Well, it finally happened. Alex and I had the big talk. I told her the truth.
No, not about sex. (She already knows about that.) About Santa.
A little history...last Easter we surprised the kids with new bikes on Easter morning. We had them going with the whole Easter bunny story, UNTIL we stepped outside to go to church and Alex saw the bike boxes in the recycler. All of a sudden she stopped. It all dawned on her. She turned to us and said, "Wait...the Easter bunny didn't give us those bikes - YOU GUYS did it! You LIED to us!" We admitted to all the deception and tried to explain why we "lied" - but she was angry and feeling betrayed. I felt bad - I don't remember getting mad at my parents when we figured it out as kids - but I could see how she felt lied to. She made us promise to tell her the truth in the future.
So...fast forward to this Christmas season. I thought maybe the Easter bunny realization would carry over to Santa and she would have it all figured out, but nope...she and Sam were still believers. Until yesterday. Bryan and I had talked it over a couple weeks ago and decided we need to come clean this year. We didn't want to betray any trust or repeat the whole scene where she felt cheated and deceived and lied to. Bryan remembers feeling disappointed and betrayed by his parents when he found out the truth. And I heard from another friend who remembers clearly how hurt she was, that her trust in her parents was damaged and she felt she couldn't talk to them about it, and it even got her questioning her faith in God (which is logical).
Anyway, we hadn't found the right opening so we never actually followed through. I still have mixed feelings about dashing a child's innocent beliefs in Santa. But yesterday, Alex mentioned Santa and I knew I had to take the opportunity.
So I told her. I reminded her that she asked us always to tell her the truth and that we want to honor that. I tried to break it to her gently. I explained that it is a story that began with a real person named Saint Nicholas who loved children, protected them, and gave them gifts. I told her how people all over the world are inspired by Saint Nicholas and how the story grew. Just like the stories we see in the movies, the Santa story is "based on a true story" but has added bits of fairy tale and magic. It's not "real" but it points us to the truths of Christmas, like the love of God for us and the joys of giving. She took it all in calmly, though I could see her mind was working on processing this new information. She asked, "Then who is that guy in the white beard?" I explained that the Santas we see around town are people dressed up like Santa. "Why in the world would they do that?" she wondered. So funny, the way her mind works! Overall, it was a good conversation. Whew! I reminded her that Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus. She said, "Oh, I know. I told my Sunday school class the whole story of Christmas. No one knew it except me and the teacher. I was the hero."
So the truth is out. Part of me still feels sad, but she is growing up and I knew the truth would come out one way or another. I'd rather she hear it from me than from kids at school. I feel I did the right thing to maintain her trust.