Courtesy of Jam Kotenko

How Do You Tell Your Child About Santa When They're Only 2?

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Now that our son is 2, we've begun to discuss how to tell our child about Santa. The old man in red seeps into kids' consciousnesses somewhere after they start to recognize patterns — you don't need to introduce Santa to your kid; the mall has it covered — but whether or not you tell your kid the truth is a debate worth having. Even at 2. Right now, we're at a crossroads: take the left fork, and feed him the fantasy for the next few years; take the right, and make a decision to build an understanding of Santa that will age a little better, but lose out on the "magic."

At first glance, it’s pretty easy to find merit in the decision to keep up the pretense. Our son is currently going through a delayed case of terrible twos, exacerbated by the arrival of a baby brother. These days, we find that he is a lot more attention-seeking, which is normal. Also normal is the fact that everything is amplified to the nth level — his voice, his aggressive playfulness, his tantrums, and his overall naughtiness. It makes me wonder, would the introduction of Santa "The Great Motivator" Claus help curb all of these things? Would it make it easier for us to juggle both him and our needy newborn?

Courtesy of Jam Kotenko

He’s starting to enjoy movies now, and there are a ton that feature Santa Claus — we could just roll right into the myth. It would be fairly easy to let our son believe that Santa is real, I suppose; that he does indeed keep a list of naughty and nice kids and base their rewards on their overall behavior that year. We haven’t exactly given our son Christmas gifts before — at least ones that he would remember — so if we decide to go for it, we can say someone came in the night through the window (we don’t have a chimney) and left him goodies.

Who knows, maybe them believing in Saint Nick would make them more imaginative and creative later on.

And sure, I get why other parents would tell their children about the jolly old man from the North Pole. It’s a heartwarming tradition, something that would make December extra special. If, at any point in the year, your kid wants something and for some reason you don’t want to get it for them, you can always use Santa as an excuse for delayed gratification. His myth can teach them the value of being nice, and you can even be rewarded with less tantrums if you play your cards right. It provides them a sense of magic and wonder (Where is the North Pole, mama?), and who knows, maybe them believing in Saint Nick would make them more imaginative and creative later on.

Personally, I don’t think I ever bought the whole Santa schtick as a child. I’m pretty sure my parents didn’t bother telling me the story — they’re the type of parents who tell their kids the blunt truth, the type who’d call your privates by their actual name and not some cutesy tame version of it. Besides, I grew up in the Philippines, which is near the equator, where the weather is either extremely wet or scorching hot. I know in my heart that I wouldn’t have for a second believed some Northern guy in a red felt suit would survive the trip to get to where I live just to give me stuff.

My folks bought me presents and addressed them, “with love, from Mom and Dad.” I also got presents from my older sister. And I appreciated all of it. It made me feel special and probably made me love them more and made me a more obedient child. I was hardly a naughty kid — in fact, I received a few merit awards in school for good behavior. And as an adult, I went to art school and thrived. I did all that without believing in Santa.

I don’t want to lie to my child, so it computes that I don’t want to tell him that Santa exists.

My husband also had a St. Nicholas-free childhood, so it’s only natural for us to lean toward not making Santa a big deal with our kid. The only thing that is making me hesitate is this: if we arm our child with the truth, we may inadvertently rob other kids who’ve been told otherwise. I don’t want our son to be the asshole that eventually tells his friends the truth and ruins the fantasy of Santa for them.

Because I was that asshole. I distinctly remember going over to a neighboring friend’s house and seeing a ton of presents under their Christmas tree. I read one of the cards and it read, “From Santa.” And I remember thinking two things: First, that my friend was dumb for believing in something that was clearly made up, and second, what kind of parents would lie to their kid like that? I don’t remember how my friend reacted when I told her the new Nintendo machine was from her big sister and not an anonymous grandfather figure, but I do remember being the bearer of bad news. (I guess I was naughty, after all!)

Jasper's First Christmas, Courtesy of Jam Kotenko

I don’t want to lie to my child, so it computes that I don’t want to tell him that Santa exists. But maybe there is a way for him to experience the same wonder other kid-believers have without embarking on a huge charade. There has to be a better way to get him to behave better without having to use Santa as a scapegoat.

People have different ways of celebrating the holidays, and sharing the story of Santa is one of them. Even though it’s just pretend, it is a wonderful tale, just like any other storybook our kid enjoys. While our son is still too young to make the distinction between fantasy and reality, it doesn’t hurt to expose him to it — show him the movies, sing him the carols, the whole shebang. But when he’s finally old enough to smell the B.S. and starts to ask questions, I’m going to tell him the truth. Don’t worry, I’ll tell him to keep it a secret from his friends for a while, just in case.

After experiencing a traumatic c-section, this mother sought out a doula to support her through her second child’s delivery. Watch as that doula helps this mom reclaim the birth she felt robbed of with her first child, in Episode Three of Romper's Doula Diaries, Season Two, below. Visit Bustle Digital Group's YouTube page for more episodes, launching Mondays in December.

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