Over the years, I've waffled about what I want to tell my kids about Santa. Originally, I didn't really want to buy into the whole thing, didn't want to lie to my kids about a jolly (though mall santas are rarely jolly) bearded man breaking into our house through our chimney (which we don't have) and leaving presents, presents we are allowed to open and eat if they are candy, despite ALSO telling them that eating candy from strangers is ABSOLUTELY NOT OKAY, NO NOT EVER.
Anyway. But as my daughter began talking, I realized that if I didn't tell her Santa exists, I have to tell her he doesn't, since talk of Santa in any group of children is rampant near Christmas. And if you know your average 3 and 4 year old, you know what THAT would mean..."MY mom says Santa isn't real!" So that option was out.
Then I adopted a "less said the better" attitude. I didn't deny Santa his gift bringing myths, I just downplayed them. We didn't go see Santa at the mall (easier to do in Pullman, a small town with no malls. There is a mall in the nearby town, but it was easily avoided.) When questioned, I briefly mentioned how Santa brought stockings that he laid on the ends of childrens' beds at night. For the first couple of years this worked. Santa was in charge of the stockings, the presents under the tree were from mom, dad, and The Grandmas.
Then the year Kaia was 5, it all unravelled on me. We had gone to my mom's house for Christmas. All the presents were wrapped, under the tree, and had been intimately scrutinized by one very precocious 5 year old. As I tucked her into bed, it happened. "Mom," she said. "I can't wait to see what Santa brings me."
"Remember, Sweetie?" I told her, then kissed her forehead. "Santa will bring your stocking, all filled with fun things, and put it on your bed for you to find in the morning!"
"Yes," She said, and grinned. "But Elizabeth at school said Santa ALSO brings the BEST presents and puts them under the tree! I can't WAIT to see what he puts under the tree for me!"
I managed a weak smile. "Okay dear, see you in the morning! I love you, good night."
Shit. What was I supposed to do?! Tell her, well, yes, Santa brings ELIZABETH the best present under the tree AND her stocking, but for you? Just a stocking. Santa must not love you as much as he loves Elizabeth. At that moment, I couldn't think of anything good. So into my mom's room I ran. "Mom! Quick, is there anything you have that we could wrap up for Santa to give Kaia? She's already seen all the presents under the tree, so I can't change a label!" I related then story of Elizabeth and her materialistic Santa (no, I wasn't irritated at all) and she sprung to action, like she always has when I need help. She searched her closet for any little things she had put away for possible gifts later. She came up with a coffee mug that had an Indian horse on it, a matching book, and a chunk of amethyst. "Perfect!" I said. We wrapped them all up in different paper than any of the gifts already displayed, and put them under the tree, proudly displaying their "For Kaia! From Santa!" labels.
It worked. For Kaia at age 5, a mug, a book, and a purple rock could equal "the BESTEST presents" under the tree. She was thrilled with Santa and his strange habits.
So over the next couple of years, Santa put things under the tree. I still didn't mention him if I could help it, and we never went to a mall.
This year, Kaia is 7. And she is full of certain knowledges of what Santa can do. Which is anything he wants to. So this year? She asked for a Bolt bike. Bolt is the new animated movie from Disney, it came out on Thanksgiving, though we won tickets to an advance showing. And guess what? It's not in any way an important enough movie for them to design bicycles with a Bolt theme. There's a few shirts out there, and overpriced plush toys. I told her Santa may not be able to find a Bolt bike, if they haven't made them. She scornfully told me Santa is magic, and can do anything he wants, which most certainly includes the simple task of designing and bringing her a Bolt bike. (I mean, sheesh, her friend Liam? Believes wholeheartedly that Santa is bringing him a room-cleaning robot. Next to that, what's a Bolt bike or two?)
I have assured her that even if Santa does not bring a Bolt bike, he will find the very best bike for her. She remains unconvinced. Andrea (Liam's mom), suggested buying a plain bike and Bolt decals and decorating it myself. Excellent idea!!! Saved!! Or...not. No Bolt decals available.
Then we went to the mall to make gingerbread houses. And guess who was there? yep. In all his redsuited whitebearded glory. And since he had no idea what Kaia meant when she said "I want a bolt bike, okay? thanks!" he simply smiled, nodded, and looked for the next child. She was ecstatic. Santa confirmed her belief! I sighed, took her hand, and reiterated that though I was sure Santa would look high and low, IF he couldn't find a Bolt bike, he would bring her a wonderful bike nonetheless.
Thursday we went to another mall to ride the quarter rides while we waited to go pick up Mike before our doctor appointments. I breathed a sigh of relief as we walked by the empty set-up where Santa would later sit. Kaia wasn't worried, she'd already sat in the fat man's lap and been absentmindedly promised her dream bike.
Then a bit later, we walked by it again. And lo and behold, Santa was JUST THEN sitting down for his evening shift. There were no other kids in sight. The costumed man, at the beginning of his shift, was still jolly. I hadn't even noticed him, but Kaia of course stopped dead in the middle of the hall and grinned at him. Earlier she had found a fake poinsettia blossom on the floor, and was carrying it lovingly with her, grand plans of room decoration in mind. Santa twinkled at her, and crooked his finger... come here! She looked at me for permission (good girl!) and ran to him, the only child around, except for Ben, and plopped herself down. Santa had time to chat. "Have you been a good girl?"
She nodded enthusiastically. "Yep!" Then she had an idea. "Here, Santa, this is for you!" She handed him the bedraggled poinsettia flower.
Santa looked surprised. "Thank you!"
Kaia grinned at him. And he asked the Question. Her answer was the same. He looked a little perplexed, not knowing what a "boltbike" might be. I saw my chance. "I'm sure that Santa will bring you a wonderful bike, even if it's not a Disney's Bolt bike!" I smiled encouragingly at Santa. Being a bit more awake than the previous one, he smiled back. "That's right" he said, not really understanding but realizing I need help, and handed her a candy cane. Ben had climbed up onto the stage and stood about 2 feet from Santa, staring transfixed. Santa handed him a candy cane too, winning Ben over for life.
We walked away, the kids eating their canes, and Kaia talked about how much nicer this Santa was than the other one. The idea of multiple Santas is fine with her. Then I found out why.
"Now I'm getting TWO BOLT BIKES!!!!" She said, skipping happily toward the door. "I told TWO Santas!"
I quickly nixed that whole idea by explaining that Santas talked to each other through email, so ONE bike POSSIBLY NOT BOLT, would be waiting under the tree.
She is still firmly convinced she will get a Bolt bike. I hope this doesn't ruin Christmas for her. Since we're not religious, Christmas is, unfortunately, still about presents to her. Yes, she's excited to see family. Yes, she's excited to GIVE gifts. But, mostly? She's excited about her Bolt bike.
Santa? God? Flying Spaghetti Monster? Any deity or mythical characters out there want to help? There's cookies and milk in it for you....