Jim Kayes’ blog: Things you shouldn’t say at Christmas

This week Jim reflects on the trouble with telling the truth

“Dad,” she asked from the back seat,” is Santa real?”
I looked sideways at my wife in the front passenger seat and she quickly slumped against her door, pretending to be asleep. I was on my own.
“What do you think?” I lamely replied.
“Dad, you know. Just tell me. Is Santa real?”
I tried to demur again by asking if she wanted Santa to be real.
“Dad,” she said with exasperation, “you’re a journalist, and you are meant to deal in facts, so just tell me, is Santa real?”

I felt like a fly pinned to a board. There was no wriggle room. No escape.
“Look, love,” I said, “it’s clear you think he isn’t real and that’s okay. You need to also understand that other kids believe in Santa and it’s not for you to tell them Santa isn’t real, okay.”
“But Dad,” she replied, “we all know he isn’t. He can’t fly around the world that fast and we don’t have a chimney so how does he come inside the house? And why doesn’t Max bark at him?” (Maximus is our dog.)
Kids are extremely logical. They work out early that it’s implausible to have a fat fella flying around the world on a sled towed by reindeers.
As the eldest said that day in the car: “It takes you two days to fly home from England Dad so how does Santa do it?”
And there’s the waistline and chimney sizes, not to mention the fact our last two houses didn’t have fireplaces. But as right as she was about Santa, she was dead wrong in her belief that she had company from her cousins in her stance that the jolly fella was a fake.

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It made for an awkward Christmas as parents tried to repair the damage that our heretic part of the family had inflicted on the festive season. Tears flowed, and I was persona non grata because I had confirmed the truth.
I tried to suggest we abandon the whole Santa thing and all save a small fortune so we could just shop for Mum and Dad, not Santa too. That didn’t work.
I tried to take the moral high ground by asking how good it was to allow our children to believe that an overweight man in a red suit that no one had ever met was allowed to slip, unannounced, into our homes. That failed spectacularly.
My wife, she who had been “asleep” when things got away on me in the car, put in a partial fix when she told our nephews and nieces that Santa only delivered to boys and girls who believe in him.
It’s a philosophy both our girls adopted with a passion when it came to the Tooth Fairy as they realised loose teeth were a perfect way to generate cash. The youngest once left a note explaining to the Tooth Fairy that her older sister had received $2 for a tooth but she really needed $3 and “Would Dad please pay $3”. She didn’t seem to appreciate the slip she’d made.
Kids are happy for a myth to continue when it works in their favour, and the youngest is a champion at this.
Playing on my love of chocolate she kept the Easter Bunny going at least two years past what should have been his final hop through our home.
And she was more than happy to “believe” in Santa for as long as she could even when she had conclusive evidence to the contrary. One Christmas she unwrapped a present that was left by Santa at the end of her bed and saw the shop tag had inadvertently been left on the clothing she’d received. She ran to our bedroom all excited and yelling “Look, Mum, Santa shops at Cotton On too”.

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Have a safe and happy Christmas.

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