I was never sure how I was going to handle the whole Santa Claus thing with a child. I like Santa as a concept in "Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus" kindness in people's hearts kind of way. But I don't like Santa in the "We must all tip toe around this great fiction and go to great lengths to preserve this collective lie or else it will ruin Christmas" kind of way.
It's clear that the nursery the boy attends has gone to some great lengths to fill their heads with tales. The boy has come back talking of "Father Christmas" and if he's coming and when he's coming and nothing at all of Santa. I have indulged in a little bit of "maybe Santa will bring it" when he pesters me over some longed-for toy.
Of course, I did issue some big whoppers this Christmas. One in particular over the Fisher Price Imaginext Space Shuttle that's been heavily advertised over the past several months. I did buy him the space shuttle, but unfortunately the boy spotted it and wanted it straight away. "Sorry," I said. "That's a present for another boy, but maybe you'll get one. Maybe Santa will bring it." There were a lot of tears, but eventually the boy gave up. "That's for another boy," he said a bit forlornly and eventually stopped mentioning it at all.
Except when I asked him what he was getting for me. "What do you think Mommy wants?" I asked. "A white space rocket," he replied confidently.
On Christmas morning the Space Shuttle was opened and I snapped the moment of reveal. I may be reading too much into it, but I think something on his face isn't just the joy of receiving the longed for toy. I think there's a bit of "I knew it! This was for me all along."
The biggest lie of all
I did tell another Santa related lie at Christmas. This was on a trip into town. We were riding the Underground. The boy loves to sit on the flip down seats on the Northern Line. And near the flip down seats by the sliding doors is the passenger alarm. It's red, it has a pull down handle and it must be down right near irresistible to a little lad.
Here's what happens if you pull the passenger alarm. The train stops. The driver must leave the driving box at the front and traverse the length of the train to investigate and re-set the alarm. And then he/she must weave back through all the cars and people and their luggage to get the train moving again. It causes delay. It makes the driver grumpy. It makes the passengers grumpy. You may be fined, and you might well be subject to some kind of withering announcement over the train loud speakers. And you will definitely be the subject of some under-breath mutterings of a most unpleasant nature.
But the boy didn't know all that. All the boy knew was that it was an interesting looking contraption which begged tactile exploration.
"Hey, Buddy - don't touch that!" I lurched forward and covered it with my hands. As he was trying to pry my fingers away, we were attracting the horrified stares of our fellow passengers who all wished to get to their destinations without any further delay.
"Well, uh - because..." and I faltered. If I told him that it would make the train stop would that just make it a more attractive proposition? Would he just long to pull it even more? All that power, making the train stop. I could see the worried looks around me as fellow Londoners understood my predicament.
"Because if you pull that, Santa will DIE."