Published in Conversations With My Boys .


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Me: Tell me about Santa.
santaBA (10): People say he’s a fat guy who likes milk and cookies, defies physics and flies around on a sled with flying reindeer, goes around the world delivering presents to everyone in one day. But what he really is, is the guy who gives stuff in secret which I can believe a lot easier.
Me: What do you mean?
BA: Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas gave in secret. Like Santa Claus does.
Me: But Saint Nicholas is dead. How can he give children stuff?
BA: People do what he did. They say it’s Santa Claus giving when they give in secret. Santa is the name they use for secret giving. They’re doing what Saint Nicholas did. Giving in secret.
Me: Yeah that’s….
BA: But the Santa thing doesn’t make any sense. You can’t get around the world and deliver presents all in one night. People make stuff up to convince you it happens but it doesn’t make sense. He has a magical bag because the sled can’t hold all the presents for all the kids in the world. Flying reindeer? Goofball. People think he comes down your chimney. What if you don’t have a chimney? And what if you have a whole bunch of stuff in front of your fireplace. And if you have a chimney like ours, how is he going to get in?
Me: What are your thoughts on this?
BA: It’s like believing in superheroes or something from a movie. I just don’t believe in magic. I think things have a reason. There’s a reason behind everything. If you don’t know the reason something happened that doesn’t mean it’s magic. There’s never been magic. Everything that happens has a reason. You have to think. You have to figure out that reason. What it is that makes something happen.
Me: You sound annoyed by it.
BA: I’m annoyed that someone would make something up like that. Why? Tell the kid the truth. What about kids who believe that Santa is magic and ask for things like a house or food or to get better from something? Don’t make something up. There are reasons for things.
Me: Do you remember that April Fool’s video I showed you when you were little? The one with the flying penguins.
BA: No.
Me: You were aware that penguins couldn’t fly. We had told you that. But when you saw the video you were so excited. You really wanted for penguins to be able to fly so you were so excited. And I had to immediately tell you it was an April Fool’s video. You were so sad. Even though you knew they couldn’t fly the video looked real and for a second you really were excited because you wanted to believe it and then you were crushed. It was awful.
BA: Kids can be fooled. They’ll believe things they really want to believe. Sometimes I want to tell my friends that he’s not real. They just go on and on about it and it doesn’t make sense.
Me: I think you need to leave it alone if someone believes in Santa Claus.
BA: They just go on and on about it. It’s not true but they really want to believe it. There’s nothing you can do about kids who believe in Santa Claus anyway. They don’t want to know what’s true. You wonder what they’re going to believe in next. Pixies? You just have to go along with it.
Me: Throughout your life you’re going to meet people who willfully believe things that are clearly untrue and you’re just going to have to hold your tongue and know that it’s really important to them to believe this thing. Santa is practice for that.
BA: But even their parents will tell you, “Yeah, there’s no Santa but we still do Santa at our house.” There is no magic. There are reasons that things happen. You have to figure things out.

He went on for quite some time. Completely flummoxed that–even in the face of a great deal of evidence against Jolly Old Saint Nick and in favor of his name being used when someone wanted to give in secret–children would so willingly disregard reason and instead believe what pleased them.

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