Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Joe DeProspero has two sons, a wife, and is complimentary birth control for anyone who sits near him in a restaurant. His writing has been described as “outrageous,” “painfully real,” and “downright humiliating.” He talks about the highs and unsettling lows of parenthood while always being entertaining and engaging in the process. Author of the dark comedy fiction novel “The Boy in the Wrinkled Shirt,” Joe is working on releasing a parenting humor book. He currently lives in New Jersey and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
* If you’re under the age of 14 or extremely gullible, do not read this blog.
I remember when I unintentionally discovered the truth about Santa. Everyone (who celebrates Christmas) remembers the moment. For me, I was about 10, waiting with my sister in a salon while our mother got her hair done. It was early December, and snowflakes began dancing out under the streetlights.
“I can’t wait for Santa to come,” I said, with a broad smile, staring into the night sky.
Then, with the sensitivity of Andrew Dice Clay, my older sister, Nicole barked, “There’s no Santa Claus, stupid.” If you’re one of those people who likes to know what word or syllable was emphasized so they can imagine it being said, know that full, emphatic emphasis was placed on the word STUPID. And that’s exactly how I felt. I mean, how could I not know? How could I be taken for a fool for 10 whole years? Does everyone else know about this? And more importantly, by what supernatural force have gifts magically been appearing in my living room?! I had plenty of questions, of course. And few answers. But looking back, it’s clear to me why I was so easily fooled—I assumed my parents were honest, trustworthy people. But it turned out they were big, fat, deceptive liars. Like serial killer-level liars.
As an adult with my own children now, it’s a much different story, of course. For one, I completely and utterly embrace the art of deception regarding Christmas. In fact, my wife and I use the power of Santa to our advantage with our kids on a daily basis, starting around July. And we’re not alone. From what I’ve heard from friends and readers, parents have gone to great lengths to preserve the “Santa is real” concept with their poor, out-witted offspring. Some use it as a behavioral tactic.
One friend of mine told his kids that the leak in their bathroom was caused days earlier…by Rudolph stomping on the roof too hard on Christmas Eve. The same friend took crumbled pieces of his own driveway and “had an elf deliver them” to his misbehaving son’s bed two weeks before Christmas as a warning to “straighten up or get more of the same.” He bought it. It wasn’t made clear to me if the driveway was ever repaired.
But some parents maintain the magic for as long as possible in order to keep their children innocent. One friend, Jim, hand-wrote a note from Santa and even went as far as scenting it with peppermint oil so it would smell like a candy cane. His daughter bought it. Another friend, Vanessa, covered the bottom of a boot in flour and made “snowy footprints” around the tree. Her son was too young (and naïve) to even notice the “snow” wasn’t cold…or even dry. I’m telling you, kids will pretty much believe anything.
Some not only preserve the image of Santa, but get double-use out of it by creating a solution to a problem. Another friend, Lynn, was having trouble getting her son off the bottle. What Lynn did was wrap the bottles like presents and told her son that, “Santa was going to pick these up for a baby who needs them and will leave you a gift to replace them.” To this day, that is the most ingenious and practical use of the Santa name I’ve ever heard.
Those of us who celebrate Christmas have used the Santa name to invoke joy, excitement, fear, and downright panic. When I was a child, I was perplexed that “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” included the lyrics, “He knows when you are sleeping; he knows when you’re awake” and “You better not pout.” But now, as an adult, I completely get it. The holiday classic was written by an adult who constructed the song lyrically to scare children into listening to their parents, being quiet, and not crying. Couple that with strongly worded threats to take a toy off their Christmas list if they don’t eat their carrots and you’ve got yourself a behavioral plan for your children. The only real downside of this is, aside from trying to maintain order in the spring and summer, Santa gets all the credit for your hard work and you barely get eye contact on Christmas morning. It’s the sacrifice we make, I suppose. But I don’t have to be happy about it. I need the credit, man.
It’s pretty easy and sort of fun for my wife and I right now. Our kids are both under the age of five and (generally speaking) blindly accept the idea that Santa is real, and gleefully anticipate his imminent arrival. But in a couple years, we face a dilemma. How do I explain to my (then much wiser) 7-year-old why there are “Santas” on every street corner with cheaply made fake beards, wreaking of Jameson and shame? He’s already started with his minor suspicions, asking how Santa could possibly fit down the chimney, being as portly as he is. And he’s only four! I can only imagine the level of paranoia that will set in by the time he’s reached Kindergarten.
When I finally learned the truth about Santa as a kid, cruelly from my sister at age 10, I slumped down into a chair and started feeling sorry for myself. Later that night, I was approached by my father, who’d heard about my revelation.
“Son, I know what your sister told you. I’m sorry you had to find out that way. Are you sad?” my father asked, sensitively.
“Well, yes. But at least I still have the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy to look forward to,” I glumly replied.
What kind of reputation does Santa have in your house? Ever gotten caught in the act trying to “keep it real?” I want to hear about it! Add a comment below and join the conversation! Follow me on Twitter @JoeDeProspero.
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* Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.com.