The Young Skeptic

Santa, I fear that your days are numbered. The Boy, who practically dreams in dinosaurs, is already casting a dubious eye on the fat man.

And at age 5, no less!

 I assumed we’d have a few years of untarnished, magical mysticism.

But clearly Cayden questions St. Nick, and his inquiry isn’t fueled with wide-eyed wonderment. He oozes skepticism. Last week on the way to school, he spoke up in the car.

I don’t get it, he said.

Cayden, what don’t you get.

The flying reindeer thing.

I don’t need any more detail, I knew the rub. So I delivered a curt response in Santa’s defense, pulling from a politician’s sack of tricks: adopt an authoritative tone, respond without answering the question, and turn the query back on the pundit.

Cayden, how do expect Santa to get around? The air at the North Pole is way too thin to fly a plane. Seriously, what options does he have?

I couldn’t see his expression, but I sensed the doubt. His little brain was whirling and one message flickered on and off: Something doesn’t add up…

Today, he poked the subject some more:

Why does Santa have to fly at night? Why can’t he fly during the day?

It’s these conversations that would benefit from parental cliff notes, stuffed in one of those free diaper bags they hand out at the hospital, before they shove you out the door. Not how to answer “where do babies come from” or a brochure on “Talking to your teens about sex.”

What I need is “the most common FAQs about Santa’s legitimacy.”
(You might as well throw in “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Parenting” while you’re at it. I wouldn’t say no.)

Santa’s “flying at night” question wasn’t on my radar, so I duck down and crawled into the kitchen cabinet beneath the stove, under the guise of starting dinner. I root around a minute before I reemerged, slamming a frying pan on the burner, like a game show contestant triumphantly buzzing in an answer. Cayden and Brynn jumped in their seats.

Santa can’t fly during the day because…because the reindeer have poor daytime vision and the sun is blinding. They see better in the dark. Also, there’s a lot less air travel at night and Santa would be dodging planes all day long. It would be very dangerous.

I’m certain that we’ll escape the million dollar — Is Santa real? — question, for the time being. When I tucked Cayden in tonight he said with utter 5-year-old honesty, “Mom, I believe in Santa because I want the presents.”

Martin and I need to step up our game — leave a trail of boot tracks on the deck, get the sheep to gnaw deer-like bites from the carrots, or discover Santa’s forgotten hat at the hearth. Something to beef up believability.

I know that Santa’s story is close to unraveling. But I’m not giving up on the Big Guy yet.