We are off to see Santa. Of course we are: it’s freezing cold, I have a list of jobs to do as long as my face and at least fifty percent of my children are too young to give a flying reindeer about Santa. So why on earth wouldn’t we?
We have tried a number of Santa visits over the years. The local fire station (queued for hours, Santa’s beard was so wonky we could all clearly see the brown facial stubble underneath, somewhat ruining the illusion), the local shopping centre (a 3D film where E refused to wear the glasses, somewhat ruining the illusion) and the local school (E recognising Santa’s elf as his friend’s mum, somewhat ruining the illusion). It was less about evoking the magic of Christmas, more about teetering on the edge of having the whole Santa myth come crashing down around our ears in a cloud of polystyrene snowflakes.
So this year, I thought we would try the local farm, where at least, even if Santa’s beard accidentally falls in the fire and his false belly drops on his feet, the boys get to enjoy a tractor ride. The day before we are due to go, I remind E that his trip to Santa is imminent.
“Will it be the real Santa, mummy, or a pretend Santa?” he asks, looking at me with those eyes that say ‘I may know the answer to the question that I have just asked you, but I may not. So it’s up to you… but be very, very careful how you answer this’. Well, it was either those eyes, or the ‘have you got any chocolate in your pockets?’ eyes, it can be difficult to tell the difference sometimes.
I look back at him, as usual, not really knowing what to say. What’s the official parenting line on crappy Santas who are just after a bit of cash in hand on the run up to Christmas?
“Erm…” It’s no good, I think. I can’t possibly say it’s the real Santa. Hang on… what am I thinking, the ‘real Santa’? There is no bloody Santa, for chrissakes. That’s the trouble when most of the Western world colludes in a whopping great fib, I start to forget where reality ends and a mythical fat bloke in a ridiculous red suit with white furry cuffs begins.
“It will probably be… a pretend one,” I say. “After all, Santa is very busy at the moment.” Wait, that is starting to sound like Santa won’t have time to watch him like a hawk to make sure he is being a good boy, and let’s face it, wielding that threat over a five year old for the whole of December is pretty much the ONLY redeeming feature of the whole Santa charade.
“But the pretend one reports into Santa every day,” I add quickly. “So you still have to be extra good.” I look at my son, trying to work out if he has swallowed this load of old bollocks. The jury is decidedly out.
I do wonder how much longer he will believe in Santa. We have come close on a few occasions, mainly due to my own ineptitude, of blowing the whole thing. Last year, he spotted that some of the presents from mummy and daddy had the same wrapping paper as those from Santa, and how could that be? I remember fumbling through some half-arsed explanation that held about as much water as a sieve, but I just about got away with it. There was also some very intense questioning about how Santa could possibly come down our chimney as our fire has a door on it, and only after much insistence that Santa has a magic key did he stop interrogating me. And then there was the time that Santa bought him a play kitchen, which even a four year old could see would never fit down the chimney so just how did it get here? I tell you, believing in Santa is sodding exhausting in our house.
It’s not even as if Santa is a particularly good role model. An old bloke who has clearly no self control when it comes to the mince pies, who only has one outfit, works for one day a year before sitting on his fat arse waiting for December to roll round again, drinks whilst operating heavy reindeers, can’t be fucked to shave and so has a beard that could house several generations of rodents, and who is a little too keen to have small children sitting on his lap. He probably claims job seekers allowance, too.
My youngest has the right idea about Santa. When we did go to see him, after the tractor ride, the moment he clapped eyes on that be-hatted buffoon, he screamed his head off. Quite right, too.
To all readers of Mothering Frights, to those who come back week after week like a small child who touches something hot, feels the pain, but can’t help but touch it again, to all those who pop in occasionally when they have absolutely nothing else to do, and to all those who are reading this by accident as they had Googled ‘best Santa visits’ and found this on page thirteen, may I take this opportunity to wish you and yours a jolly spiffing Christmas. May your Lego sets be simple, your puzzles have all the pieces and your family board games over very quickly. See you on the other side.