Parenting 201: Will the REAL Santa please stand up?
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08-12-2015, 03:40 PM
Parenting 201: Will the REAL Santa please stand up?
Two weeks after the murder and resurrection of Happy Candy-Lips, when Number One was seven years old...

Number Two was pretty smart at seven years old. She was also deeply attached to her belief in the magic of Christmas. However, that year was the first time that she picked up on one of the great incongruities of the Christmas charade. On one particular evening, her realization led to a line of questioning that made me feel like I was trapped in a bad Perry Mason episode.

It went something like this:

Number One (in that angelic, yet inquisitive tone that you know means she has been thinking something over for a little while): “Daddy?”

Me (smiling on the outside, bracing for impact on the inside): “Yes, sweety?”

Number One (innocently) : “How is it possible that, with all the work Santa has to do to prepare for the big day, he still has time to hang out at the mall, visit school on picture day, and ride on the fire truck in the Christmas parade?”

Me (stalling for time): “Um, what?”

Number One: “And furthermore, Daddy, it appears that it is not just at our mall, but all the malls. Cousin One and Cousin Two are stopping by Brookwood Mall on their way here on Saturday. They are getting their picture made with Santa there.”

Me: “Gee, that’s nice, honey. But that is just two malls. He probably does a morning shift in Birmingham before coming up to [our town].”

Number One: “Well, then, why did I hear Mommy on the phone telling Uncle [redacted] she thought the Santa at the Galleria was a better Santa? What does she mean he is a better Santa?”

Me: “Well, she probably just meant that they have a really beautiful set to take pictures in front of at the Galleria.”

Number One: “So…. would they just call Santa and tell him to meet them at the Galleria instead of at Brookwood?”

Me: “Sure. I guess.”

Number One: “But what about the kids that are going to be at Brookwood expecting him to be there for the morning shift?”

Ok, at this point I was getting nervous. I really just wanted to shout “YOU WANT THE TRUTH? YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!” But, I didn’t. I did what all good Mommy’s and Daddy’s do when their sweet little Einsteins reach that age when the magic of Christmas alone can no longer defend itself against the fiery rhetoric of a blossoming prefrontal cortex. I lied. Gloriously.

Me: “Well, baby doll, it’s actually kind of complicated. I am not supposed to tell you this until you are at least 8 years old. But since you are asking, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to tell you a little early. You see, Santa is a very busy guy. So, he has to have a little help around Christmastime to make sure that the whole thing goes off smoothly. Therefore, whenever you see Santa out and about it may not actually be the real Santa. In fact, there are four possibilities for who is really under that big white beard and fuzzy red coat. The first is Santa himself; for he does like to get out and meet the kids in person from time to time. The second is an elf. Give one a little magic to make him grow and many an old elf makes a fine impression of the jolly fellow. Thirdly, there are Santa’s helpers. These are regular people whose naturally white beards and round bellies accompanied by merry personalities and a love of children uniquely qualify them to be official representatives of Christmas. Of course, they first have to pass a background check and join the United Brotherhood of the North Pole Workers Union. And lastly, there are fake Santas. These are people who do not belong to the UBNPWU but still put on the Santa suit and don the fake beard and wire rimmed glasses anyway. They may just be a vigilante Santa trying to do good for goodness sake. Or, it could be some guy whose wife is in the PTO and volunteered to get the Santa for the school pictures but then couldn’t find one and so forced her poor husband to dress up and wear a fake beard and let kid after kid sit on his lap for hours all day or else have to sleep in the dog house all weekend. If you happen to sit in this guy’s lap, you’ll know it right away. He’ll probably be more scared of you than you are of him and his breath will smell like he has been eating too much of Grandma’s famous fruitcake.”

Number One looked at me and blinked. I had hoped to overwhelm her with information and so staunch the flow of questions. She hesitated for just a moment and then whirled and paced off with so much purpose that I knew she would be back. I took a deep breath and tried to go over in my mind what all I had just said. I wasn’t sure I would be able to repeat it flawlessly upon cross-examination.

She came back with pictures in her hand. One was of her little sister and Santa. It was taken today at the [our local] Mall. The other was Number One and Santa. It was the one she had taken at school a week or so ago, but the pictures just came in today. She held them up so that we could both look at them together and compare. Unfortunately for me, this was the first I had seen of either picture. I had had no time to think about this particular scenario. I tried not to let my uneasiness show, but it was quite obvious that at least one Santa was an imposter. I was waiting on her to say something like, “I would like to submit as Exhibit A, this photo taken today at…”

Number One (with just a hint of the threat of jealousy): “Don’t you think the Santa in my picture is the real one?”

