Daddy, We Need to Talk

Today’s post comes from Steve and Molly Grooms

I think every parent dreads the day when a child asks “that question.” I sure did. And yet it is almost inevitable that some day your child will come to you to ask the question you have avoided for years. And you can’t avoid it any longer.

“Daddy, I have a big question. You have to tell me: Is Santa real?”

This crisis of faith occurred for me when I was in fourth grade. I was playing with classmates during recess when I overheard a conversation that shook me up. One of my more cynical classmates was explaining that Santa Claus was an elaborate fiction. All that stuff about flying reindeer and delivering presents down the chimney was just a lie.

I didn’t join the conversation, but I began debating the issue in my head. I was that kind of kid.

By coincidence, a few weeks later I joined my dad as he ran an errand at his office at Collegiate Manufacturing, his employer in Ames. His office was in the third floor of the old Masonic Building. Because it was three stories tall, that building was one of the tallest structures in Ames.

While Dad fussed with his paperwork, I wandered over to the window on the north side of the building. Ames had a white Christmas that year, getting a drop of about five inches of snow the day before Christmas Eve. I was already experienced in woods wisdom at that age, having played outdoors for years. Looking out over rows of homes I suddenly knew the truth. Every home below me had an unblemished coat of snow, with no marks of sleigh runners and no reindeer footprints. Santa was a fraud.

All that came back to me when I became a parent and began teaching my daughter about Santa Claus. I bought books for her that showed in detail how Santa did his miraculous work. But when she turned nine I could tell she was beginning to harbor doubts.

Just before Christmas that year, the Pioneer Press Dispatch ran a huge color photo of Santa’s sleigh flying through the night sky. At the head of the team of reindeer was one that had a bright red nose. Molly stared at that photo in silent wonder for several minutes. She finally said, “And I was beginning to think Rudolph wasn’t real.”

Weeks later, right after Christmas, Molly came to me with a serious expression. “Daddy, we need to talk.” A group of friends at school had been debating Santa. Some believed in him. Some did not. Molly volunteered to resolve the matter, saying, “I’ll ask my dad.

He always tells me the truth.” The group agreed to let her research the question by talking to me.

With mixed emotions, I told her. As I remember, I made a big deal of the fact “Santa” was a fiction but Christmas love was not. Rather than debunking Santa I told Molly the love of parents was the true Christmas miracle. She instantly joined the great conspiracy to perpetuate the Santa story with younger children, and it touched me to see how hard Molly worked to preserve the secret with kids who still believed.

All this comes to mind because I just got a note from my daughter. For readers who might not know, Liam is my daughter’s five-year-old son. I’ll let Molly finish this story:

Liam came home yesterday, helped himself to a Christmas cookie and said, “Mom, we need to talk. About Santa.”

Santa and Liam - two real guys
Santa and Liam – two real guys

My heart sank. “What about Santa, Hon?”

Liam crammed the rest of the cookie into his mouth, dusted his hands off on his pants and said, “Well, it’s more about his wife.” He leveled a very mature almost-six-year-old look at me and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “She’s not really real, you know. That’s what they say at school.”

After 15 minutes of discussion on the merits of having a wife to look after the elves and reindeer, not to mention to work as an attorney or teacher so that you can essentially run a non-profit for the world’s children, we decided she must really exist after all.

As he left the kitchen in a trail of crumbs and with a red and green sugar cookie mustache, my heart almost broke.

Stay young, little one. Treasure what could be, as well as what is. Believe in magic and your own heart. And dang it–Listen to your mother, not your friends, for just a little longer…

Do you recall how you learned about Santa? Or how you told a child?

64 thoughts on “Daddy, We Need to Talk”

  1. Friends. Actually, a “older” neighbor of a friend when I was visiting. Maybe second grade…she said Santa wasn’t real, nor the Easter Bunny (as I recall). But the “real” kicker was she added that Jesus wasn’t real either. That negated the previous exertions as far as I was concerned. Though it has stuck with me some sixty plus years….that doubt.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. I dressed up as Santa when my Grandchildren and daughters were young to bring them their presents from Santa. They were not very old when they saw through my costume and figured out it was me, not Santa, who was delivering their presents from Santa. One of my Granddaughters looked frightened when I came into the room in my Santa outfit. I think she thought my fake Santa voice was scary.

    I don’t know exactly when my daughters learned the truth about Santa. I wasn’t the one who told them. I assume that most children, even very young ones, know that Santa is not a real person when they see numerous people dressed up as Santa.


