Read the following answer to the question “Is Santa real?” for a kid who is old enough to be levelled with. It’s warm-hearted, eloquent, and sweet. It’s also deeply, deeply icky.
Basically the lesson it teaches children is that the way to face an unpleasant truth about life is not to accept it head on, but instead to construct a mythos that allows you to keep your feelings unhurt at the cost of a more elaborate and tenuous relationship with reality.
Sorry to be Grinch here. Most of what this letter says is broadly-speaking true, but it’s not the way I’d put it. I have a particularly guilty conscience on this point because I don’t have children myself, but have spent the past several Christmas Eves at my friends’ house composing notes from Santa and taking bites out of Christmas cookies. I get to have all the fun of the Big Santa Lie without ever having to face the consequences. If I did though, I hope I would handle it like this.
–You’re right. There is no such thing as Santa Claus. Your mother and I pretended that he was real because believing in him brought you a lot of joy, and seeing your joy brought us a lot of joy. It’s a strange little game, and someday you’ll play it with your children.
And if at that point, my child were to look me in the eye and say, “But isn’t that lying?” my heart would swell with pride.