People email me parenting questions all the time— I’m not sure why, I am clearly no expert. One recent question was from a woman named Debra, who was wondering how to field various Santa-related questions from her preschooler.
As a Jew, I have even less answers than I would about your typical parenting dilemma. Which means, I have nothing. I don’t even know how to explain to Mazzy why Santa doesn’t deliver our Hanukkah presents. That’s a a tricky one!
Instead of ignoring Debra’s question, I decided to throw it over to my goy friend Nicole Leigh Shaw, who usually has an answer for everything. She might be a little snarky, but buried in that snark is some pretty solid advice.
Mommy Shorts Nicole,
My preschooler has a lot of questions about Christmas. For example, can she have a real live unicorn and if not how about an American Girl doll? Tucked in among her impossible gift requests (“A trip on the Polar Express!”), are difficult questions like, “How does Santa get down the chimney?” I want to answer her without blowing this Santa thing. What would you do?
Kids. You can’t lie to them about a mythological obese man with an Elf fetish; you can’t tell them you’re Santa. At least, not until they start asking for pricey electronics. When your grade schooler wants an iPad, it’s okay to tell them, “Look, kid, I’m Santa and I spent your iPad money on a case of wine and a facial.”
Until then, you’ll need to default to the less-is-more technique of question dodging. As with all things small child, you need to respond with short, question-specific answers.
“It’s magic, honey!” is a great response for the toddler set.
How does Santa get down the chimney? Magic!
How does he know when you’ve been good or bad? Magic!
How did my baby sister get in mommy’s belly? Date night and Pinot Grigo!
See how the shortest answers are usually best? Here’s a cheat sheet.
Another solution is to deflect a child’s question with another question. “How do you think he makes all those presents?” Or, “What would you do if you were Santa?” Kids will sometimes provide their own explanations if you let them.
For some of us, however, the questions are too complicated. In these situations, like the time you found yourself on Minute 20 of a painful conversation with your 2 year-old about the mechanics of assembly line production in the North Pole—throw that question grenade to your significant other. This is a good time to say, “Why don’t you go ask daddy (or your other mommy or grammy or the person who delivers our dry cleaning) about that?”
Remember, you are not solely responsible for screwing up Christmas.
Finally, if all else fails, rely on Hollywood to answer life’s toughest Santa quandaries. One of my 7-year-old twins is experiencing what is very likely her last year as a believer. Instead of facing her concerns head-on and responding with compassionate honesty, I’ve directed her to 1994’s The Santa Clause. If Tim Allen can’t lie to her on my behalf, who can?
In truth, it’s okay to say to your little peanut, “Mommy doesn’t know the answer to that, but here’s one explanation.”
Remember, Santa is real. He’s made real every time we give selflessly, share a family tradition, or make a dream come true for someone we care about. So, whether you believe there’s a jolly fatso who never ages and runs the most efficient elf sweatshop in the known universe, or whether you decide to ruin Christmas for everyone by telling them Santa’s a fraud (#thanksalotmom), the magic is still very, very real.