By Dennette Bailey

When I was a youngster, my sisters and I were hardcore believers in Santa Claus – all the way up to the 4th grade!

I will never forget the day when my younger sister and I were at the grocery store with my mother walking through the aisles talking to each other about all the toys we hoped Santa would bring us. It was during this conversation (Did I mention we were walking through the aisles in the grocery store?), that my mother must have realized we were going to believe in Santa Claus forever and she felt compelled to dash our dreams. I mean tell us the truth.

She was quite nervous when she said, “I have something to tell you guys and you are not going to like it.” Even as a youngster so many things ran through my mind about what she might be about to reveal to us, but I assure you I was not ready for the words: “There is no Santa Clause.”  I was flabbergasted to say the least, and I was angry, as was my younger sister.

At first we tried to convince her she was wrong and then we wanted explanations for the reason she kept the lie going beyond the ordinary.

For instance, I asked her “What about the time I got out of bed and you said to go back to bed because Santa’s sled had broken down and he has to come back to bring the rest of your presents?”

“Your father’s car broke down,” she replied. “And we needed more time to put your bikes together.”

“What about the times you told us if we woke up early Santa would put salt in our eyes?” we asked.

“That was because we were always up late putting toys together,” she replied.

It went on and on like that in the grocery store until finally my sister and I said, “So you have been lying to us all these years?” My mother apologized and said she never intended for it to go on so long but every year we kept believing and she loved seeing us so happy for Christmas. She said she had hoped someone from school would have told us so she would not have had to but that never happened.

For me personally, it was devastating. I was already going through some other issues and so this lie solidified for me that adults could not be trusted. As a result, when I had children I refused to teach them about Santa and when they asked I told them that Santa was not real but that they should not reveal this to other children as that was their parent’s responsibility.

I will never forget one year my oldest daughter was 6 years old and she came to me and said she couldn’t wait for Santa to come. I quickly reminded her that there was no Santa and she responded by storming out of the room saying “I want to believe! I want to believe!”

It was then that I decided to compromise with her and I told her there is no Santa but we can pretend there is. I owe my daughter much gratitude because, in me, she woke the desire and ability to enjoy pretend and fantasy play. Since then I have always enjoyed throwing a party, creating child play spaces and being a teacher. It has allowed me to reclaim my childhood and make a decision to create, imagine and be whimsical just because I want to.

Maybe most children will not experience the devastation I did when they find out there is no Santa. But, for those who are perplexed by the whole ordeal I will tell you that I am grateful that my daughter spoke up because she allowed me to see, that while I don’t have to participate blindly in experiences, I also don’t have to give up my creative self. I can choose to live a colorful, fun and imaginative life. I can create it myself. I still avoid any talk of Santa (come on people, trauma takes years to get over!) but Santa talk doesn’t make me angry. On the contrary, it makes me more imaginative! I’m the happiest when I am creating and providing spaces of wonder for children and I respect that many people use Santa to do this very thing with their own children.

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