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How We Told Our Child With Special Needs the Real Deal About Santa

My husband and I come from different backgrounds. I was a city girl. He was a country boy. I was raised by my single mom who depended on Welfare to help her meet our needs. He was raised without want by two loving parents.

Our families even approached the whole Santa thing differently. One of the things my dad told me before he walked out of our lives when I was around 6, was that there was no such thing as Santa and to stop believing in him. My husband’s mom still hangs stockings and fills them for every family member, young or old, claiming they’re from Santa. I was lucky to get socks and underwear for Christmas. My husband always got whatever was on his wish list — a tradition still carried on to this day.

When our daughter was born, my husband and I had a frank discussion about what role Santa would play in her life. Since I felt like I missed out on the magic, I was all in. And my husband wanted our daughter to experience the wonder and awe of Santa like he had. We agreed we would encourage her to believe in Santa.

We were experts at crafting this marvelous secret. My husband would make our daughter’s favorite Snickerdoodle cookies for Santa. I would buy the gifts and stocking stuffers. We found the perfect Santa with a real beard to visit. There were many Christmas Eves my husband stayed up until the wee hours putting together the latest and greatest must-have toy.

As she got older, we got more creative. When she awoke one Christmas morning, there was soot outside the fireplace where Santa had walked. Last year, my daughter even received a lovely letter on North Pole stationery from Santa telling her he couldn’t bring her a real live puppy but instead found her a large overstuffed one.

We were in deep.

This year we decided to tell her the real deal. Our fear was that another child would tell her. That, in our opinion, was worse than if we told her ourselves.

So on a Sunday afternoon recently we sat her down and presented her with this letter. Thanks, Pinterest, for the idea.


We know you’ve asked us before if Santa is real. We know you want to know the answer.  After seeing how much you’re growing up, we know it’s time to tell you.

The answer is yes, Santa does exist — just not in the way you’ve always believed. I’m not Santa, neither is your dad. There’s no one single Santa, either. Santa is bigger than any one person and his work has gone on longer than any of us have lived. Santa is lots and lots of people who keep the spirit alive. He doesn’t live in the North Pole but lives in our hearts. Santa is the magic, love and spirit of giving to others.

Dad and I are the ones who read your letters, picked your presents with love and placed them under the tree. Dad and I did this just as our parents did for us. One day you’ll do the same for your children.

We know God can be hard to understand sometimes, but we hope you’ll always remember that we believe He sent us His son, Jesus, to die for us. That baby in a manger grew up to be a man who died on the cross for our sins. We believe that’s the greatest gift of all. Just as God sent the most perfect gift He could think of, Dad and I tried to pick the perfect gifts for you each year.

Here’s something really awesome: Dad and I spent about a month getting ready for Christmas but God is spending lots more time getting heaven ready for us.

We do ask that you help us keep Santa alive for any other kids who still believe. A child has to be ready to believe this kind of secret. A child’s parents should be the ones to tell them, just like we told you. Just as you found joy in believing in Santa, we can assure you that you will have that same feeling in watching others believe in that magic.

We love you very much, Princess. We hope you have enjoyed all of your Christmases and your presents.


Mom and Dad

We asked her if she wanted one of us to read it or if she wanted to read it. She said she’d read it. She made it about halfway through before her lip started quivering. By the end she was in tears. When she finished reading it, she went over to my husband and really started sobbing. I didn’t have rose-colored glasses on thinking she’d be totally fine with the concept of her mom and dad being Santa, but I didn’t expect her to be as upset as she was.

After she cried with her father for a few minutes, she came over to me and cried on my shoulder for a bit. She looked straight at both of us and called us liars. She was shocked, appalled and disappointed that we, of all people, had lied to her.

I tried explaining to her that we did it out of love for her, but she wouldn’t listen and instead ran off to her room to bawl her head off. I was worried this was the trigger that would be the end of over a year of stability for her. This would send her back to the behavior hospital. She was that upset. We hadn’t seen this type of reaction to anything in a long time.

After about 30 minutes, she emerged. She went to our family room and played quietly with her dolls. I sat in there with her for most of the day, just in case she needed me. My husband and I put our plans for the day on hold so we could be available to talk if she wanted us to.

Eventually she came around. I don’t think she’s at the point where she fully forgives us or even understands why we did what we did, but she has come to terms with the fact that Santa exists in our hearts. She grasps that parents play Santa for their children.

Since she was so upset and her heart was “shattered” (her words), we decided to have a family session with her counselor the next day at her regularly scheduled appointment. Seeing our family therapist helped all of us process this more.

unnamed (44) The true test as to whether or not she was moving on came yesterday when we went to see Santa. She passed with flying colors. She sat on Santa’s lap, told him what she wanted for Christmas but didn’t say a word to him about knowing he wasn’t real. As she and her BFF skipped off, I heard both of them whispering and giggling because they know a secret the little kids waiting in line did not.

My daughter and I are making plans to play Santa for another child who still believes. It may be one whose dad is incarcerated or one who doesn’t have much. Whatever the case, I know she’ll want to help another child believe in the magic and wonder of Santa, just as she did for ten glorious years.

What I’ve learned in all of this is that I must remember that because my child feels everything so deeply, I need to be prepared to offer her extra guidance and support. I cannot assume that because it wasn’t a big deal for me, that it won’t be for her. The other piece to this is to continue to utilize the services of professionals who can help my husband and I navigate these rough waters with our daughter.

This post originally appeared on Raising a Drama Queen.