It’s that time of the year again.
The time where we come together as a family. Where we cherish our loved ones, eat a relaxed meal together, embrace one another on our doorsteps, talk to distant relatives, laugh and give each other presents. When we simply take some time to be with one another: marking yet another year of progress on this journey through life. Then, in accordance with tradition, every parent, grandparent, uncle or aunt will commemorate Christmas in the way we have always done right down through the passage of time.
By lying to our children.
An entire cozenage of flimflam and hokum, a concocted tale of falsehoods ready to lay at the feet of our trusting, innocent offspring.
Oh come on! Look, dress it up how you will. Deceiving our children over some white-bearded fat weirdo in a red suit is exactly that. It’s deceit and dishonesty. Good God the rest of the year we are reading the news about Gary Glitter, Jimmy Saville or Rolf Harris. Then you jump up and tell your nine year old girl to go for a wee jiggle on that old fat stranger’s knee. The guy employed on a casual basis because presumably he finds it difficult to hold down regular jobs.
Yes of course we tell ourselves it’s for their own good. Look so did the slave traders and plantation owners. Come on Mum, they said, give us your children. This will really broaden their outlook. It will be good for them. Well that is the whole point of a lie isn’t it? It’s not good for them at all. It’s good for us – makes us feel better.
Let’s face it, the entire tradition is a logistical shambles. How does a single overweight man fly about this earth and squeeze down literally a billion chimneys, drink all that milk and still get the names right on all the presents? I have exactly three children and I have never managed to name all my children’s presents correctly. So how would Santa go in foreign languages from all over the globe? Yes I lied to my daughter as I have lied to all of my children and then, once you’ve told the lie, you need to deepen the hole and make it bigger, nicely prepared for you to fall into at some stage.
“Dad what language does Santa speak?” Claire asked me with her Mum’s big brown eyes.
“Icelandic,” I replied, barely flinching as I deftly manouvred the family van through a busy intersection of immigrants who, judging by their driving, came mostly from war-torn states where survival seems to involve never using your indicators.
She actually bought this for a while. Iceland – nice one! Digested it. Not for long though because, being female, she needs to zero in on trivial and minute details, which is fairly traditional for any female swotty pants on this globe.
“But Dad I thought he lived in the North Pole – so Iceland is not the North Pole is it?”
This is when you lie some more. This is the moment where we should stop, take stock and actually be honest, both to ourselves and to our children. The time when you man up and do the right thing.
But no: like all males, lying comes naturally. It’s genetic.
“He emigrated Claire. Iceland’s not far away from the North Pole.”
Nine years old is now old to still believe in Santa. We keep it up though. She believes because she believes everything I say – everything – and this makes it all so much worse. You see the lie is never enough. You then need to add detail. I’ve lied to her before, when she was just four years old and still in creche. I had told her that the reason I had a swollen belly was because I was pregnant with a baby named “Beer.” For over a year I kept this up and even her kindergarten teachers used to ask how Beer was coming along.
“Santa sometimes goes back to Iceland to watch the football though, they have a great team and even beat England in an away match.”
Again I got away with this. Adding trivial detail to any lie you tell keeps their minds busy.
“Mind you anyone can beat England in a World Cup.”
Well you have to slip in the odd truth to make it all seem real.
Things got worse though when I took her to see the Santa Parade. Look we live in Auckland. It’s not a big parade here. We don’t really do big here. We do small and slightly inbred, that’s the whole point of being who we are. Once they even had a few goats in the parade. We are big on livestock here, ask the Aussies. It’s just a few locals marching down our main street, (called imaginatively, “Queen Street”) with some bagpipe and marching bands, a couple of flashy classic cars and some very seedy underpaid characters on security.
Of course this is where the logistics get difficult. Kids are so smart these days aren’t they? They get so much media input. Not just smart but they know they are smart. They know stuff. Back in my day we were are all pretty thick so we never really stopped to think about minute details. We found kids like that annoying. Frankly I still do.
Then Santa spoke through the speakers off the back of a slow rolling truck.
“Merry Christmas kiddies! Ho, ho , ho!” bellowed Santa, who was probably on day release from a nearby prison.
Well of course Claire turned to me instantly at this point with a puzzled expression. I could see the question forming on her lips, I could sense her brain engaging, I could feel one of those incredibly prickly questions forming and sure enough it wasn’t long before it popped out.
Look every parent recognises this moment. “Mum?” they ask. Or, “Dad?” and a wee shiver traces your spine. What will it be now? A new technical device? The birds and the bees? Expensive school camps? You are just waiting, sighing at the inevitability of it all, but really these are the joys of parenthood. It’s what we are here for.
“How come Santa has a Kiwi accent? Didn’t you say he spoke Icelandic?”
In these moments fathers are equipped to lie like the blazes. You can throw virtually any question at us and a good Dad can lie his head off at a moment’s notice. We’ve had a lifetime of training for this.
“Yes but he came to study here in his gap year Claire.”
Now she looked stunned.
“Did he really? Santa came to New Zealand to study?”
“Yes of course, when he was younger. He did a course in woodwork.”
And with that I completely changed the subject.
One of the issues with the lie of Santa is that no-one paused to work out the details. Did you know that all male reindeer shed their antlers by November? That suggests that Rudolph is actually transgender. Not that Rudolph is even really part of the team. The names were originally Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Donner and Blitzen. Some guy just wrote a song and threw in a Rudolph to casually add to the lie.
Well that is what we are all actually doing isn’t it? Just adding to the lie.