    1. this reminds me f the time i played santa for two families with little kids when i was 18. it was a good time but the cheesey beard over my own new growth at age 18 was a riot the pillows on my 130 lb frame kept sliding into my boots and when i say the two twins boys at their dads funeral they laughed out loud at the memory. they said they had to do an acting job to pretend that i wa santa and not blow the cover that they were wise to the ruse,


  3. Having the benefit of substantially older siblings, it didn’t take long for me to find out. I distinctly recall my mother giving me that lilting warning that “Santa won’t come if I wasn’t in bed,” and my brothers snickering and sarcastically agreeing. I think my sister smacked them when I looked suspiciously at them but, by that time, the coal was already out of the bag, so to speak.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I think Liam is going to figure it out years earlier than I did. He’s just too smart. The first time I pulled candy out of his ears, he was delighted. The second time I did it, he was beginning to doubt my explanation. By the third time I did this, he had figured out the trick, although he was happy enough to pretend to be dumb just so long as I was delivering candy to him.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t think I ever believed. Presents did “magically”appear, but we were never advised as to how to consider the source. Our names were on the tag, but the giver was left blank or a ?

    A friend recently posted on facebook the suggestion that parents confine the presents from Santa to something small and go ahead and take credit for their own largesse. Otherwise, how do you explain to yoour child why some of their friends were not equally “rewarded” by Santa?

    Were they bad? Less deserving?

    My child has a late December birthday and family he almost never sees, but gifts are always sent.

    I feel pretty good about how I’ve managed it all, as I have a teenager who has to really work to come up with a gift list. There’s not much you can put in a box that he wants.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. I remember leaving cookies for Santa one year – though what age I don’t precisely remember, less then 10 I’m sure. Mom tried to dissuade me by saying that Santa got lots of cookies and maybe a little less sugar at one house would be okay, but I was not deterred. Perhaps I should have been. Santa “ate” the cookie…and left a nice thank you note. In my mother’s handwriting. She tried to tap dance around it – had a pretty good excuse too about Santa being able to write like every kid’s parent – but that was that. I knew. No discussions on the playground for me. Damning evidence that was meant to be a bit of magic. This is why Santa writes in all caps at our house – easier to disguise penmanship. Daughter is now in middle school and while I’m fairly certain she has doubts – perhaps big ones – she is in a spot where she almost adamantly refuses to give up (as do her most of her friends – the one smart aleck in the bunch who might not be a believer any more I’m sure has sternly been told not to talk of it). She used to leave notes for Santa and her buddy Ivan the Elf (with whom she had an ongoing correspondence for several years), but she doesn’t leave trinkets and letters for them anymore. She did still leave a letter for Santa this year (“mailed” on the mantlepiece, as is her custom) – and he responded. Some day soon I’m sure she’ll finally cop to knowing, but maybe not until she is assured that the magic of Christmas and a few extra presents under the tree will still be there.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. santa wrires in big flamboyant swirly handwriting at our house. nothing like my chicken scratching.

      It would be like Tim writing with capitals and punctuation on the trail. It wouldn’t be recognizable at all!!!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I don’t really remember; I think I recognized my dad’s handwriting on the present that was supposed to be from Santa. Moving to a slight tangent, I’ve made it a tradition to re-read “Hogfather” by Terry Pratchett at Solsticetide. Besides having a cracking good plot, the book explores the concept of belief and the use of story, sort of a grittier (and VERY British) version of “Yes Virginia”.

    The following quote is the heart of the entire story (the lines in all caps is Death speaking):

    “All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need… fantasies to make life bearable.”


    “Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little—”


    “So we can believe the big ones?”


    “They’re not the same at all!”


    “Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—”


    And then there’s this, the perfect summation of why I chose Paganism:

    “Yes! The sun would have risen just the same, yes?”
    “Oh, come on. You can’t expect me to believe that. It’s an astronomical fact.”

    “Really? Then what would have happened, pray?”

    Liked by 7 people

      1. Hope I’m not posting this too late! It’s not easy to explain to outsiders, but I’ll try.

        I started my crisis of faith and journey away from monotheism at 12 and finished it at 17. At one point, I felt like there was a choice to make: between a materialist and a poetic/mythic viewpoint, in which the world is alive with persons (subjects, beings with which to have relationships, rather than objects) and layered with metaphor and meaning. Unsurprisingly, my choice was for myth and poetry. The sun IS a ball of flaming gases, of course, but it’s also a symbol and a metaphor (more like a huge bundle of symbols and metaphors) and, oh yes, a goddess.

