When to burst the Santa bubble - redux

*My original posting seems dead, no content, can’t reply to it. The boards went down right after I posted, I guess it hosed the thread.

It was a good post, too, a bit witty, a little nostalgic. I had a story in it and a small slam against my Ex wife’s mother. A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer…

Ah - I’ll do my best to recreate but it’ll be a shadow of the wonderness that was the original posting.*
So - this deals with my 10 year old. There’s two more kids, ages 5 and 8 and I think belief in Santa for them is appropriate. My 10 year old, fifth grade, is another matter. I think it’s time to give up the fantasy. Part of this is my guilt in deceiving him, part of this is worry that his peers are going to make fun of him, and part of this is financial.

See, around these parts, Santa brings one gift to each child at Christmas. The rest of the gifts under the tree would be from Mom and Dad or other real flesh-and-blood people (although the jury is out on my ex-Mother-in-law on this).

We (my now ex-wife and I) would by special paper for this gift, usually the shiny foil kind to make it stand out, and it would often be the “big” gift of that holiday - the more expensive one. This part was probably the mistake.

Santa, to the kids, has no budget. After all he makes the toys himself. This has lead the kids to think that their “Santa gift” is pretty much a gift without boundaries.

This year, my oldest said he was going to ask Santa for an X-Box 360. Now, neither me nor my ex-wife have the budget for a $400 gift this year. After all the divorce costs, child support costs, etc. there’s just not enough left for a premium gift like this. The conversation went something like this:

“What would you like for Christmas this year?”
“I want an X-Box 360 so I can play Halo 3.”
“Oh. Those are really expensive you know.”
“That’s OK. I’ll just ask Santa for it.”
Sigh

Sigh indeed.

It may be that he’s putting me on. Maybe there’s no belief in Santa and he’s just playing along rather than risk the brakes being thrown the Polar Express. I know I did this as a kid - hid my non-belief. Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t risk the gifts drying up.

Somehow my Ex- talked him out of the X-Box. Since she’s got Christmas morning this year it was going to fall on her to produce the Santa gift and when I asked him the “Whadya want?” question this week he said, “An X-Box… or maybe a Nerf gun” as an answer. Maybe he realized that we are Santa and Santa is we. He should know that neither his mom or I have gobs of money this year. (Our financial situations are known the kids in a general sense - they know that Mom or Dad don’t have the resources to do crazy things.) On the other hand, maybe he’s still a believer and his mind was just changed.

Anyway, I have the urge to come clean with him this year. My ex- says “No”, let him have the magic as long as he wants it.

So, I guess my poll here is:

When did you tell your kids about Santa and do you think I’ve reached the point where it’s necessary to tell my oldest?

My kids are 3 and 5 and they know Santa is as real as Clifford or Winnie the Pooh. And for the record, they know a monstrous red dog and a talking teddy bear aren’t real.

In previous years, have they received exactly what they asked for, for Christmas? I mean, does the 10-year-old have a reasonable expectation, based on past events, that if he asks Santa for an XBox 360, then an XBox 360 will definitely appear underneath the tree Christmas morning? If so, you’re going to have to break the news to the kid, and no, I don’t think that 10 is too old for such a discussion.

Personally speaking, I have a strict don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy about Santa in this house. I neither confirm nor deny Santa-related information. My 5-year-old has a very tenuous belief in the whole concept, mostly fostered by mall Santa Clauses and the occasional library book, but I think he’ll be figuring out the real deal pretty soon here.

I think your son is playing the “If I say I don’t believe in Santa then the gifts will stop coming” game. I don’t think you really need to sit him down and have a talk about it though. If there is anyway that he does still truly believe in Santa, then he will figure it out Christmas morning when he doesn’t get his Xbox.

I can’t really remember how old my kids were when they found out there was really no Santa. I know my son knew first but played along for his younger sister. I never really told them they just figured it out on there own.

I am thinking that at 10 he knows there is no Santa and is playing the “Santa Card”.

I think he’s being sweet – he’s providing Santa with an out by adding the Nerf gun, so my guess is that he knows, but wants to keep the Santa thing going for his siblings and for mom and dad.

Of course, it may be alarming for you to learn that I still haven’t given up on Santa with my parents – I’m an adult who still gets gifts from “Santa” in addition to gifts from real people. Santa still visits everyone, including the dog and the cat, and we go through a big routine about asking the giver to pass along our thanks to Santa. I remember when I was a kid, both my parents got such a kick out of Santa and even when I was old enough to figure it out, it seemed mean to deny them the fun of it.

Maybe you could try to suss it out by leading him to the idea that it might be fun for his mom to get something (small, appropriate from a 10 year old) from “Santa” that he could secret under the tree. “Look Mom, Santa left something for you!”

Well, there’s really 2 issues here: the money, and the Santa.

For the first, I’m going to steal what someone else said in another thread (and I’m stealing it all the way to my household, as well): “I heard that Santa doesn’t give gifts that Mom and Dad can’t afford to replace if they stop working, because Santa doesn’t want to worry them. So you have to stay in our budget, and this year that’s about $75.”

