This day was always going to come. Father Christmas has been the subject of playground gossip, with inevitable results for my eldest child, Helen.
The result of this gossip was a Stasi-esque interrogation at the breakfast table in front of Izzy, our three-year-old. Promises to talk about it later when “your little sister isn’t around” were met with comments like “I knew it,” leaving me under no illusion that we could carry on with the illusion.
I fled to find Mrs Adams, who still hadn’t left for work. I explained what was going on and that we had met the end of the line. Trying to perpetuate the myth simply wasn’t feasible, Helen had to be told the truth, deserved to be told the truth in fact.
Mrs Adams returned form work that night full of excellent ideas as to what we should say. As the stay at home parent, I had kinda thought I would probably take the lead in this discussion. It is, after all, usually me that has to have the discussions about menstruation, sex and a host of other glamorous subjects.
Oh no, not this time. Mrs Adams handled it and she handled it very well;
- “How would you feel if Father Christmas wasn’t real?”
- “What would you miss about Father Christmas?”
- “You understand you would still get presents and you’d still see friends and family and have Christmas parties?”
Well, Mrs Adams was in the lead at first. There was a lot of going around the houses until Helen eventually asked outright for confirmation of what she had already figured out for herself. The question was posed directly to me. I unexpectedly found myself leading the discussion at this point and had no choice but to take responsibility for the coup de grace.
Such is the glamour of my role as a stay at home parent; menstruation, marital relations and destroying childhood dreams. It’s almost enough to send me trawling through the pages of LinkedIn to find a proper job (actually, I take that back, it really isn’t).
I’ve made no secret of my unease with the whole Father Christmas thing. I’ve long considered it hypocritical to tell children they must be honest and then take part in the largest parental wind-up in history. If it had been solely my decision, my kids would have woken up on Christmas morning surrounded by presents, but they’d have known the reality from day one. As it isn’t solely my decision, I had to make my peace with the situation some time ago.
Of course the irony is that Father Christmas has roots in the early Christian church. If you aren’t familiar with the story of Saint Nicholas (Sinterklaas or Santa Claus to give him a Germanic name), do have a read. It is a beautiful story and one that should be remembered and retold.
Helen is an outgoing kid, but she can be very sensitive. I really wasn’t sure how the truth would land. It was a moment I’d been dreading for years. This is another reason for my unease with Father Christmas; you are building your kids up to have a fall in later life.
As it happens, she took it very well. Even so, it has clearly been on her mind. When Helen came out of school yesterday, it was the very first thing she mentioned to me. We’ll see what happens over the next few days and weeks, but I wouldn’t be too surprised if there is some fall out a bit further down the line.
Okay, yes, I admit I feel relief Helen knows the truth. Even so, I concede it is a moment tinged with sadness. I was two years older than Helen when I discovered the truth. In fact I may have even been three years older.
Although reluctantly, I have gone along with the Father Christmas thing. As I was involved, I would have liked her to have been a little older before finding out. I may be opinionated, but I’m not heartless.