The other day one of my twin four year olds asked me “Mama, is there only one Santa Claus?” Having seen Santa just that week at the mall, the zoo and a local tea house, he was understandably confused. After congratulating myself on having a brilliant kid, I did, what many parents do, I lied, or shall we say, I continued the lie I had begun telling him several years earlier. “Of course there’s only one Santa. Why do you ask?” “Well,” said Quinn, “his beard was different.” “He probably got a haircut, I mean a beard trim, you know like your Papa does sometimes?” I thought myself rather clever. “No Mama, it was longer,” he replied. I proceeded to make up some an absurd story about how Santa’s beard tended to grow faster than most because of it being so cold in the North Pole. In the last few weeks I’ve told my boys that Santa’s reindeer live at the zoo and the Academy of Science while they rest up for their big flight. I’ve recounted how elves make toys—but only eco-friendly toys, because Santa would never allow the lead and phalates in plastic to harm little children, and that the bad toys are sometimes accidentally purchased by parents who don’t know better. All this has been done while being sure to explain that vampires are not real, that witches and monsters are all make-believe (except for The Switch Witch) and that heaven is something some people believe in and some people don’t. While I remember cherishing the myth of Santa Claus (despite my atheistic upbringing and my 1/8 Jewish blood) I question the moral logic of teaching my children that lying is a high moral crime, even as I lie to them. My second dilemma remains: Why am I teaching my kids to wait in anticipation for a day when a mythical person will bring them lots of stuff?
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