Editor’s note • The following may not be appropriate for our younger readers.
Dear Ann Cannon • I come from a long line of big-time Christmas-lovers, as does my husband — and we’ve passed our enthusiasm for the holiday onto our children, all of whom are adults now. Therein lies the problem. Our son recently married a woman with two children from a previous marriage who doesn’t want her kids buying into the Santa Claus myth. She thinks that telling them that Santa brings them presents is a form of lying. This woman is also very religious and doesn’t want the Santa narrative to interfere with the story of the nativity. She’s also worried that when her children discover “the truth” about Santa, they’ll think she was lying to them about Jesus, too.
Our other children, who are parents themselves, are understandably (I think) concerned about this. They’re worried that these new cousins will “spill the beans” about Santa Claus and ruin things for their kids. They want the next generation to experience the same kind of magical believing Christmas they had when they were children. So, what’s a mother (and grandmother) to do?
Dear “Worried” • Wait. WAIT. Are you telling me that Santa is a phony?
OK. Now that we have the obvious joke out of the way, I’m sorry to say there are no easy (or even good) answers here. At least I don’t think there are. And you’re right — this situation can potentially cause plenty of hard feelings. People take beloved Christmas traditions very, very seriously. A good friend of mine who didn’t do the Santa thing with her kids when they were growing up now says she believes that was a mistake. Turns out that if you live in a community where the majority of your neighbors “believe” in Santa Claus, people don’t always appreciate the kid who, as you say, “spills the beans.” Not everyone feels the way my friend does in retrospect, of course. But still, there it is.
Your particular situation is also complicated by the fact that it’s a new daughter-in-law who feels this way. It’s in everyone’s best interest — hers, your son’s, her children’s and yours — for you to welcome her into the family with open arms, which means it would be counterproductive for you to say at this point in time, “Hey! Welcome to the clan, but keep that Santa thing to yourself!”
See what I mean? No easy answers here. So, what’s my advice? Say nothing about your concerns to your new daughter-in-law and think twice about saying anything to your son. After all, he’s going to be Team New Wife right now, which is as it should be. Then light a special Christmas candle, say a prayer and hope for the best. Sometimes that’s all a worried mama can do.
Meanwhile, I heard from a reader who offered another suggestion for gift-giving when it comes to grandchildren …
Dear Ann Cannon • This may not be a good option for everyone — we only have three grandkids. Two are in their 20s and one is younger. When the older ones were young, I found that I was also overdoing it at Christmas and birthdays. I decided to open a low- risk investment account for each of them. I still buy a small gift for them to open on these special days and deposit what I used to spend into the accounts. The older ones had enough in their accounts to help with down payments on their first homes. We all feel good about this arrangement — no complaints from the kids.
— Satisfied Grandmother