by Jennifer Byrne
‘Tis the season – to tell massive lies to your kids!
Yes, even in the most open-minded, truth-embracing households, it’s common practice for parents to annually impersonate an obese saint who has no tolerance for shouting, crying, or pouting. What about lying, Santa? Hmm, it seems Santa is conspicuously silent on that issue, even though “cry” and “lie” are probably the two most commonly rhymed words in songwriting history.
But if you’re a parent, you know exactly what your job is at Christmas: to buy and lie (this, by the way, happens to be the title of my new Christmas song). Your task is to pass down the same absurd whoppers your parents told you, the ones that caused you such disillusionment and psychic pain when you got down to their rotten core (Hey, at least Mommy’s “adulterous” makeout session with Santa Claus stopped weighing on your tortured little conscience after that!).
Ah, childhood! It’s so magical!
Of course, you technically don’t have to lie, but what are your options, really? You could be one of those rare, super-PC parents who decide to empower your children with the truth, also known as “the least popular parent on the block.” You don’t want to be a sopping wet Snugli, do you? Here are some tips for more effective deception:
1. Develop Your “Character.” One of the first flaws your kids are likely to find in the whole Santa Claus farce will be that shoddy impersonation seen at the local department store, Moose lodge, or holiday parade. Often, these are out-of-work actors, college kids working for minimum wage, or that crazy old man in town whose jolliness may or may not come directly from a flask of Jack Daniel’s.
Your child might ask, “Why did Santa’s beard fall off while I was talking to him?” or “Why does Santa have D-cup breasts?” or “Why does Santa’s breath smell like Nick Nolte after a rough night?”
At first you might want to panic, but don’t. This one’s easy; just rely on the time-tested “helper explanation.” Tell your children that this isn’t the real Santa, but a local helper who dresses up as his likeness. Sort of like Elvis impersonators, they represent the actual Santa, because he can’t be everywhere at once. Also like Elvis impersonators, they have unconvincing hair and ridiculously oversized belt buckles.
Another important trick is to individualize your family’s version of the myth.
Unfortunately, most co-conspirators of the Santa scam are decidedly small-time, “Mom& Pop” operations, and seem to have a lot of trouble keeping their stories straight between households. Your kids are going to come home from school saying, “At Braden’s house, the Reindeer leave a note” or “At Sophia’s house, Santa wraps the presents” or “Jayden gets a $100 bill in his stocking.” Explain to your kids that since he is so amazing and omniscient, Santa treats each child individually. Tell them, for example, that at your house, Santa writes the note personally, since he knows your kid is way too smart to be corresponding with some dumb reindeer. Or you can say that Santa knows how environmentally conscious your family is, and would never waste paper on your behalf. Or say that Santa only gives cash to kids he doesn’t love enough to shop for. Yeah, maybe skip that last one.
2. Use a Time Travel Theory. OK, so you’ve convinced your kids that the barely credible mall “helpers” make public appearances because Santa can’t be everywhere at once. But then you’re going to turn around and tell them that on Christmas Eve, Santa makes it around the entire globe in 12 hours. I’m sure you see the problem here. Oops, there goes your credibility, right down the chimney!
Sooner or later, your kids are going to have serious doubts about the whole time setup. At this point, you can either give up, or raise the level of your game. Try introducing a theory of time travel, which claims that for one night only, Santa is able to transcend the space/time continuum and occupy infinite parallel universes. Whereas before, you had to just shrug and say, “It’s magic,” now you can shrug and say, “It’s a traversable wormhole.”
3. Keep the Magic, Lose the Hypocrisy. Anyone who has ever lied knows that the best way to do it convincingly is to believe in your lie. And the best way to believe in the Santa lie is to not be a steaming pile of hypocrisy about it. This means not using Santa Claus as a means of enforcing moral behavior in your kids. Yes, yes, that notorious Santa-as-Big-Brother song encourages it, but that ditty was written in 1934, when it was also cool to get your kids to mix you an Old Fashioned while rolling you a cigar. You, as a modern Santa, might feel a little bit uneasy about using a colossal lie to keep your kids from doing wrong. So don’t! That’s what “Wait ‘til Daddy gets home” is for.
Instead, focus on the positive aspect of this lie, which is to keep the magic alive for your kids.
The truth is, we live in a world where “magic” is a retired basketball player and “wonder” is a processed white bread that’s horrible for you. If your kids are lucky enough to believe in Santa for a while, let them. Sure, it’s all a big act, but it’s an act that will make their little faces light up with anticipation and joy. And really, it’s not exactly the only holiday that is jam-packed with B.S. and crushing disappointment. Just wait until they experience Valentine’s Day!
Jennifer Byrne is the author of “Fake It: More than 100 Tips, Tricks and Shortcuts Every Woman Needs to Know” (Adams Media) and “The Intrepid Parent’s Field Guide to the Baby Kingdom” (Adams Media). Visit her online athttp://jenniferbyrnevirtually.com/.