Cynicism in Small Children

I don't remember a time that I believed in Santa, I mean really believed. I spent a long time sort of believing in a "non-personified force of seasonal charity" that was conventionally understood as Santa, but I don't remember ever thinking that a literal person delivered gifts to the children of the world.

This position may have been prompted by the simple fact that 'Santa's' handwriting looked, well, exactly like my Dad's. Did other kids get letters back from Santa? Sometimes I thought it was just to explain why we didn't get what we asked for, but something else instead.

Or by the fact that while my parents said they wanted me to believe, and they made my brother and I go through the motions for a long time, it never quite seemed like they could get through the routine without seeming patronizing or winking. At some point, I had had it.

I was not going to put up with this flagrant deception any longer.  I don't remember how old I was, but it was before my brother got his own room, so I couldn't have been more than 8 or 9.

Late one Christmas Eve, I waited. After my parents did a little playacting about how "we're going to bed now too, so Santa can come!", they retreated to their room (no doubt to wrap some last minute gifts). I snuck back out into the hallway.

I was sure my parents were Santa, and I was going to prove it. If they couldn't get downstairs, and then Santa's presents did not appear, that would be conclusive evidence, and they would have to stop lying to me.

I took a big ball of pastel yarn, and proceeded to wrap it between the railings at the top of the staircase. 

Yes, this created a short fence of yarn across the top of the stairs.

No, I didn't stop to think that I might accidentally trip my parents and cause them to fall down the stairs.

Once I had run it back and forth until I ran out of yarn, I knotted it firmly, and retreated back to bed, mission accomplished.

The next morning, Santa's presents were on the hearth at the edge of the fireplace as usual. Of course, my yarn wall had been dismantled and put aside, so that proved nothing.

They didn't even bother to put it back up to try to fool me, and yet they persisted in pretending that Santa was real. 

I'm convinced this is why I'm such a Humbug. The closest thing to a fight Erin and I have ever had was about whether it is right to teach children a lie. Now you know where I stand.

Many, many years later I was helping clean the kitchen and I came upon the holiday stamps my parents had always used to sign the letters from Santa. I pointed it out to my mom, and jokingly mentioned that she wouldn't be able to fool me anymore.

She just said, "Oh, Santa has us hold them for him. The sleigh's so crowded, you know."


  1. I loved believing in Santa, even if briefly. My oldest nephew, like you, doesn't want to keep the myth or lie as he calls it going. Yet, I can't help remembering the joy of presents magically appearing regardless of their source!

  2. I can't honestly say I wasn't sometimes jealous of other kids' belief, but I've got plenty of things to be joyful about. I'm just cynical about this one ;)

  3. Also, if you missed Erin's article about believing in Santa, make sure you go back and check it out!


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