As for the belief at all, I’ve always answered my kids’ questions honestly. I don’t start the Santa storytelling, they pick that up from the mall and TV and friends and grandparents or something. It’s just in the air. Neither of them, at a young age, asked me whether it was true or not. I play along the same way I play along when the toddler growls at me and announces she’s a dinosaur. When they start getting suspicious and asking logistical questions, I ask them what they think: “Hmmm…that’s a good question! How *does *Santa get to every house in one night?” They usually have an answer at the ready, and life goes on.

Eventually, of course, the boy said, “So…Santa’s not…real…right?” And I said the same thing to him my mother said to me: “You’ve heard of the Christmas Spirit, right? It’s this feeling you get around that time of year where you want to do nice things and buy things and spend time with people, even if most of the year you couldn’t care less. Santa’s a face and story we tell about that urge to do nice things for other people. He’s part of the Christmas Spirit, but he’s not one person. He’s me and your dad and Grandma and you and everyone who gives gifts generously.”

I know this has been a hot topic on this board in previous years. There are some Dopers who really feel angry at their parents for lying to them, and feel the need to, as you call it, “burst the bubble” or make sure it’s never formed in the first place. But I see no harm in playing along, as long as you’re honest when asked outright.

I don’t know that I think one should ever “burst the Santa bubble”. My nieces are little, but know that Santa is just pretend. In fact, I think they’ve always known that Santa’s just pretend.

Of course, Santa plays by different rules in my family, than he does in yours. Santa never gave big gifts to us–Mom and Dad wanted the acknowledgement for the big gifts(which weren’t usually all that big) to go directly to them. So Santa gives us oranges and raisins and candy and socks and shops heavily at Bath & Body works. And Santa does this for anyone who will be present Christmas morning and often for people who won’t. And Santa sticks a few jigsaw puzzles under the tree and thats it.
Back to your situation:

I’d be pretty mad if I were 10 and was deprived of a big present while my siblings got them because I was old enough that my parents thought I shouldn’t believe in Santa anymore. My mother tells a story of the year that she no longer got birthday money from Aunt Whoever because she was too old. She was incredibly upset, and Aunt Whoever always gave exactly 2 shiney new dimes as birthday money. (And no, my mother is not old enough that 2 dimes bought a heck of a lot).

On the other had, perhaps because of Santa’s rules at our house, and perhaps because I’ve never been greedy, and perhaps because we never went overboard at Christmas in general, I have a problem with the idea that someone requests one particular item with a strong expectation of getting that item. And I kind of like the suggestion that Santa has a budget based on what the parents can afford to replace–even though I’m not sure I’d use that with my hypothetical children, due to what Santa has done in my family.

Note: I may have amended it a bit: I think the original poster wrote something like “…can replace if it gets broken…” but since we don’t replace broken things in our house (that is, if you break a toy, you’ve lost it, unless you want to earn the money to buy another), I figured “stops working” provides a better out. If a toy stops working through no fault of your own, we will replace it, within reason.

Ah! Yes, here we go. It was Litoris, in the “How many gifts per kid?” thread.

I think the most expensive gift asked for and given as a Santa gift was a Nintendo DS last year.

Jumping up to a $400 request is new. Yes, though, in the past their requests have been in budget and they’re pretty much gotten the what they’ve requested. When we asked them in the past, though, what they asked of Santa we’ve always said, “Well, we’ll see - you know you don’t always get what you ask for.” but so far they’ve been pretty reasonable and have received their request.

Even in the pre-divorce world, there’d be no awarding of a $400 gift, though. It’s just too unbalanced. Perhaps, since I want one too, my 5-yr old is interested, we’d have a “To the Belrix Family” gift of a 360 and he’d get the Halo game itself ($60) as his Santa gift. (My girl is indifferent to video games.)

This year each kid gets a new Wal-Mart bicycle from me since we’re going to be moving to half-custody this spring and moving into Dad’s new house. Since those are outside things and it’s winter, I’m giving a big-ish inside gift, too. I’m giving a my oldest a radio control vehicle, my 8-yr old girl gets the Rubik themed electronic game, and my youngest is getting the big Imaginext pirate ship. That’s the big stuff. There’s a few little items to pad out the under-the-tree, craft kit, plastic model, etc. but those are the big things.

I’ve been trying for years to make Christmas tone down a bit on the toy part. This year, thanks to budget constraints and the fact that I’m making all the decisions it’s been easier to keep things smaller. There’s about 5 things per kid under the tree.

I’m off the hook for Santa this year since they’re waking up at their Mom’s. Oddly, thanks to quirks due to this year’s travel plans and my single-bedroom apartment, next year Santa visits their Mom’s house, too. 2009 is my first Santa year.

I think that’s a great idea, if you can swing it.

