Driving to lunch one day with my colleague, the topic of conversation turned to the fact that I have very beautiful, very smart children. (I love when that happens!) Knowing that my kids are ages 10 and 7, my colleague turns to me and asked if Harrison, my ten year-old, still believes in Santa. I thought for a moment and answered, "Yes, I think so."
My colleague’s children are in high school and college. I have worked closely with him since the birth of my younger child and have known him for more than 11 years. Surmised through the experience of knowing my children and his own, he says, “Harrison is too smart to believe in Santa, Marsi. He’s just too sensitive to spoil it for his younger sister and smart enough to keep his knowledge under wraps, using it to his advantage.”
"Oh," I said, neither denying nor confirming his assumption. Truth be told, I recognize my own denial -- my kids are growing up.
As the Christmas season begins and conversations of doing chores turn plausibly to idle threats of keeping on "Santa’s good list," I contemplate this conversation often. I am waiting for the moment where my smart and sensitive child looks at me and asks if there really is a Santa. And I have to lie.
Or do I? I have never really had a problem lying to my children. I like to think of them as little white lies or fibs. Nothing that will harm them or anyone else. Just the traditional parental manipulation to get out of buying the candy bar at the store or avoid an amusement park.
Of course, there are other reasons why I might lie to my kids. The protection of their innocence ranks very high in my priorities. In a world where anything you want to know is on the Internet and my child can undoubtedly discover a world of adult truths, scientific or assumed, by reading articles on his iTouch, my husband and I seek to protect them from what we can. And sometimes this involves a lie or two.
We could not protect them from my cancer. They were too smart for that. However, I could protect them from what was to come for their mommy and how the preventative measures, radiation treatments, chemotherapy and surgeries would destroy my strength, leave me permanently marred and make my hair fall out. They did not need to know that right away. But did we actually lie? A little. I said "I don’t know" a lot, when most the time I was about 90% sure of what was to come. Then again, I said "I don’t know" to a lot of people, just to avoid the conversation and the detail. To my children, however, I tried to explain where I could, especially when I thought that an "I don’t know" would cause them more worry than not.
My children are growing up faster than I ever could have imagined. Technology and television mitigate our ability to keep them in a bubble and hide them away from harm or recourse. Soon enough, their inquiring minds and adventurous hearts will take hold and their innocence will wither away like a wilting flower. They have plenty of time to KNOW.
So, for now, I will keep lying, in the hope that with each little fib, I grasp an extra snuggle or giggle that is unique to a young child who still does not know that mommy is the Tooth Fairy. Or that Daddy hides Easter Eggs at 4:00 a.m.
And if/when my son asks if there is really a Santa. I might just say, "yes." I am not sure if I am really to give up that lie yet.
Marsi lives in San Diego, CA with her husband, two children and dog. A private foundation grants writer by trade, Marsi explores her creative side by contributing to Writing Writer Writest. She is a breast cancer survivor and keeps a blog of her journey, entitled Nip-It.