FIRST OF ALL, don't get your panties in a wad. I don't judge any of you for telling your kids there's a Santa Claus. What I'm about to say is what I THINK about it. What you do is up to you.
True story. The day I realized that Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and my dad had the same handwriting, I stopped believing in God. No, really. I thought that he was just another imaginary being that my parents made up to make us be good.
As I got older I developed my own understanding of God, but there were a few years there where I thought all these beings that parents tell us to believe in were just made up.
When we had our own children, I didn't want to do Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or any of these things, because I thought they might have the same crisis. Bryan did not approve. I understand why. People who don't believe in Santa are cold, sad beings. The mother from Miracle on 34th Street. The dad from Elf. People like me are the destroyer of childhoods. Allegedly. We lack faith. We lack true happiness. We must have given up on life and now we're dragging down our children with us.
I decided I would just stay out of it and let Bryan be the holiday parent. But if they ASKED ME, the door was open and I was going to suck all the magic out of their little souls.
My moment came when we were at a shopping mall and my son asked me if that man taking pictures with kids was Santa. I told him honestly that it was someone playing dress up, pretending to be Santa. He seemed disappointed. He asked me if Santa was real. I gave him my prepared response.
"Santa used to be a real person, but he lived a long time ago. He used to give presents to people who needed them, especially children. Now we remember him by pretending he is bringing us presents."
I steeled myself for sadness. Instead my little Connor gave that some serious thought and then answered, "Cool!"
The magic wasn't gone, because we never brought it in. It wasn't a sad realization. It was cool.
When the kids lose a tooth, we pretend the tooth fairy is coming.
At Easter, we dye eggs and build a nest for the Easter Bunny.
When Midsummer Night comes, we pretend to look for fairies.
We do all the things that other kids do, but we keep them firmly grounded in the world of imagination instead of reality. Their holidays aren't any less fun, and there's no moment of truth coming up as they grow older. Bryan hasn't been disappointed by it, either. I think he would have been if we just threw out our traditions entirely.
We just have to watch out sometimes for when the kids starting talking about the real Santa around other children...