Last year, when my daughter was just seven years old, she found out the truth about Santa.
It all happened when a child in her class decided to use her 'show and tell' time to tell the Christmas secret she'd just discovered. (I wish I'd been a fly on the wall to see the teacher's reaction to that one.)
My daughter came home that day, sat me down and said very seriously, "Mum, is Santa real?"
I tried to put the idea back on her – just like the advice I'd read suggested I do – and asked, "What do you think?" but she wouldn't have a bar of it.
"Just tell me the truth," she requested. And so I did.
While many people think it's unfortunate for her to have found out so young, I took a deep sigh of relief. Here's why.
1. The parents become the givers of magic
I remember being devastated at finding out the truth, and I assumed my children would be the same. But I couldn't have been more surprised at my daughter's reaction.
Actually, I think her response was even better than the magic of believing. "Are you SERIOUS?!" she exploded, with a huge grin on her face. "You mean YOU buy all those presents without us noticing? And then hide them?"
"That's AWESOME!" she summised. This sentiment was echoed over the course of the following week as she thought of more things we were responsible for. "You chew on the reindeer's carrots?", and requests for information about other fictional characters.
Suddenly it wasn't Santa who was magical, but her father and me – and that feels pretty great.
2. No more worries about wrapping paper
When kids reach a certain age they become aware of whether their presents from Santa contain wrapping paper and handwriting that matches that of their parents'. We no longer have to experience that Christmas Eve panic that we only have one type of wrapping paper on hand.
3. A little perspective
I've spoken to a few other parents whose kids were in class the same day my daughter heard the news, and not all the kids came home asking the question. It's made me think that children will only question something when they're ready to know.
This realisation has lessened my concern about the whole thing being a 'lie'. I'll be focusing more on the storytelling side of the myth with my youngest, and when she's ready to ask more about it I'll be ready to tell her.
4. We get the credit for presents
I must admit, there's a little part of me that was always a little annoyed that after all that thought into presents, some mythical guy got the credit for them. Now, my daughter realises the effort that we've put into thinking about something she'd like, shopping secretly and getting it to her without any trace of spoilers.
I think this realisation has made her more grateful, and it has also opened up conversations about families who may not be so fortunate.
5. The magic is still alive
Contrary to popular belief, believing in Santa does not encapsulate the magic of Christmas. This time of year still holds a child's imagination: there are the lights, the songs, the excitement, and the friends and family get-togethers.
And presents still appear under the tree on Christmas morning – no matter who they're from.