I realized tonight why parents propagate the Santa Claus myth. I’ve had no intention of doing this. Hoping to never have to disappoint Ariah and explain to her why I lied to her over the years, I’ve been true to my principles and told her the truth from the beginning, that I’m really Santa Claus, that Teresa is Mrs. Claus, and that together we bring toys to all the children of the world. And yet Ariah insists that I’m not Santa Claus and that the white bearded men at shopping malls are Santa Claus. Tonight, as we arrived at a hotel room at two o’clock in the morning, Teresa asked me to tell the girls a Santa Claus story while she wrapped presents in the bathroom, so I told them about the time I was flying the sleigh through a particularly foggy night. The first person nature of the narrative didn’t seem to bother Ariah, in fact, she insisted that I tell the story again, which I did. Then, with dreamy eyes, she said, “I can’t wait for Santa to come.” I told her that I was right in front of her, but she didn’t believe me. As much as I’d like to set her straight, believing in lies makes her so happy, who am I to burst her bubble? Though there was a point when she asked me in all seriousness, “Are you telling the truth or just pretending?” I was stumped. It was such a sincere question, I couldn’t lie. Which forced me to admit to myself that I wasn’t actually Santa Claus. I didn’t tell her this. I just changed the subject.
And thus you have it. For a child, playing pretend and believing in pretend are so gratifying, it outweighs the benefits of staunch realism, and for a parent to force the latter upon a such a child feels horrible. And yet I insist that when my daughter comes of age and sorts out fact from fiction, she won’t be disappointed about Santa Claus, because, whether or not I’ve hitherto fore actually been Santa Claus, I fully intend to become Santa Claus, so that when she figures it out, she won’t exclaim like Soloman of Old, that “he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow” (Ecclesiastes 1:18), but she’ll realize the truth in what I’ve told her from the beginning, that her dad was Santa Claus all along, the source of all her presents (giving all due credit to Mrs. Claus). And while I may not then be equipped with flying reindeer, I’ll nevertheless be a mighty stud after the order of St. Nicholas. And rather than this future moment marking an end of the era of magic, it will be a graduation and initiation for her into this prestigious order. She will then join me sneaking out on Christmas eve and delivering presents to the children of — if not yet the world — at least the neighborhood.