special things exist beyond the ordinary and don’t need explanation.  Special things that bring joy and inspiration.

Even after we have “the talk” we want him to continue believing.  Sure, it sucks to learn Santa and his friends live only in spirit, but there is no reason on earth for him – or anyone – to not find real magic in other things.  Life is too short not to believe.

You know, I’ll probably be the one who gets teary-eyed talking to our son.  But I do take a little comfort in our decision to not share the news until after Christmas.  No sense in denying him one more year thinking the big guy might be real, right?

Have you had to break the news about Santa to a child?  How did it go?



28 thoughts on “GUEST POST: The Time of Innocence Lost, by Debra Kristi

  1. Samantha Warren (@_SamanthaWarren) says:

    I don’t really recall when I learned Santa wasn’t real. I have a distinct memory as a child of peeking through the grate in the floor and seeing my mom and grandpa putting presents under the tree, but I was very little and upset that they were there when Santa would be coming any moment. I vaguely recall a very mean friend belittling me for thinking Santa was real in 2nd or 3rd grade, so that was likely when my belief ended. I dread the day I have to tell anyone that he isn’t real.

  2. Melinda VanLone says:

    I sadly don’t have any children so I don’t have this problem. I do remember how I found out though. I have an older brother, which is probably enough said right there. I remember it vividly because the Tooth Fairy was scheduled to visit on the same night as the Easter Bunny and I was afraid they would bump into each other. My brother, 3 years older than me, said very scornfully “You know it’s mom and dad, right?”. Well, not until that moment, no. I stared at him, wide eyed. “It is NOT!” I shouted, and ran crying to my mom. Oh, she was mad. She glared at my brother, and assured me that the Tooth Fairy was very real. And yes, the next morning there was the coin under my pillow, and the easter basket. But I noticed it was filled with stuff I’d seen my mom buy a few days before. I guess I just wasn’t all that observant as a child, which would explain my brother’s scorn. I made the leap to Santa being not real at the same time, but you know what? It didn’t ruin anything for me. On the contrary, Christmas remained my favorite time of year, Santa or no. And Easter got better because we took the money and bought candy on sale AFTER Easter 🙂

  3. laurastanfill says:

    My daughter is 4, so we haven’t had to break the news yet, but I’m taking notes for when the subject comes up!

    I do remember how I found out–reading a book that was far above my age level. I wrote an “I know” letter and put it in my box of treasures, so if and when my parents came to me to explain, I could pull it out as proof that I hadn’t believed in a while. Well, they must have realized I had figured it out, because the big discussion never came.

  4. susielindau says:

    I just wrote this on another blog! I found out through a 5th grade teacher. I told my kids a little bit earlier so they wouldn’t suffer the same humiliation!! I think I told them when they were 8 or 9. Good luck!

    • Debra Kristi says:

      How funny. It’s the time of year for such a post! My eldest is ready. He said only yesterday, “Maybe it’s time I stop believing in Santa.” But again his sister was in the room. He always does that in front of her and she’s too little to stop believing just yet.

      Thank you Susie!

  5. timlobrien says:

    I am at that same point this year with my two youngest children. I think it’s time to tell the oldest, yet I really want him to continue believing for as long as possible. It really is much harder than I thought to break the news and end that brief period in life when you believe. The schools here do a great job of squashing “the rumors” and really discourage the kids “in the know” from telling others. As I stated in my blog on Tuesday, my daughter KNOWS that Santa is real because my wife and I don’t like to drink milk, therefore, it must be Santa drinking the milk!
    Great blog. You painted a great picture of the struggles parents go through at some point during Christmas.

  6. Emma Burcart says:

    I remember being told my the kids of a boyfriend of my mom’s when I was very young, like 4 years old. I didn’t believe them, thankfully. I like what you said about believing in the spirit of Santa, because that is what I would say I do now. When kids ask, I say I believe in Santa and I get presents from him every year. It really is all about the spirit of love and joy. So, I believe.

    • Debra Kristi says:

      I think it’s important to keep that spirit alive and remind the children right from the beginning how nothing has really changed. All the love and joy that surrounded the holiday is still there, and Santa will forever be in our hearts. I love that you say you believe because I believe too. Santa is what brings hope and joy to the season, real or not. I’m glad those kids didn’t ruin anything for you when you were four.

  7. Julia Munroe Martin says:

    That is a big milestone, no question! I remember that my son *never* asked, and we never told him! Instead, although he knew that we knew that he knew, he kept very quiet (he feared, I think, losing the “Santa gifts,” haha, but also loved the magic!). Our daughter (5 years his junior) suspected at a very very young age, and he urged her to keep quiet as well. It’s a fun family story that we still talk about now that they’re college age…. hope you have fun, and hope you have a wonderful memory with your son, too!

  8. Kristy K. James...Living, Loving, Laughing says:

    Great post, Debra! I don’t envy you a bit…and am glad I don’t have to worry about telling anymore kids. Although I tried to never make a big deal out of the whole Santa thing anyway. I just treated it as a fun part of the holiday season.

