For a moment, I considered staring at her blankly and then gasping: “There’s no Santa?” Instead, I replied, “Oh, is she OK?”
“She’s furious at me for lying to her for 10 years.”
I went back to smiling and nodding. What could I say?
I think lying to your children isn’t such a bad thing, especially when they are little and the lie can help preserve some of the world’s hopeful innocence and enchantment for them.
And I believe in Santa Claus. No, really, I do. Am I lying about that? How would you know?
My neighbor apparently has a lot of company. There is a nationwide trend of parents rushing to tell their little children that there is no Santa.
They tell their children there is no Santa Claus, because they don’t want to lie to their kids. “It’s disconcerting when people say something is real, and then it’s not real,” one such parent told The Post recently. So when it came to her own holiday parenting choices, she resolved to “prioritize the truth.”
These same parents, who have no qualms about ruining Christmas and faith and joy for their own kids, are strangely sensitive about ruining it for others.
So they tell their kids, to whom they don’t want to lie, to “pretend” and “play the game” with the other kids and tell those kids that there is a Santa Claus — how is that not lying?
You see, they don’t want to offend other kids’ belief systems, and they want to continue to be invited to Christmas parties.
The spoilsports won’t allow their children to believe in the magic of Santa, but they ask their kids to pretend he does exist when they are around other kids who believe in Santa.
Follow that? Headache-inducing, isn’t it? Oh, the years of therapy. . . .
So which is wrong: lying about Santa, or lying about lying about Santa?
I remember when Susie Denk told me in third grade that there was no Santa. I immediately reported this to my mother. My mom asked, “Well, what do you think?”
I said, “It’s sad that Susie Denk doesn’t believe in him, because now Santa won’t come to her house.”
My mom agreed and changed the subject. No harm, no foul.
Remember, when you tell your kid there is no Santa, your kid will run to school to tell another kid. And I hate to break it to you, but your kid isn’t going to break the news in a gentle, understanding, empathetic way.
Your kid is going to run up to the nearest kid and say, “Hey, Ralph, guess what? There’s no Santa. It’s your parents leaving presents under the tree. Don’t you feel stupid, you sap!”
And why is your little angel being so mean to poor, hapless Ralph? Maybe because she’s pissed off that she was told “the truth” by her dopey parents. So now she has to make her happy peers miserable.
Everyone knows that if you don’t believe in Santa, then he won’t come. You will get stuck buying all the gifts yourself. And if you do believe in Santa, you will buy or create gifts with pleasure, because Santa is in you — or because Santa is your parents who are now grandparents, and they are helping you buy gifts for the kids because they love them so much and because they always kept believing.
And what about the guy at the mall who plays Santa and spreads so much joy? Is Santa in him? Or the mysterious person who went to Walmart and paid off everyone’s layaway for the holiday season.
Was that not Santa?
And when each of my four children came running home from school confused and demanding to know what the deal was, because some kid had blurted out “the truth,” I smiled and said: “Of course there’s a Santa!”
Was I lying? Only Santa knows.
Susan Konig is a publisher and the author of three books, including “Why Animals Sleep So Close to the Road (and Other Lies I Tell My Children).” Twitter: @SusanKonig