"Just ask them what they think," my mother told me through the phone line, like this latest parenting dilemma of mine really is simple child's play.
"What do you mean, 'ask them what they think'?"
"When they ask you, 'Mommy, is there such thing as Santa?', respond by asking them what they think."
"Oh. So you want me to 'flip that shit' on them like Leon on Curb Your Enthusiasm?"
"Lizzie, I don't know what you're talking about but certainly don't swear at them. You just don't want to lie to them. You want them to figure it out on their own."
I giggled to myself.
My parents don't have HBO. It took every fiber of my Dad's being to trade in his "rabbit ears" antenna for a monthly subscription to basic cable ten years ago.
"Well, how did that work with us?" I finally asked her. I'm the middle of three children so I was expecting my mother to share three data points from her own case study comprised of her own children.
"Well, I don't remember what happened with your brother. I think the older girls up the street told him and he probably told you, but because Jaque was five years younger, I told you and your brother I'd kill you both if you told her." My mother answered, matter of factly.
"So you didn't actually use this method on us?"
"I think I eventually used it on your sister and she figured it out on her own."
"Huge help, mom."
Completely unconvinced that this was the right approach, I decided to use it anyway. Not unlike most of my parenting tactics.
"Mommy, is Santa real?"
The question was first lobbed out by Vince in Kindergarten. KINDERGARTEN! I was so upset. I knew immediately that as soon as he knows, Nick knows and it's all over in my house! No more magic! No Santa means no Easter Bunny! No Easter Bunny means no Tooth Fairy! They hadn't even lost a single freakin' tooth yet!
"What are you even talking about?" I barked back at him. Fortunately, his brother was not within ear shot.
"I just don't understand how Santa can go all over the world on a sleigh and go down chimneys."
This is SO Jeff's side of the family. A bunch of engineers trying to actually MAKE SENSE of the world around them instead of MAKE BELIEVE like regular freakin' people!
Then I remembered my mother's line: "Well, what do you think?" I asked.
"I don't know." He paused. "I really want that giant T-Rex, and the microscope and the spy gear and Star Wars legos…"
By some miracle, the conversation turned to what Christmas is really about: all the shit he wanted.
In the end, the Christmas of 2010 was a fantasy replete with elves and reindeer and my main man with the red suit and the white beard.
Last Christmas, they turned up the heat a little.
"I think it's you, Mommy. I think you're Santa." Nick stared at me point blank when we were getting ready for school one morning.
I almost threw up.
You CAN'T lie to them. My mother's words echoed in my head.
"Why do you think that?" I finally mustered.
"I don't know. Is it you?"
"What do you think?" I asked him, trying to hide my panic.
"Do we still get presents if we don't believe in Santa?" Nick smiled his sweet, dimpled smile at me.
Oh, Jesus. What have they been watching? Oh, hell. Just go with it.
"Gosh, I don't know." I widened my eyes, shrugged my shoulders, and tilted my head in my best yikes-that-would-sure-suck way.
In hindsight, I know it was wrong but I wasn't ready. They got the message and backed off quick.
The charade happily continued. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care. St. Nicholas devoured his cookie and glass of milk (mommy forgot the giant carrot for the reindeer but who remembers that?).
Did I sense that they smelled bullshit when Mommy's stocking was stuffed but Daddy's wasn't on Christmas morning? Yes. But fresh loot in hand, they stayed mum. After all, Daddy can be naughty and there are only so many hours in the day.
This year. Forget it. I can already feel the walls coming in on me and it's not even December yet.
We wrote our letters to Santa last weekend, which are somehow getting more and more specialized. Vince wants a Spiderman costume just like the one Spider Man wore in this year's blockbuster theatrical release The Amazing Spider-Man.
"Can he even get the goggles right, Mommy?" Vince asked as he squinted his eyes and demonstrated with his hands how Spiderman's goggles, as Vince refers to them, are meant to sit on his face.
"I don't know."
"He can make everything, right?"
"But aren't those elves so little and they have so much to make."
Now he's trying to make heads or tails of the freakin' assembly line in the workshop. Too many episodes of How It's Made on the Science Channel. You think you're doing something right by turning on a little educational programming...after making them watch presidential campaign coverage, pretty soon he's going to be asking me about Santa's Medicare and Social Security benefits.
"I don't know."
"How small do you think they are?" He continued.
"Who? The elves?"
"I don't know. Maybe like a midget. I mean little person."
This needs to stop.
"Maybe include a picture of the costume with your letter." I finally answered.
"That's a good idea, Mommy."
The worst yet was this past Sunday when we were attempting to decorate the tree.
"Mommy, is Santa really real?" Nick asked, truly by way of making conversation. He bridged to the topic from a conversation about his three favorite ornaments from Grandma.
"Honey, what do you think?" Going on three holiday seasons of rehearsals, I delivered my line impeccably.
"You keep asking me what I think. I want to know what you think."
Why are they so smart?
As he said the words, I literally got off the couch and ran into the kitchen yelling back to him, "Oh, wait, honey, I have to, I'll be back, give me a second…"
I stood in the middle of the kitchen for few seconds trying to figure out my next move.
"Anybody want popcorn and hot cocoa?" I yelled to them.
"Yes, mommy, yes, yes!" They both yelled from underneath the sea of ornaments and other decorations in the living room.
"Ok. Coming right up!"
As I type this, I know in my heart that Santa and I have successfully dodged our very last bullet.
For those unfamiliar with this kind of magic, get yourself a taste of Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm here:
Even more holiday magic:
|Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) from Trading Places...a movie I look forward to|
watching with the boys several years from now once we've come to terms
with this whole Santa thing.