Yes, It’s a Lie — But I Hope Our Son Believes in Santa Forever

One Brooklyn mom I know has a 10-year-old son in fifth grade, heading to middle school in the fall. Sounds like he’s growing up fast. But over coffee last week, she revealed that her boy still believes in Santa Claus. She’s not exactly sure if her boy truly believes, but she’s willing to keep up the ruse. “He goes along with it,” she says.

For him, why not go with the flow? There’s no downside as far as a kid can see: If you believe, Santa brings you presents. If you don’t, what then? It’s probably slightly easier to keep up the idea when no older siblings are involved — although other school kids have plenty of opportunity to tell the truth and mercilessly tease believers.

Turns out more older kids believe in Saint Nick than I thought. Another friend told me her 10-year-old still hangs on to Santa as well. But, she says, “I feel like he’s catching on. Every year we leave cookies and milk for Santa, but this year he wants to leave Santa a beer.” Oh dear. Well, it’s a long winter’s night.

I can’t imagine A, who just turned 7, believing in Santa until he’s 10 (he asks so many questions), but I certainly hope he does. I want to keep the magic going as long as we can. When he first arrived from Ethiopia two years ago, he had never heard of Santa. But we may have overdone it a bit to convince him. Come his first Christmas morning, he was upset Santa didn’t have pancakes with us

One of my older brothers, who has two sons 11 and 14, never bought in to the whole Santa thing. When he first had children, my younger brother and I were horrified when our big brother declared he didn’t want to encourage Santa Claus mythology because he didn’t want to lie to his kids. His wife was more open to letting Santa come down the chimney and leave presents. My younger brother and I were pleased during those early Christmases at their home that indeed some presents came from Santa.

However, my older brother does say that he never lied to his kids. If his kids ask him if Santa Claus exists, he turns the question on them, asking “What do you think?” That’s a great response and useful in many situations. A’s questions aren’t so tough. His latest inquiry: What does Santa eat? Answer: Anything but reindeer, according to, which has all the answers! When my neighbor’s 6-year-old daughter (now 12) asked her if Santa was real, she told her the truth (much to her husband’s dismay). Even so, her daughter continued to play the game — and not reveal the truth about Kris Kringle to her younger sister.

When it comes to Santa Claus, my husband and I are okay with making the magic. After all, they aren’t going to be lifelong beliefs (like God) — and who gets mad at their parents for pretending there is a Santa? That would be the last thing to send kids into therapy. If at some point, A knows but continues to play the game, we could be accused of all being enablers, but the most harmless sort. 

When I figured out that Santa was my mom and dad (probably a secret spilled by my older brothers), I eventually understood why they were so tired on Christmas Day… and later admired all their hard work. It was the one time of the year, they seemed incredibly organized. All because of Santa. It may have been his greatest gift. The living room was vacuumed; presents were meticulously wrapped (with ribbons and bows); foiled-wrapped chocolate “oranges” were in our stockings; logs in the fireplace was ready to be lit —  and so was the plum pudding (which dad doused in bourbon before setting aflame). The candelabra was spruced up with red candles and freshly picked holly. Pretty Christmas cookies from the Saturday-only farmer’s market (this was the ‘60s and ’70s after all) were at each place setting. It worked partly due the Santa deadline. When we were older, mom would finish wrapping presents in the bedroom, while we kids waited impatiently for her to be finished. All pretense gone.

But it was still magical. We may have been polishing the candelabra before dinner in the later years, but we still got to sample homemade egg nog and enjoy an entire day together — along with extended family members. Today, I still believe in the Santa in the “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” way (Virginia was 8, by the way), but that piece, as lovely as it is, isn’t aimed at 10-year-olds. So I’m happy 10-year-olds are still believers — and hopefully we can keep the magical mystery going just as long. I’m happy we are now the exhausted parents.

Photo: Getty