After xmas, you might want to have a talk with the 5th grader about Santa, though.
My eldest knows there’s no Santa, and I worry that, since he’s naturally evil as all big brothers are (can you tell I was a little brother?), he’s going to tell his little brother in the heat of one of their near-constant arguments.

FTR, when I was a lad, I announced to my entire Kindergarten class there was no Santa. Maybe I’m feeling a tad guilty for that. :o

Unfortunately, that’s out of reach this year.

Maybe that’ll be my tax-return gift if there’s enough left over after wedding and honeymoon expenses (yeah right :rolleyes: )

My guess is that a ten year old knows, but he either doesn’t want to admit it or wants to keep the tradition to keep Christmas more like the pre-divorce days. I think ten year olds are old enough to understand money issues, if explained properly. Not old enough to anticipate that asking for an expensive gift would be a problem, but old enough to handle it. At 10 I was told that we were moving away from my friends to Africa for a year and a half, and I understood and handled it fine.

My oldest daughter starting asking questions, and we guided her so she worked it out for herself - she was about 7. She was very proud of figuring it out, and we never had to lie to her.

My 8 year old seems to believe very firmly in Santa and I really don’t want to set him straight just yet although it would be very convenient to do so, especially since he recently asked for a “family gift” from the jolly old elf of a 52 inch TV which we are NOT getting (actually I offered to trade our second Disney trip of the year for it, but he didn’t want that). [That’s an awesome run on sentence, isn’t it?] I was tempted to get the bubble bursting ball rolling, but my boy looked so sincere that I couldn’t bring myself to do it. And, now, with WhyNot’s replacement value idea, I see that I can keep the ruse going for a long, long time.

Yes, he’s an only child. How did you know?

I’ve thought about the matter some more and have figured out why ( I think) “bursting the Santa bubble” rubs me the wrong way. Figuring out that Santa isn’t real should come from maturing and understanding the impracticalities of Santa or from one’s peers. Not from one’s parents. This is a conviction deep in my heart based on nothing in particular. It’s just the way things ought to be.

On the other hand, at some point in time, if the maturing child doesn’t seem to come to terms with this issue, parents may wish to intervene. Does the child understand, but wish to keep gifts from Santa coming? Or does the child just not grasp the concepts involved?

And for this particular case, “bursting the Santa bubble” strikes me as bad parenting. First of all, see above re: how children should learn about Santa. But Secondly, and more importantly, whether or not the child believes in Santa has very little to do with the real issue, which is a pinch of budgetary issues mixed with a pinch or two of entitlement. The budgetary issues may wane over time, although a gift of this magnitude may never be easy. The entitlement issues were probably not created overnight, and will probably not dissappear overnight. But neither budgetary nor entitlement issues will be solved by telling the kid that Santa isn’t real–and it’s entirely possible that the kid already gets that Santa isn’t real, but doesn’t grasp the budgetary issues. In which case, follow someone else’s advice about teaching budgetary issues to children–I certainly don’t have any.

Having a brother 5 years younger, we figured that at some point we needed to drop the “I still believe in Santa” bull and switch to “If we don’t get what we want, our little brother will know”. This didn’t last long. By age 5 our little brother was already set straight and that was that. 10 years old and believing in Santa? C’mon. He is playing you.

It’s for that exact reason I was told that Mum and Dad send money to Santa, who then brings all the presents at Christmas. Although if it had been up to my Dad I would have been told that there is no Santa right from the beginning.

Thanks Mum!

I just want to add that I think this year, in particular, is a really rotten one to do any bubble bursting. I mean, the poor kid’s going through a divorce and his first Dad’s-not-home-for-Christmas. That’s hard enough. On the off chance that he really does still believe (which I doubt), is this really the time to hear the news? That’s an awful lot to take at once, if he hasn’t matured to the age of figuring it out himself.
Huh, I just realized that that’s what Santa is: he’s a shibboleth that keeps"the young and innocent" separate from “the older and wiser”. Figuring out that Santa is people is one of the first big initiatory tests in our society. Once you do that, you’re no longer one of “the little kids”, but you’re taken into the fold, made a co-conspirator and told not to ruin it for the younger ones - that is, to let them go through their own trial. In fact, he may be the last of the myth-based initiatory rites for the mainstream American.

I knew when I was four that there was no Santa. Nobody told me. I just… reasoned on my own. While most toddlers were trying to eat everything under the sun, I was sitting, thinking. I already knew basic physics. Nothing complicated, just basic things. I realized that Santa supposedly delivers gifts to kids all around the world. That would be very heavy on its own, plus the reindeer and Santa, who seems to be rather portly. I knew that it would be impossible for a rickety wooden sleigh to carry all that, and so just reasoned that it could not be. I was a very… nerdy four year old.

Here’s how I would have handled it.

Child: I want an X-box for Christmas.
Me: You’re not getting an X-box.
Child: But, Santa . . .
Me: Don’t be stupid.

If he still believes in Santa someday he may believe that the nice man from Nigeria who he got an email from really will send him the money.