Me (Objection, Your Honor! Leading question!): “Let me see… hmmm…..”

There is not one good answer to this question. She wants the Santa in her picture to be the real Santa. Should her little sister have had the privilege of having her picture with the real Santa while Number One was relegated to anything less it would represent a major blow to the superiority of the big sister. The problem was that the Santa in Number Two’s picture was pretty darn convincing. He had a twinkle in his eye and a real beard and just enough wrinkles to make him look old enough but not in a creepy way. The poor Santa in Number One’s picture was obviously exhausted, if not intoxicated, under his fake beard.

Now we have a real dilemma. Avoid the conflict but cast even more doubt on the existence of Santa altogether by ignoring the glaringly obvious reality that her Santa was a fake. Or, preserve the magic for at least one more year but throw another yule log onto the flames of sibling rivalry before Christmas.

At this point, the smart parent would be tempted to reply that both Santa’s were probably Santa’s helpers. But, your common run-of-the-mill parent who has had the benefit of being regularly out-witted by their own four, five or six year old child would be very wary of the easy answer. In fact, the simplicity of this question following such a complex setup had all the silver bells in my head ringing in alarm. This contrived dilemma with such a simple third answer had to be a diversion.

I think Number One sensed that her feint was beginning to unravel so she upped the ante a bit.

Number One (yelling into the other room): “Mommy! What do you think about these Santa pictures?”

Me (yelling into the other room): “DON’T! Don’t say anything!”

The Wife (sauntering calmly into the room): “What’s that sweetheart?”

I stared hard at The Wife and attempted to convey the gist of my testimony to her in a series of grunts, blinks, and facial contortions all in just a few short seconds. The Wife gave me a look. I wasn’t sure if it was a calm-down-I’ve-got-this look or a did-you-drink-that-expired-eggnog-in-the-fridge kind of look.

Number One: “Daddy thinks my Santa was the real one. What do you think?”

Me: “Wha! I didn’t! Wait! Huh?”

The Wife (without any hesitation whatsoever): “No, honey. Number Two’s picture was with the real Santa.”

Number One (pouting): “But I am sure my Santa must have been the real one.”

The Wife: “But, sweety, the Santa at the mall has to be the real one. He is the one that gave me the magical snowflakes to restore Happy Candy-Lips.”

And there it was. That was the piece of evidence I had overlooked. If Number One was disappointed to have her little game of chess busted up so easily, she didn’t show it.

Number One (out loud, but to herself): “Well, that explains that.”

Me: “What’s that?”

Number One: “The Santa at our school did look an awful lot like our janitor.”

Me (amused): “Really?”

I wanted to ask if janitors get paid extra to dress up like Santa for picture day at school. I was also wondering where this was going. Number One was obviously unfazed by the abrupt change in the course of the conversation and was apparently formulating a fall-back strategy.

Number One: “Can I have my picture made with the real Santa, too?”

Me: “Sure. Why not?”

Mommy (giving me a shut-up-you-fool look): “No, honey. You can’t. One picture with Santa is enough.”

Number One (smiling at me while using my own words): “Why not?”

At this point they are talking to each other, but they are both looking at me. Number One is begging and demanding a good reason for why she shouldn’t have her picture made with the real Santa and The Wife is refusing to budge and refusing to give any reasonable explanation. They are both still looking at me.

I know I should have kept my mouth shut. But, I didn’t.

Me: “Does it really matter? It wouldn’t take that long to just run down to the mall and get her picture made. Then their pictures would match, right?”

The Wife gave me a look like she was about to turn into the Bumble Monster.

The Wife: “No. I am not paying $10 for one five by seven picture when I just spent $20 on a package of pictures.”

Number One (looking very satisfied): “If that is the real Santa, and he gives away all sorts of toys and stuff every year, why does he charge for a little picture at the mall?”

She may as well have added, “I rest my case, Your Honor” because she didn’t even wait around for an answer. She just turned and pranced off while humming “A Holly Jolly Christmas”.

It would only be a few months later on Easter-eve that Number One would set up a successful sting operation to unmask the Easter Bunny.

I just wanted to let you know that I love you even though you aren't naked right now. Heart
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08-12-2015, 03:46 PM
RE: Parenting 201: Will the REAL Santa please stand up?
(08-12-2015 03:40 PM)TurkeyBurner Wrote:  “The Santa at our school did look an awful lot like our janitor.”

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