It’s a perennial problem for parents: As Christmas approaches, children of a certain age start to ask questions: Is Santa Claus real? Is he magic? How does he deliver presents all over the world in just one night? And why did he poop his pants in that Jingle Bell run we watched last weekend?
So many questions!
To help you navigate this merry minefield, Dumb Runner has put together some expert advice.
Understand What Your Child Is Really Asking
Does your 6-year-old really want a definitive answer on Santa’s existence? Or is he just craving reassurance? Does he really want to know what that the brown stuff is on Santa’s pants? Or is he just seeking any explanation that will satisfy his 6-year-old mind? (“Sometimes Santa accidentally sits on pans of Christmas fudge.”)
Answer Little Ones’ Questions With Your Own Questions
When your child asks how Santa visits houses that don’t have chimneys, you might respond with, “How do you think he does it?” If she asks why Santa would wear bright red pants in a cold-weather race, instead of stain-hiding black tights or pants, try, “Good question. What are some reasons that runners might choose not to wear traditional running apparel?”
Be Prepared In Case Your Child Hears the Truth Elsewhere
Kids have no filters, and older children—innocently or otherwise—might tell your youngster, out of the blue, that “there’s no such thing as Santa” or “race day nerves and the jarring, jostling nature of running itself can lead to sudden onset diarrhea.” It’s smart to have a response ready when and if your child, upset and confused, confronts you with such assertions.
Understand That Every Child Will Handle the Truth Differently
It can be hard to learn that Santa isn’t a real man who lives at the North Pole with toymaking elves, or that his G.I. tract can betray him in a publicly humiliating way. Depending on their developmental stage and temperament, some children might react with sadness when they hear this. Some might feel angry or betrayed. Others may experience some combination of all three. So be ready.
Put a Positive Spin on Things
It might sound corny, but it’s true: Santa is all of us. You’re Santa, I’m Santa—even your children can be Santa. All they need to do is believe in the spirit of giving and spreading cheer and goodwill, and understand the importance of not eating new foods before a race and of visiting the porta-potty right before the start. And those are lessons they can carry well beyond childhood.
Try to Preserve the Spirit of Fun
Even after your child has heard, and accepted, the truth about Santa it’s possible to keep some of that “Santa magic” alive. In our house, for instance, we invented a new holiday tradition. Instead of leaving cookies and milk out for Santa on Christmas Eve, we leave a pan of fudge—and a box of Imodium caplets. By morning, both have “mysteriously” disappeared.
Ho ho ho! Happy holidays!