Two years ago, we arranged for Dad to leave the Christmas party to “buy the paper” and a few minutes later Santa Claus arrived with presents in a bag. He then proceeded to read the rhymes on each present and distribute them before hasting off to the next family. This is the typical way that Swedish families celebrate Christmas, and usually it is a male family member who steps in. The boys, then 3 and 5 years old, completely believed in what was happening and it was a very heartfelt and funny event for us adults there.
By next Christmas, big brother had wizened up and asked me if there really was a Santa. For a few moments, I was really torn between keeping the fun and “outing” Santa. I had spent a lot of time building a trusting relationship with both boys where “mom will always tell the truth,” and I really did not want to violate it by lying about Santa. Yet it had been so much fun..!
Then I had a Hand in Hand-inspired idea! I told both boys that there is no “real” Santa but that there were many, many dads out in the world who loved their children so much that they pretended to be Santa just so that their children could have a good time. And their father was one of them. Then I asked if they could help keep Dad happy by pretending that they did not recognize him so that he could go on thinking that they believed he was Santa. They boys agreed to do this. They giggled between themselves but kept a straight face around Dad during the days before Chrismas.
At the Christmas party Dad left again “to buy the paper” and the boys stepped right into character. The whole time Santa was there they played their roles beautifully, while giving the rest of us winks and smiles. They even initiated serious conversations with Santa. It was all the fun of the first time, but this time the children had the upper hand and I did not have to lie to them!
It was a great success, so we will keep having our very own version of Playlistening Christmas with savvy kids and bumbling Santa for years to come.
-Leigh Jamison is a Certified Hand in Hand instructor. You can read more about her on her website.