I is for Innocence

The other night as my 8-year old was on the verge of drifting off she said, "Mama, if I ask you something will you tell me the truth?" Now this is one question I dread as much from my daughter as I'd dreaded it from my mum in my teenage.

So anyway.. "Yes," said I.
"Is Santa for real or do papas and mamas give us gifts every Christmas?"
Whew.. What could I do? I'd promised to tell the truth so truth it had to be...the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

The deluge of tears that followed was heart wrenching.
"Why didn't you tell me?" she sobbed after I'd very deliberately, very surely killed Santa. "I argued with all my friends. They told me there was no Santa and I didn't believe them. I believed only you."

Heartbreaking! O I felt so guilty.

"Who will we decorate the tree for? Who will we keep the cookies for?" she went on.. And then the thought struck her "Did YOU eat up all the cookies we kept for Santa? And the letters we wrote to him.. all lies."

And more questions..
"Are there no reindeers either mama?"
"No," said I, shamefaced.
"No Rudolph?"

"If I hadn't asked you, you'd have never told me and then when I had babies I wouldn't have bought them gifts thinking Santa would get them and then on Christmas day they wouldn't have had any gifts at all. How sad they would have been."  Some thought!

Finally after a long sad time we managed to console her.. not convince mind you, just console her.. that there had been a Santa long time back and then parents had just taken over after he passed away. Next morning having slept over the issue and apparently having given the matter plenty of thought she said, "Mama when I die (death and dying are pretty much dinner table conversations here) and I am born again and if you're my mama again please don't ever tell me that there's no Santa. It feels really sad".

Even as I hugged her I wonder how would I handle it given a second chance.

Coming from her it sounded like I'd woven such an elaborate web of lies, which of course I had. So what should I have done? Killed the Santa story completely? That would be so sad. Or maybe I shouldn't have built it up and embellish it as much. Definitely NOT make it the core of Christmas celebrations. How deeply I regretted not telling the twins about it earlier... or at least hinting at it.

My son had seemed unconcerned through this entire exchange. However in one of his Hindi worksheets on Christmas when they had to write a line about Santa this is what he wrote.. "Our parents give us gifts but we think Santa has come".

What do you think, people? Do your kids know there's no Santa? How old were they when they find out? How did they react?

I'm dreading Christmas this year.

PS: A few days later my daughter wanted another clarification.. 'Are tooth fairies also not for real?"

Linking to ABC Wednesday  a fun challenge for bloggers.

Labels: , , , ,