Wineskins Archive

January 23, 2014

Mommy, Is Santa Real? (Nov-Dec 1993)

Filed under: — @ 4:25 pm and

by Patti Sheeley
November – December, 2008

I pulled up to my daughter’s school, and she bounced out to greet me, her hooded coat flying out behind her. “Hi, Mommy,” she said as she climbed into the car. “I have a question. Is Santa real?”

My husband and I had discussed this issue many times. We did not want to mislead our child into believing something that was not true. We agreed. Life provides enough opportunities for children to doubt their faith in God and mistrust their parents without adding more uncertainty. “What do you think?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” she replied. “But we’re going to find out this year.”

“Really. How’s that?”

Mary now“After I go to bed Christmas Eve, Mommy, I want you to stay up with a camera and take a picture. Don’t tell Daddy. I think he might be Santa, but I want proof.”

I spent the rest of the day beating myself up. I knew I did not want to deceive her, but why was I so weak? I should have just told her.

That night, I came clean with my husband, expecting him to continue the beating. Instead, he got excited. “Let’s play this one up. It’s a great way to keep a little mystery in Christmas. Make cookies, put out milk, and see that the fireplace is cold. I’ll play along. It will be fun to see how she responds.”

Without realizing it, we had stumbled into a great approach to a common problem. Supporting our daughter as she found the solution to her quandary was an exercise in problem solving. The Bible says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Prov. 22:6 NIV). I realized, this verse means more than, “Teach truth, and if they rebel, your children will return.” It is designed to encourage parents to find the divine purpose for their children.

That night, Keith posed in his white oxford cloth shirt and jeans. He ate cookies, drank milk, and filled stockings while I snapped pictures from the stairwell with a digital camera.

The next morning, our daughter got up first. When I came downstairs, she bounded up to me, “Mommy, Mommy, Santa is real!! He left crumbs. Where are the pictures? I gotta see them.”

I answered, “The pictures will show you exactly what happened. Are you ready?” I noticed a quiver in my voice as I spoke. My hands trembled as I reached for the camera and found the pictures. The first photo was of Keith, standing by the fireplace with one foot up on the hearth taking a bite of Santa’s cookie. A look of steely determination came across Mary’s young face.

Marys Real SantaShe took a deep breath and said, “Are there more pictures?”

“Yes,” I replied. In the next shot Keith was filling her stocking, then mine. Her chin quivered and I thought I saw tears pooling in her eyes, but she put on a brave face. She had just enough time to glance at the final shot of Keith drinking Santa’s milk, when he ambled down the stairs. “Did Santa come?” he said.

I began to realize, Mary was developing her character as she discovered reality. Our silly experiment was giving her real life skills. If we encouraged her to pursue truth, she would discover God’s passion for her life. It was our job to train her into this passion.

When she saw her father, her mouth became tight, with just a hint of a smile at the corners as she handed the camera back to me and whispered, “Don’t let him see these.” Her almond eyes narrowed slightly as she said, “Daddy, you know!”

Later, when we were alone, Mary said, “Mommy, I’m glad to know the truth, but let’s let Daddy think I still believe. I like that he pretends.”
New Wineskins

Patti SheeleyPatti V. Sheeley is a free lance writer in Colorado. She has served as a Chaplain in the United States Air Force, church counselor, and Bible college instructor. Patti loves to explore the hidden areas where faith intersects life. When she is not writing or caring for the needs of her family, she can probably be found marveling at the beauty of God’s creation. She has earned her Master of Divinity and a M. A. in Counseling. Her articles have appeared in Message of the Open Bible and The Morgan Horse Magazine. She and her husband, Keith, have one child.

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