Santa takes one for the team


It was the morning of December 25th, 1993 and I should have been busted.  A jolly man in a red suit took the fall for me and I’ve never properly thanked him.

There are two kinds of parents - the ones that would never, ever, lie to their children, and ones that spend years perfecting it. My husband and I fell into the second category – and we were good.

Our son was 12 at the time and he had been indoctrinated into the web of our deception. Our three daughters, ages 6, 5 and 3, were filled with joy when they woke to find that Santa had come through again.

The girls were sitting on the floor, pulling out the small trinkets and candy from their stockings when the five-year-old suddenly bolted for the kitchen with an orange in her hand. It was customary for us to put a piece of fruit at the bottom of their stocking to cut down on the room for candy.

My five-year-old walked back into the living room with a huge grin on her face. “I know about Santa Claus,” she declared to us all.

What had gone wrong?  I looked at my youngest daughter, only three years old, stuffing chocolate into her chubby little cheeks, and my heart sank. They were still too young. It couldn’t be over yet.

I didn’t understand. We had waited until the wee hours of the morning, swallowed the curse words as we struggled to assemble the “easy to assemble” toys, never mind the hour it took to put those darn little stickers in just the right places. Barbie would be happy with her new dream home. She should be, she was moving into much nicer digs than ours.

My gaze slid to the end table. Had we forgotten about the cookies and milk in our haste to catch a couple hours of sleep before the day would begin? Only a few crumbs were left on the plate, the glass contained just the proper amount of left-over milk.

I remembered making my husband take a reindeer-size bite out of the carrot. I remembered because it turns out that he gets cranky when you disagree, at two in the morning, about the size of a reindeer bite, and make him do it again. They had seen the properly gnawed on carrot laying on the back deck. We explained that one of the reindeer must have dropped it out of his mouth when they flew to the neighbors house. It was the last piece of evidence that would solidify their belief.

So what could have gone wrong?  My five-year-old was tugging on my robe. “I counted,” she said, “I counted them before I went to bed.”

Oh no! I had made a major tactical error. When I bought the oranges, I failed to hide them, adding them to the bowl on the table instead. It was my fault. I was busted.

But just when I thought all was lost, I heard the words that would set my world back in place.

“Santa takes fruit from our fruit bowl and puts them in our stockings,” she said, proud of her sleuthing.

I smiled down at her. Okay, I could have stuck up for Santa. Maybe I should have suggested that he ran out of fruit and had no other choice but to borrow some of ours. Or maybe I could have said that his sleigh was so full of toys that he didn’t have room for perishables that year. But I didn’t. I let them believe that Santa was trying to pull a fast one on us.

We had two more years before our youngest no longer believed. She found out from a classmate who caught her mommy and daddy in the act. Too bad all parents aren't as good as we were. Oh well, at least we had those couple of years.

Thanks for taking the fall for me, Santa, I owe you one.