Grandpop Dreads the Santa Claus Question

Grandpa plans to leave the room when kids ask if Santa is real

I am hoping to survive another Christmas without being confronted with questions about the existence of Santa Claus.

With nine grandchildren, I have lived in mortal fear that one of them would ask with wide-eyed innocence, "Grandpop, my friend told me there is no Santa Claus; is that true?”

The simple way around this is to vehemently deny the friend’s hard-hearted revelation, but I have made a promise: Never lie to my grandchildren.

"You’re not really lying,” says my wife, Marie, but I disagree. "But it’s a lie for a good cause,” she counters. Teaching a course in Communication Ethics, I am constantly prodding my students to think about lying as a form of unethical behavior. We have frequently discussed whether the so-called "little white lies” should be in a different category.

For example, do you tell your wife the truth – that the new dress she just bought makes her look dumpy - or do you avoid confrontation and, perhaps, the silent treatment that will likely follow, and lie?

If my eight-year-old granddaughter, Andrea, confronts me with the dreaded Santa Claus question, I probably will refer her to her parents. Let them be the bearers of bad news.

I admit to being ultra-sensitive because of the hare-brained, unthinking sin I committed when I was 10. I had stopped believing in Santa Claus a year earlier when I questioned the improbability that one man could visit every house in the world during one night’s hours of darkness – with flying reindeer no less.

When I approached my mother with my suspicions, she at first tried to lead me in a different direction. When it became apparent I was not going to drop the subject, she finally admitted that it was she and pop who provided the Christmas Day goodies.

Now armed with the truth, I was prepared to confront the believers with my newly acquired knowledge and debunk this whole Santa Claus scam. The first opportunity came when we were visiting my mother’s friend in Bethlehem. The friend’s seven-year-old granddaughter was there, too.

We were playing a game when the topic of Santa came up. She was going on about what she wanted Santa to bring her for Christmas. I told her straight out: "You’re a fool; there is no Santa Claus.”

I saw a look come over her face that was not unlike the terror one experiences when learning of the loss of a loved one or a pet. Seconds later, she screamed and began sobbing uncontrollably. Her mother and my mother ran to find out what had happened. She told them what I had said.

My mother flashed me a look which, translated, meant, "You’re in big trouble when we get home, mister.” My mother did punish me when we got home. I was thoroughly confused: I was being punished for telling the truth. Where’s the fairness? Didn’t mom always admonish me: Never lie?

My mother tried to explain that I had no business to be the one to break such crushing news to a seven-year-old believer. The girl’s mother reported several days later that her daughter had had recurring nightmares about my disclosure and she, too, was really angry about my insensitivity.

Chastened by this long-ago episode, I now want to make sure I don’t compound my error by mishandling a direct Santa question. All I want for Christmas is to be spared the question in the first place. That’s probably why when Andrea is around and the topic of Christmas and Santa come up, I will quickly excuse myself and leave the room.

Chuck December 24, 2011 at 01:13 PM
I have just simply said it is something they have to decide for themselves. Everyone can believe what they want. Just don't tell others what you believe is the only answer and their belief makes them a "fool" as you did. You didn't understand so I don't intend to sound mean :) I know young children, like you were, probably just don't understand this. I am sure I didn't understand this when I was a kid either. I am pretty sure I didn't tell others santa was not real though. I agree it is not easy and I try to avoid it at all costs too. I like to think of it this way, in this world full of both joy and disappointment, just the idea to "be good for goodness sake" is positive. Call them Santa, the spirit of the season, or "insert your own positive role model here". Not sure I enjoy making it a situation where if you do good you get physical gifts/presents, i.e. more stuff. Maybe if you are good - just the good feeling should be enough, but try explaining that to a 4 year old who wants their first "insert item here" :) Great story! Good luck.
Ann Wlazelek December 24, 2011 at 03:27 PM
Nicely written Bruce - I too spilled the beans to a younger cousin next door and forever regretted it (after a scolding) . Merry Christmas whatever room you are in!
Jodi fernafers October 12, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Hi santa


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