not completely honest



Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain ~ The Wizard of Oz


I was hanging clothes in Katie’s closet last night as she crawled into bed. She sat watching me, wide-eyed, drinking me in as she always does.

With a deep breath she said, “Mama, I feel like you’re not always completely honest with me.”

OK. There is no possibility that this can be a good start to a conversation -any conversation. I stopped in my tracks and looked at her, concerned.

“What do you mean, honey?’

“Well, about Santa Claus. I don’t feel like you’re completely honest with me. Is he real?”

I had to turn away. I hid my smirk in the row of dresses in her closet, pretending to straighten a little shift on its hanger.

I did my best to compose myself and walked over to the side of her bed.

“The magic of Santa Claus is real, sweet love.”

I let that hang in the air, not saying anything else. I thought that the fewer words I used the less chance I’d have to get myself into real trouble. I could see that my little Clarence Darrow was preparing her cross examination.

“Ok, but is Santa himself real or not?” she asked, the picture of innocence.

I couldn’t meet her eyes. I fussed with the blanket at the end of her bed.

“That’s up to you, honey.”

I could feel her little eyes burning right through me.

“What does that mean, Mama? How could it be up to me?”

Suddenly I was five years old, sitting in the car between my parents as we drove down a tree lined street in my hometown. Those were the days before car seats, of course. I was perched between their seats, glaring accusingly at each of them in turn. I was frustrated beyond belief. Neither would give me an answer. “Either Santa’s real or he’s not. Why does it matter what I think about it? I’m just asking if he’s real or he’s not. Just tell me.”

It was all I could do not to smile at history’s repetition.

“Well, baby, if you believe in Santa, then the magic is real. But you have to believe. So it’s up to you.”

The wheels turned. At the speed of light, I watched her process my words. In a flash, she had her answer.

“I believe, Mama.”

“Well then, darlin, he’s real.”

As she smiled at me I was struck by a thought.

Someday she will understand that completely honest is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be.

17 thoughts on “not completely honest

  1. She can question your honesty. One thing she cannot question: your skill with linguistic subtlety.


    The way you preserve her wonder…it’s quite beautiful, Jess.

  2. You are such a good mama. I know you don’t need me to tell you that, but I feel compelled to say it anyway. I need to remind myself to read this post again next November, so I have my wise answers at the ready.

  3. Handled brilliantly. We’ve had the same conversation. Miss M LOVES the magic of it, buys the whole thing, though I think she knows.

    Roxie wants to know where I hide the stuff.

  4. i think it is called Truth vs. truth

    p.s. your blog just chastised me for posting comments too fast. it told me to “slow down” isn’t that hilarious?

  5. How cool that she asked the question in a way that let you play the magic card.

    When Rose asked the question (pre-Christmas, by the way), she tackled Daddy and asked “Are YOU Santa?! Do YOU put the presents in my stocking after I go to bed?”

    Harder to finesse, that way. We went for confession, followed by, “But do you still want to hang a stocking?” Which indeed she did. She even still left us milk and cookies! 🙂

  6. Perfect! I love how you handled this! I told my boys early on that Santa is a spirit (the spirit of St. Nicholas). After a few years, they asked if (being a spirit) Santa could carry toys. I said, probably not, but that I still believed that he was real spirit!

  7. Well Jess, you’ve got a way with words (written and spoken)! That’s all there is to it. (Loved the latest Autism Speaks speech, btw.) I’ll be sending my kids over to you when this question comes up.

  8. First of all…I’m 36 and still believe in Santa. My brother is 39 and he does too. We even said so this Christmas.

    Second of all, that being said, I think I held that belief for far longer than others because of the story my mom told us when we were younger. It never wavered in the details, even year after year when we searched for more. It goes like this…One year my mom made home made cranberry sauce in a huge pot on Christmas Eve and left it sitting to cool on the stove overnight (or so she told us). Somewhere in the middle of the night, my mom heard a noise and tried to wake my Dad (who wouldn’t wake up). She looked to the door and there stood Santa peeking around the door frame. He didn’t say a word, just put his finger to his nose, winked at my mother, and walked away down the hall. My mother didn’t dare move a muscle to get out of bed, but again tried to wake my Dad with an, “Ed, Ed, did you see that?”. The next morning when she dared to get out of bed not only were the cookies and milk and carrots for the reindeer gone …but the enormous pot of cranberry sauce was EMPTY!

    Oh the magic and wonder it still brings to my mind that my Mom actually got to SEE Santa and have him wink at her. It made her pretty cool in my eyes. So, if anyone needs a little story to rope the belief in a little tighter when they are still young, please, please feel free to use mine.

    Well done, Jess!

  9. Why didn’t you tell her about the shipyard and Santa’s summer job, and his granda the reindeer rancher and the harpoon he used to keep polar bears at bay when he went north to round up deer to pull the sled?

    Of course she stopped believing. There’s no sdtructure. Santa is not just a ten-day figure. You need to lay out the whole life, including the total depravity of the elves.

    Then she will believe and spread the word.

  10. John’s Santa story really does rock. It practically has me believing.

    But these days, I am paying for past Santa-related sins. When Taz was little, I always took credit for the wrapped gifts under the tree , but then i made a big deal out of feigning surprise that the stockings were filled. “Where did THAT stuff come from?” I’d gasp dramatically. “Must be Santa,” Taz would scream, especially when he saw the candy, which he knew I would never buy.

    I really painted myself in the corner with this. Taz asks me again and again, “Did YOU fill the stocking?” If I say yes, I’m confessing to years of outright lying; how will he ever trust me again? So far, I’ve just said in response to his question, “Taz, do you really think that I would buy that tooth-rotting candy?” I am a weasel, and I will be punished for this.

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