Would you ever lie to your children? Even at Christmas?
PUBLISHED: 18:24 05 December 2016 | UPDATED: 14:29 15 December 2016
Here is your spoiler alert: In the improbable event that your child gets hold of this page of the newspaper, do not let them read on - warns mum-of-three Ellen Widdup.
I made this mistake once before and gee whizz, did you let me know about it in readers’ letters.
So let your kids doodle a moustache and eyebrows on to my byline photo by all means or use my prose for a papier-mâché project. Just remember, what I have written here is for grown ups only.
You see, the word on the playground is that it is all a big con.
Some little Scrooge, dressed up in pigtails and a pinafore, has been whispering in the ears of the other six-year-olds questioning the existence of the big fat man.
And now I’m in a quandary.
“She said Father Christmas isn’t real,” my son said in a shaky voice one evening before bedtime.
“He is, isn’t he?”
It was worse than the time he asked me where babies came from in front of the vicar.
At least on that occasion, once I had ushered him out of the christening service, I could give him an entirely scientific explanation on the matter.
“That is totally disgusting,” he said in response and has never mentioned it since.
This time I was left floundering a little despite the fact that I’ve been here once before.
After all, my daughter at age nine spent all of last year looking for answers as to how one man – an immortal one at that – could circumnavigate the globe in one night in an old sleigh pulled by flying reindeer.
Finally, she demanded answers about why I was allowing a fat, hairy bloke in a suit creep around the house after midnight and I gave her the answer she wanted.
She wasn’t upset. The opposite in fact. Pleased as punch to have worked it out and be in on the secret.
She’s clever enough however, to continue to play along with the jolly charade for the sake of her younger siblings.
She diligently writes to the North Pole, leaves a carrot for the reindeer and joyfully wakes the rest of us with shouts of “he’s been” at some ungodly hour on December 25th.
But occasionally I have seen her tempted to disabuse her little brother of his Christmas fantasies, proving that perhaps she is no longer my ally in the increasingly hopeless fight to keep the dream alive.
“I know something you don’t know,” is one of her favourite ways to bait him.
I envy the parents who are able to threaten the ‘naughty list’ when their little believers refuse to eat up their peas, fight with their siblings or stall at bedtime.
If I warn my kid that Santa Claus will be unimpressed with his vegetable intake or suggest he will lose out on the Millenium Falcon he so desperately wants if he doesn’t go to sleep, his big sister cackles conspiratorially and rolls her eyes.
“You’ve left the light on,” I heard my son point out to her as she exited the bathroom after brushing her teeth yesterday.
“Mum said every time we do that there will be one less Christmas present under the tree.”
I grinned to myself. It appeared all my phone calls to Lapland were going to prevent npower from pocketing the savings set aside for Santa.
“You don’t really believe in all that nonsense, do you?” I heard her reply, making me sorely tempted to ask Santa to fill her stocking with coal.
This week parents were urged to stop perpetuating the myth of St Nick in case the “lie” damages relations with their children.
Psychologist Professor Christopher Boyle and social scientist Dr Kathy McKay said spinning stories about Santa risked undermining a child’s trust and condemned the idea of a North Pole intelligence agency which judges children to be nice or naughty.
Writing in the respected journal The Lancet Psychiatry, they said: “If they (parents) are capable of lying about something so special and magical, can they be relied upon to continue as the guardians of wisdom and truth?”
Good grief. If parents really were the “guardians of wisdom and truth” then we should probably be pointing out to our little ones that Harry Potter is suffering from paranoia and multiple personality disorder while Hogwarts is an asylum for people suffering from severe mental illness.
To make us feel worse about our deceitful, immoral selves the scholarly spoilsports also suggested we spin the Santa fabrication not for our kids’ happiness but actually because we cannot cope with the pressures of adulthood.
Who can blame us? It would be easier to believe in unicorns and fairy dust than accept the reality that we are living in a world where Donald Trump is US president.
No child in the history of mankind has ever been told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Putting FC, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy to one side, haven’t we all told a fib to be kind?
“Rex has gone to live on a farm.”
“Eating broccoli makes you big and strong.”
“I promise you, it’s chicken.”
To me, Santa is an extension of this - it protects us, reassures us, nestles us in that cushion of childhood innocence and wonder.
I’ve never lied to my kids. But I admit I’ve often been economical with the truth.
And with my son’s wavering belief in Father Christmas, I’ve decided against a big reveal, even when he came home from school to tell me Little Miss Blabbermouth was at it again. “She said it wasn’t Santa who delivered the presents,” he told me. “That it was her parents who did it.”
“And what did you say?” I asked, tactfully, waiting or him to admonish me for my porkie pies.
“I told her that her parents probably had to deliver her presents because Santa had stuck her on the naughty list for telling lies,” he told me proudly.