The Truth About Santa

David and Heather Kopp write regularly--sometimes individually, sometimes jointly--on spiritual parenting. This column is by Heather.

You better watch out.

He's coming.

You better not shout.

He's coming.

You better not cry. You better






better not!

The visions dancing in my head on Christmas Eve the year I was 5 weren't of sugar plums, or even the '60s equivalent of candy canes. They were of stolen cookies, whining fests at doctors' offices, and shouting matches I'd had recently with my little brother.

He knows if you've been bad...

Tossing in bed, I fretted into the night.

How far back does Santa's list go? Does shouting include playing? And why does he have to check his list twice?

Then it happened. Sometime around midnight, my sister, who was older by three years and shared my room, finally told me the "big secret":

Santa isn't real. Santa is Mom and Dad.


"You're just trying to be mean," I insisted. And indeed she looked gleeful about the prospect of eliminating Santa for me. But after she told me all she knew "Santa" was giving me this year, because she helped Mom buy it, I was convinced.

My first reaction was shock. Shock that my parents had lied, and not only lied, but lied to cover up their lies!--something I'd been taught ensured worse and worse punishments. Then quickly on the heels of shock, I felt something else: immense relief. While many "good" children might be disappointed to discover Santa was a farce, being certain I was mostly "bad," I was thrilled.

Santa wasn't real!

He wasn't dressed in red and reading a list of all the bad things I'd done or said. Because he didn't exist...

the presents would come regardless!

Once I became a mom myself, I had to decide what to do about Santa. Should I tell the cute, well-intentioned lie? Should I use Santa to inspire good deeds and guarantee less tattling and squabbling, at least in the few days leading up to Christmas?

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