By Laura Simon

Here we are, one week from Christmas, and I’m this close to telling my kids Santa isn’t real.

I won’t do it, of course, because I know the day is coming when they’ll figure it out on their own and then I’ll be sad. But seriously, the man is becoming more work than he’s worth.

When the kids were little and put realistic, affordable things on their Christmas lists, it was all sorts of fun. They asked, we delivered, the man in red got the credit. It was cool.

But this year, all three children have decided to push the envelope. Santa, after all, serves as a last-ditch option for the things you’re pretty sure your parents won’t get you. My 4-year-old, for example, asked Santa for a baby unicorn. I had to veer into damage-control mode and explain unicorns are prohibited by the HOA, so that particular request will have to wait until we move to a farm. (And also, unicorns AREN’T REAL…but neither is Santa.) Fortunately, four-year-olds are easily distracted, and she quickly adjusted her expectations to a stuffed baby unicorn and a unicorn house. Remarkably, Amazon sells such a thing, so we’re good.

The third-grader is more sophisticated. When we moved to North Carolina two years ago, he quickly converted his allegiance to the UNC Tarheels. This wouldn’t be a big deal, except that his father went to the University of Kentucky. In case you live on another planet don’t know, Kentucky and UNC hate each other with the fire of a thousand suns. The only way to hurt his father more would have been to swear allegiance to Duke.

This child knows better than to ask his father for a Tarheel hoodie, but he’s pretty sure Santa doesn’t pick sides. That hoodie was the top thing on his Christmas list, of course. Little brother is having Santa doubts, but he says if big brother gets the Tarheel hoodie, he’ll still believe.

Big brother didn’t stop there, though. This is the child who has wanted a pet frog for at least three years. And for at least three years, he’s gotten a hard ‘no’ from his parents. You guessed it: this year the frog is on the Christmas list. After a long, hard conversation between Santa and his parents, the frog is going to happen. But guess where all the Christmas presents live in the days approaching Christmas? My closet. And guess what needs to be purchased and installed in his new home before the big day? The frog. Oh, and guess what said frog eats? LIVE CRICKETS. Santa didn’t mention that. So now I have an amphibian and batch of live crickets hanging out right behind my sweaters. Christmas can’t come soon enough.

The thing is: this kid shouldn’t believe. He’s eight. His buddy came out and told him that Santa is actually his dad. My child’s response? “No way. My dad is WAY TOO YOUNG to be Santa.” That made his dad so happy he might be forgiven for rooting for the wrong team.

And what about the first-grade brother, the one having doubts? Emboldened by his brother’s requests, he decided to ask for a bunny. A live bunny. First of all, wrong holiday, kid. And also, one pet per holiday seems like enough. I mean, let’s make sure we can keep the frog alive before we add something with fur. The bunny had to be explained away like the live unicorn. We have to manage expectations, folks. We work way too hard on this to have tears of disappointment on the big day.

I feel kind of like a 10-year-old, trying to lie my way out of being in trouble and digging myself deeper into the hole with each word. This Santa myth is becoming more work than actually buying and wrapping the presents. But if I tell my kids the truth, then I have to put all my effort into making sure they don’t ruin it for anyone else. There’s really no good option out there. So Santa it is, for at least one more year. I sure hope he brings me something good.

Tell us: what’s the craziest thing you’ve done to preserve the magic of Christmas for your kids?

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