        Ugh, I wish I could do better, but I’ve barely had my coffee this morning…


        1. thanks crow girl for trying. id like to have coffee some time and pick your brain a bit. its a hard thing to do to figure out what you have figured out. especially if you choose an inner look with such an artistic bent.i like the quote and the fact that you chose it but i wondered why this as the thing that turned the corner for you


  8. Daughter had the chicken pox at Halloween when she was 5, and was in the bathtub having an oatmeal bath when she asked me. I told her the truth, and she proceeded to ask me about the Easter Bunny. I told her the truth about that, too.

    When I was about 4, my parents took me to Shrivers Department store in Sioux Falls to see Santa. A friend of my dad, Frank Mihan, was the Santa. Mom and dad didn’t think I would notice that. I sat on Santa’s lap and told him what i wanted, then returned to my parents and said “Are we going to go see Mrs. Mihan now?” I think i figured out on my own pretty early that Santa wasn’t real.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Morning–

    I don’t recall when I stopped believing. But I had a cousin, David, he taught me about a lot of things so I wouldn’t doubt it was him.
    I recall him telling me about sex but I didn’t believe him.

    We never left treats or wrote letters for Santa or the reindeer.
    My older siblings talk about ‘being quiet and waiting for Santa… I don’t recall the specifics; might have been at someone elses house on Christmas.
    And my grandfather played Santa at the mall for a few years. I have a picture sitting in his lap. I don’t know if I knew then or not. Although it seems like maybe I remember my parents telling me it was Grandpa but that’s all a rather fuzzy memory…

    Thanks for sharing Steve.


  10. I have always believed in Santa Claus, and perhaps more importantly, Julenissen. I still do.

    Of course my early belief in both Santa and Julenissen differs a tad from what I believed as a child. When that shift occurred, I don’t remember. It wasn’t some sudden disillusion as when I discovered that babies weren’t delivered by the stork.

    I vividly remember on the eve of my third Christmas barely missing seeing Santa’s sled disappearing over the rooftops. Yes, it was Santa’s sled, it was in Drogheda. To this day, I can’t let go of the fact that had I been just a few seconds earlier at the window, I would have seen it.

    While Julenissen is similarly elusive, he seems more real to me, perhaps because he doesn’t rely on flying reindeer to pull his conveyance. Don’t ask me how he gets around, I have no idea; all I know is, he does. Or maybe there’s more than one? Yeah, that has to be it, there’s more than one. And they’re married and have children who help out with all kinds of things. They’re small, full of mischief, wear clogs, and they are especially fond of cats and risengrød. I had better prepare some rice porridge to set out for whichever one of them will be here Thursday evening.

    Thanks, Steve, for a wonderfully evocative post. Glad to see that Molly carries on the traditions with her little one.

    Liked by 4 people

        1. I’ll give you the answer from a Danish perspective, Bill.

          Rice porridge, or what Danes call rissengrød, is a rather substantial and filling porridge. It is not a dessert, even though it is on the sweet side. This is the dish that Danish children (at least of my generation and those before me) would set of for Nissen, usually with a sprinkle of cinnamon and a good dab of butter.

          The Danish dessert Ris-a-la-Mande (I know the name isn’t very Danish, is it?) which is served on Christmas eve is not custardy. It is, however, delicious. It’s a dish of Arborio rice, cooked in milk. When cooled, a lot of chopped almonds, and a little vanilla sugar are folded into the rice, followed by a lot of whipped cream. This is served with a warm sweet cherry sauce. Into one of the portions of the Ris-a-la-Mande is tucked a whole almond. Whoever gets the whole almond wins a prize, usually a marzinpan pig.

          Liked by 3 people

      1. The reason I ask is that my recipe for Rice Pudding is the one recipe I have from my Swedish grandfather and it’s a recipe that we have made ever since I can remember. It’s very custardy, with about 5 eggs to 3 cups of milk, plus sugar, rice (of course) raisins, vanilla and/or almond extract, cinnamon and nutmeg. In my mind it’s the Platonic rice pudding and the milk gruel versions are (to me) disappointing. But of course I’m aware that different people have different conceptions of a proper rice pudding. That’s why I asked.


        1. Another distinction between rissengrød and Ris-a-la-Mande, rissengrød is served hot, usually for breakfast. Ris-a-la-Mande is served cold, with the warm cherry sauce poured over it, for dessert.

