We are not ready for this.

Last week was a busy week. I had three events in the evening that kept me out well past when the boys went to bed. They were good about it, but that didn’t assuage the daddy-guilt of missing story time and tuck-ins, etc. I was not, however, prepared for Friday morning.

Our wake-up routine is not, shall we say, always pretty. I don’t want to get out of bed, neither does K. My snooze button is dimpled from multiple presses. C is fine once he wakes up and generally starts talking to you right away. (He’s our morning person and his parents don’t get him.) M, on the other hand, makes his hatred of all things morning known as soon as you walk in the room. Covers are pulled up over his head, back turned to you and he knows how to dodge a morning kiss without even looking. So, as I walked in to their room Friday morning I was unprepared for what met me.

Both boys were awake and looking at me as I walked in. C was peering over the railing from the top bunk and looked concerned. M was staring me down. I assumed I was about to be yelled at for not being home the night before. Even the dog had fled her normal post at the foot of their bed.

“Daddy,” M began before I could say anything in my own defense, “are Dementors real?” (if you’re not familiar with Harry Potter, these are the Dementors.) C stuck his head up a bit higher over the rail and M sat up to look at me. I could tell this had already been a subject of discussion and I would be delivering a factual blow to one or the other. “I don’t think so. I think they only exist in Harry Potter. But, I’m a Muggle, so I wouldn’t be able to see them anyways, right?” I grinned, someone pleased at my evasion. C’s eyes narrowed and M looked pleased. Then, he delivered the knockout punch:

“And what about Santa Claus?”

I felt all the blood drain out of my head. It was 6:30 in the morning. I had only had about 5 hours of sleep and no coffee yet. This was not fair. I was not ready for this.

I dodged. “Why,” I asked, “do you think Santa is a dementor?” C guffawed and M gave me a pitying look. It seems his older brother had been trying to convince him of the existence of both.

As it turned out, M had grilled his mother in a similar fashion, though sans dementors, the night before as he laid out his belief that Santa was really just parents buying presents for their kids and that he probably wasn’t real. K and I both stuck to the party line, however, and defended Nick’s reputation and existence. The matter was dropped pretty matter of factly and both boys ran downstairs to have breakfast. K had done a bunk and escaped into the shower during the conversation, so I stood in the dark of their room for a minute.

This just doesn’t seem right, though. Okay, the illusion will break, sure, but not usually at 5, right? And usually not with younger children first?

K’s conversation the night before had determined that TV commercials had raised some of these questions, as every store in existence seems to be running a commercial debunking Santa, or having parents dress up as Santa, etc. I am half tempted to organize a parent boycott of Target, Best Buy, et al. for all the grey hairs they’re likely giving parents with kids who still believe in Santa.

Now, of course, I’m worried about what M truly thinks. He has never raised the issue again, and while I’d like to think he took daddy’s knowledge and authority to heart, he is far too much a skeptic and will probably wait for me to be taking a sip a really hot coffee before he raises it again. But, now we’re worried. Do we tell him the truth? Is he ready for the truth? Do we tell him and not his older brother? Do we think the secret would last more than 3 seconds if we did?

And if we do tell him, will I find a mob of angry parents waiting for me in the school yard one morning when my kid tells all his classmates? Besides the naughty and nice lever, do we really lose anything by not having Santa? (Okay, I might be slightly giddy at the idea of not having to find new places for the elf of the shelf to sit, but that seems petty.)

We’re pretty straight with our kids. They know about death. We recently had to explain divorce to them when they asked for friends of ours to come over for dinner. They know not to say they’re “starving.” They know there are bad words (yes, they’ve probably heard them too) and why not to say them. If they want to know about complicated subjects, I’m happy to talk to them, but this one just seems wrong somehow.

I don’t really remember when I stopped believing. It feels like one year Santa didn’t bring anything, but I had a lot more presents from my parents than usual. A nice, easy transition. But, disabusing my own kids about this doesn’t sit well with me. Not yet at least.

So, dear readers, what do you suggest? How did you handle the Santa question if and when it came up?

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