    Although a couple of times it was really fun to play with it. My brother was with a group who dressed up as Santa every Christmas Eve to deliver toys to needy kids. I asked him to stop by to see my kids if they passed close by our house. And they did. Of course I got pictures and when they were developed (pre-digital camera days), the first thing my son said is, hey, that looks like Uncle Jeff! He didn’t notice when ‘Santa’ was in our living room, but he sure did then. All I could think to say was…is Uncle Jeff Santa? That meant I could put it off another year.

    I do remember the day my mom told me. She always took great pains to make sure my sibs and I believed. Like ‘forgetting’ something in the house just as we were getting ready to leave for the party at my grandparents house on Christmas Eve. When we’d get home, Santa had arrived while we were gone.

    I remember being stunned and thinking Christmas was ruined forever. Which lasted for about five minutes. But I do blame the whole shattered dreams of Santa and the Easter Bunny for every stupid decision I’ve ever made, all the bad things that have ever happened, every war in the world, inflation, flat tires…and the fact that bacon and chocolate have calories. (I’m joking, people) 🙂

  9. Debra Kristi says:

    Sounds like you got off easy Julia! LOL I’m slightly envious. Your kids had some great will power to stay quiet about it for so long. My kid cant’ keep quiet about anything for longer than two minutes. 😦 Can’t handle the excitement all bottled up inside. It just blows the lid right off and the words come flying out! 😀

    Kristy, you kill me! I though last year would do it when we were at a friend’s a week early and Santa came by on a motorcycle all lite up with Christmas lights. LOL

  10. Sheila Seabrook says:

    When our oldest son started to question whether or not Santa was real, we worried that if we told him the truth, in a moment of brotherly spite he’d spill the beans to our youngest son. So instead, we told him that Santa only brought gifts to children who believed in him. He never raised the topic again. He’s now 32 and says he still believes in Santa. 🙂

    • Debra Kristi says:

      And how did that work out for him with his school friends? Or did he say? My mom recently read this piece and sent me a text saying that I did ask and then didn’t want to know the answer, so I was happy to continue on the rest of my years in silence. I guess that would be similar to your son. 🙂

  11. August McLaughlin says:

    Oh, I hope your parent/son chat goes smoothly! I’ve never had to break the news, but if I did I suppose I would state what I believe: that Santa Clause is real, just not in the way many children believe. He’s the spirit of giving, the heart of the season. He’s alive, just not in the flesh.

    I’d share what my parents told me, but they never did! To this day, my sister leaves out cookies and carrots… The next morning they are bites missing and gifts galore. 😉 Good luck!

    • Debra Kristi says:

      Thank you, August. You have a beautiful way of looking at it and I believe that’s the approach we will be taking. It’s most likely that we’ll still leave the cookies and milk out for Santa as well as the carrots for his reindeer as well. There’s something to be said for the magic of that little process.

  12. Angela Orlowski-Peart says:

    My nine-year-old son simply asked me a few weeks ago if Santa is real. If I insisted that Santa is real, I would have felt like a liar. So I turned the table and asked, “what do you think?” He said that at this point it is quite doubtful. I somehow reluctantly agreed (it was bitter sweet), but also made him promise not to discuss this issue with his six-year-old sister.

    I am a very lucky Mom. My son can be quite laid-back and as long as he is treated like a “big kid”, he behaves like a “big kid” 🙂

  13. Tameri Etherton says:

    What we did at Etherton House was tell the kids that yes, Santa is real (I am, aren’t I?) in spirit. It’s the ideal that St. Nick symbolized and that once you’re in on the ‘secret’ you get to play a huge part in Santa the next year. Both kids play along with me whenever I mention they better be good for goodness’ sake! And they both love love love to play Santa to me and my husband (and each other when they aren’t fighting).

    It’s been good, but I will say that when Michael kept asking and I finally said, ‘do you really want to know?’ he didn’t. The next year he asked again and when I told him mommy & daddy are Santa, he didn’t believe me. So, he wanted to know, but didn’t want to know. Wacky kid!

    Good luck with Gamer. It’s such a tough time because innocence is lost a little, but that might be more for the parents than the kids.

    • Debra Kristi says:

      I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the same thing happen with Gamer as happened with your son, Tameri. He keeps asking about Santa, but when he got his “good boy” message from the “Big Guy” the other day he lit up like a Christmas tree. He wants to believe and I don’t think he really cares for the elusion to end.

  14. Marcy Kennedy says:

    I discovered that Santa wasn’t real indirectly through figuring out that the Easter bunny wasn’t real. I don’t remember how old I was, but I’d started to suspect, and rather than asking my parents out right, I concocted a plan. I decided to stay up the night before Easter and listen to see if they got up to hide the eggs. Around midnight, long after my little brother and I should have been sound asleep, I heard them. And thus ended my belief in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny.

    • Debra Kristi says:

      You proved the theory of the kid’s holy trinity Marcy. Disprove one and you disprove them all. I’m sorry you learned the truth that way. That’s a bummer. I was like Tameri’s son, Michael. I asked the question, but I didn’t really want to know the answer so I pretended I’d never heard it.

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