MY eldest child, Ruby, was born with blond hair, ten fingers, ten toes, and a disproportionate degree of scepticism about the world.
From the minute she could say 'Santa', she was doubtful about the dude in the red suit.
I couldn't quite understand it. After all, I was the kid who had my last Santa photo at the age of 16. I completely bought into the myth, to the extent that my mum was still creeping into my room in the middle of the night to deliver a sack full of gifts when I was well into my twenties. Obviously by that stage I knew, but I was happy to play along.
For extra proof, we organised one of those personalised video messages. Of course he's real, sweetie. Look! He mentioned you by name in his video. Then Ruby turned seven and one day, out of the blue, she asked me again whether Santa was real. But this time she added four extra words: "I want the truth."
It was like that courtroom scene from A Few Good Men where Tom Cruise is interrogating Jack Nicholson. He clenches his fist and shouts "I WANT THE TRUTH" and Jack shouts back "You can't handle the truth."
Who knew that Jack could be so right? Certainly not me. I consulted with my husband and together we decided that, as 21st century parents, we were morally obliged to level with our child.
It wasn't a big guy in a red suit that came and delivered the presents, it was us, her mum and dad.
Ruby took it well. You might even say she took it in her stride. She certainly wasn't devastated like my 13-year-old niece who only this year got told about the Santa fakery. "But what about the Easter Bunny?" she cried. "Not him too?" Hmmm … no, the man in the red suit is fake but the bunny who carries around the chocolate eggs is real, clearly.
As for Ruby, we made her swear on her life that she would never tell her two little sisters or any of her friends and left it at that. Air, cleared.
Or so I thought.
Recently, we were trying to remember what Ruby had received for Christmas last year and I referred to the surfboard that 'we had given her'.
"Not you and Dad," she corrected me, within earshot of her sisters. "You mean Santa."
We've also been talking about what she might get for Christmas this year and if I suggest something that 'we' might give her, she winces a little.
It's written all over her face. The little girl who came into the world with the question 'why?' stamped on her forehead now regrets ever asking if Santa was real or not.
We live in difficult times, in a world that's uncertain and at times, downright frightening. Our kids are aware of this. When I was a child, I had no hope of being able to name the American president. My six-year-old knows exactly who Donald Trump is.
By contrast, Christmas is that little piece of magic all children deserve. It's hope and happiness, all tied up in a festive ribbon.
By telling Ruby that Santa was simply an invention of history, I feel I took a little piece of the magic away from her.
If I could take back that moment, I would. In a heartbeat.
This article originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished here with permission.
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