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.
Read more from Nicole on her blog and follow her on facebook!
Thanks for letting me guest post today. I hope that, if nothing else, I can bring a little joy to the great lie that is Santa. (That’s sarcasm, obvs.) I hope that all Mommy Shorts fans have a holiday full of magic and wonder.
You missed one…in response to my six-year-old’s querie about why’d have to donate to Toys for Tots when “Santa can just give those poor kids what they want” (her words, bless her heart!)
Answer: Santa makes sure that all kids have what they NEED before they get what they want. Some Mommies and Daddies don’t have enough money to give their babies what they need so Santa gets them things like food and coats. It’s up to us to fill in what he can’t bring. Santa can’t do it all, even with magic!
I guess that will work until she asks about food drives!
oh my gosh–you read my mind! My daughter JUST asked this question this morning. i gave some dumb answer because i was really caught off-guard. i like yours much better!
…And Illana, total goy question here, but is Hanukah Harry a real thing or just a Jon Lovitz SNL sketch? I mean, obviously the SNL character is an exaggerated caricature of ridiculous Jewish stereotypes, but is the concept based in reality? You guys totally deserve a holiday icon for the hyper religious moms to argue about on Facebook.
Santa can’t bring Hanukkah presents because he only delivers presents on Christmas Eve and Hanukkah starts before that 😉 if that doesn’t work, say you don’t know, but her non-Jewish friends haven’t gotten any presents yet, but she has 🙂
I like that “magic”! May work for another year for us.
I always flipped the questions around and asked “What do you think?” or “How do you think he does it?”
@ Stephanie Tanner – Hanukah Harry is an SNL sketch, period. A Chanukah bush is also a myth. Some Jews do celebrate Christmas with a tree (for various reasons including that a family member is Christian, they are trying to partake in American culture, etc.), and I’m sure that some call their tree a Chanukah bush, but there is nothing inherent to the holiday of Chanukah that calls for a bush or any greenery. Chanukah and Christmas are really very different holidays that only happen to fall near each other on the calendar. Hope this helps!
As an aside, I am a Jewish mom and I am now having to deal with questions about Santa from my kindergartner because the public school decided to teach him all about Christmas. They even managed to convince him that Santa is real. I’m a little ticked off about that one. I have nothing against Christmas, but it should not be taught as fact at public school. At the very least, other religious traditions should be taught at the same time. Or, more appropriately, if teachers want to teach with a seasonal theme, they could pick one that is not so closely tied to a particular religious tradition, like say “winter” or “peace”. Its just hard watching my son begin to feel ostracized because he is Jewish and Santa won’t be bringing him gifts.
Thanks! I honestly didn’t know…I guess I never thought about it before. We do Santa but I always wanted to introduce my kids to traditions from other cultures. Maybe when they get a little older.
For some extra help with the Santa questions – you could sign up your little one for a video call with Santa – and they can ask him anything they want. We did that this morning. Besides our son flashing Santa his belly-button, it was really sweet and a wonderful exchange – and Santa was wonderful. (hellosanta.com) It does cost money, but it was the best $20 we ever spent.
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