          I am familiar with the rice pudding you describe, Bill, but it’s not a version that is associated with the Christmas traditions – at least not in Denmark. But I agree, it sets the standard for rice puddings.


        1. My mom serves them cold. She takes the raw berries and adds some amount of sugar to them and then let’s them “stew” in the sugar and their own juices for a day or so in the fridge. She will often put them in a Tupperware and turns it over a few times every now and again to “stir” them.

          Liked by 3 people

    1. The nisse got some julgrot from me on Solstice eve. Being vegan, I made it with coconut milk and a lot of slivered almonds, no butter. I think it was acceptable, since nothing has been broken, the cats’ tails remain unknotted, and I’ve been able to find my keys each morning.

      Liked by 5 people

  11. I’ve mentioned before I’m not a big fan of Christmas music. I was doing OK with RH today and the assortment of holiday music, but just now, ‘Tex Beneke – A root’n Toot’n Santa Claus’ was the last straw. I’m out.
    Nothing personal. I’ll tune back in later.


    1. I’ve occasionally mentioned Folk Alley, my favorite folk music radio station. It is an internet station, which would rule it out for some listeners. I like their mix better than that of RH. It is sweeter, with more lyrical music and not so much raw blues as RH. Right now I’m listening to the special Holiday Seasons mix of Folk Alley, a second signal they put out. It is really right for people with my musical tastes.

      Liked by 2 people

  12. busy time for me. sorry i missed the discussion yesterday and am late today
    santa was a mainstay at our house until the last kid was in 5th or 6th grade. we sheltered our little girls. my son was a sensitive boy too. i never told them and they never talked and they always covered for the younger ones to keep the tradition alive.
    when i as a kid i figured out the easter bunny was fake one year when it snowed on easter and there were no bunny prints outside. i must have asked my mom and she spilled the beans. well i went over to the next door neighbors and while swinging on scotty bowmans swing kicking my feet toward the sky as high as i could i told him i had discovered that the easter bunny was really our parents. he said yeah i know just like santa and the tooth fairy. i was numb and the lights turned on and i saw i was no longer an innocent. i bawled so hard that scotty mother came out tos ee if i had broken a leg or something and when scott told her he had told me there was no sata or tooth fairy in response to my easter bunny revelation she laughed and said that’s what i get for coming over to blow the whistle and tell scotty as soon as i had learned. the jig was up and life has never been the same since.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. It looks like we won’t have a fresh TB topic today. As busy as everyone is, that is probably okay. I might make a joke about wishing you guys well with your last minute shopping, but I’ll bet that isn’t what you are doing. Given what this group is like, I expect there is a whole lot of cookie baking and other cooking going on today.


    1. So what are you doing today HVSteve?
      What are everyone’s Plan Of the Day? Or their ‘POD’ as my friend Paul says.
      I’m at work for a while. Then get my thumb Xray’d and then I get that fancy cortisone shot and then I’ve got some lights to set up for a church.
      I’m looking forward to doing ‘Not Much’ the next several days.
      Peace out everyone!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Meet a friend for a fun lunch and shopping;
    start to get the house ready for post-Christmas visitors, which includes toddler-proofing;
    do grocery shopping for the baking Ben mentioned, which will happen tomorrow…
    and those are just the things I’ve thought of.
    (try and think of a blog post topic)

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hi Ben. I have few ambitions for the day, but high hopes. I am expected sometime this afternoon at my daughter’s home. We hope I can shoot a nice photo of Liam with the Kelley family Christmas tree as a backdrop. I did this last year, getting a really nice portrait of him. If the gods of photography smile today I will get another such picture. If they or my grandson are feeling frisky I will get some nice conversation and a Christmas cookie. It will be good.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Just a few last minute details to tend to today. Pick up the pork roast I’ve ordered, and finding a nice head of red cabbage for the sweet and sour cabbage side dish. That’s it. Reading, listening to some favorite music, walking Bernie. Tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. If I get ambitious, I might make some gløgg and æbleskiver. Yah, that sounds like a plan.

    Liked by 4 people

  17. Daughter has put in her order for side dishes for Christmas dinner, and now son and DIL are deciding which ones they want. I have to keep it equitable so we have lots of side dishes, Oh, this sibling rivalry is a burden. Husband wants Banana Cream pie. I am just so happy to have everyone home. .

    Liked by 5 people

  18. Just getting home from changing the church from Advent to Christmas.

    S&h was doing robotics and then went to a friend’s. I will puck him up from there for a better late than never latke party tonight.

    I believe I just might get out our little Christmas tree and the light-up garland.

    May bake tomorrow, may not. Should check that I have everything for the Christmas Day wild rice we are bringing.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Half a day at the flower shop, lunch, wine, looking around in some shops, coffee, home for dinner. Will be spending some time relaxing tonight, hanging out with the cats. Might wrap a few gifts. Baking tomorrow. I have been listening to some Christmas music, an essential element of the holiday spirit.

    I’ve had some problems with my medical insurance over the past weeks, but it seems to be getting resolved, so I am going to ignore the whole issue till next week.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. m stereo has not been set up . i have a bad phonograph in the garage and i did grab 20 or 30 christmans albums andy bing muppets johnny perry and nat. and no radio in the houseoutside terrinle computer speakers it will be dealt wth but in the meantime the christmas spirit must live on with a severe todauy fondue tonight

      a callout to absent baboons tonight. clyde, i hope you and sandy are well. i miss you greatly i intend to read you new novel over the break. cuynthia can you give my best to bib. i miss the goats in the mix here and while life goes on she was a joy while she was around. allana how fun to have you pop in and krista i hope life is kinder and more
      enjoyable and the biggest missing link of all…. dale what the heck is it gonna be? i guess we have all learned to stand on our own two feet here an the blog will continuse if you get run over by a truck but i truely appreciate the superhuman efforts of the disappropriate passion you exhibited for keeping the daily post fresh and letting us serve and the therapy you so obviously needed and we so obviously benefitted from for the years gone by. i am glad to see you have joined the ranks of the less mentally ill and have returned to the human race but i do miss the daily falderall and bantering. come back when you can and stay for as long as you are able. you have created a good thing here. thanks

      Liked by 1 person

  20. Evening.
    I’m here to report the cortisone shot was ‘no big deal’. I was perplexed by the fact they put the numbing agent in with the cortisone shot. I said what’s the point of that?
    It wasn’t really clear what the point of that was…
    The doc used a “teeny Tiny” needle and the nice nurse patted my shoulder throughout the procedure so it was fine.

    Had lunch with wife and daughter – BONUS!

    Spent longer than I anticipated putting the lights up for the church. They meet at the local ‘Y’ and at first I got no direction from them. And then I got 3 directors. Be careful what you wish for.

    Liked by 3 people

  21. was busy yesterday 6 to 6 with meetings doctors and legal stuff then last minute shopping and back in the nick of time to go to the cocoanuts with daughter. funny show and home for the crash and burn to unpack the last 5 boxes of books. i think we are done. the car got pulled into the garage for the first time and it needs to be shuffled to a new position because the distance between the refrigerator on the front bumper and the door on the back bumper is 1 1/2 inch each. even if i was good enough to park in that 1 inch of cushion you cant open the fridge or get around the car. it was funny and wil be dealt with today. cocoanuts had a blast last night the marx brothers standins were cracking up the rest of the cast by coming in from offstage with characters for the christmas carol which must have ended or had breaks that allowed the gost of christmas future and christmas past come in for one sce e and tiny tim to help closet the play. the other cast members were so surprised they didnt do a very good job of staying in character but it was a riot. a fun fun event which ws the entire point of the choice of plays. we also had tow of the best most distinctive laughers in the world sitting nearby a man sitting 2 rows directly behind with the horshack laugh that was loud continual and genuine and a girl to the right 1 row behind who had the horse whinney and squeal laugh so distinctive it would have been winner of the distinctive laugh contest in 99.9% of all plays but lost out to the guy behind us. this coupled with the 8 year old who participated in the plaly by standing up and yelling input to the actors as if they were sitting in the living room. my daughter is a great person to attend plays with and i hope we get to do it more often as she digs into her acting career. its fun to watch. what have i done???

    Liked by 1 person

  22. I know this is late and probably no one will see it. Young Adult was not fond of Santa as a child. No lap sitting, no letters. When she was 2, she cried because Santa ate her cookies. When she was 4 she was a little worried that Santa would come upstairs to her room during the night. So while I dutifully left out cookies (and reindeer food) when she was little, when she told ME that Santa wasn’t real (at the age of 5), I breathed a small sigh of relief. Since then our mantra has been “if you believe in Santa, he believes in you”. Although we celebrate Solstice, Santa still fills the stockings on Christmas Eve at our house!


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