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Roxane Salonen, Published December 23 2008

Daughter happy to have special holiday knowledge

"Mommy, is it true that ...?”

My 8-year-old daughter had followed me into my bedroom to help – and talk. As we grabbed corners of the sheet and yanked them toward the headboard, out came the vicious rumor about Santa being a fake.

I did what many parents have done in similar situations. I panicked. Then I remembered a response a friend suggested for desperate times. “When you quit believing, he quits coming.”

Pausing thoughtfully, she helped me fluff pillows, then walked away satisfied.

And I began second-guessing.

I thought back to the Christmas Eve my father lured my sister and me over to the big window at my grandparents’ and pointed into the dark, winter sky. “Do you see Santa’s sleigh?”

“I see it, I see it!” said my sister, age 6.

Squinting through 5-year-old eyes, I came up short. “Where is it, Daddy?!” I asked, hopelessly frustrated.

But the next morning, I knew Santa had visited. The sticks in my father’s stocking and the can of sardines in mine said it all. Santa obviously knew my tastes. He also knew Dad let a few naughty words slip on occasion.

A few years later, my mother told me the full scoop about Santa Claus. I found great comfort in her revelation that Santa was real, that the spirit of Saint Nicholas was alive and well.

I also felt affirmed to learn that what I’d thought about the mall Santas was true. Though helpers to the real Santa, they were imposters.

And I was aware the world had just shifted – permanently.

Some parents insist Santa is a myth and have denounced spreading deception to their children. While I understand the thinking, I disagree. Santa is real. The true lies creep in when we buy gifts for our kids we can’t afford, or, when we can afford more, we go overboard, forgetting Santa’s sleigh can’t reach every child.

I’m among those who have tried to keep up with the Holiday Joneses even when our bank account whispered otherwise. So this year, I’ve resolved to do better, to resist the impulses of consumerism that will only leave our family feeling empty Dec. 26.

For starters, I came clean. A few weeks ago, I had another chat with my daughter. Trying to contain conflicted emotions typical of us mothers during rites of passage, I told her I was about to reveal something that would raise her position within the family, but also would demand more responsibility. She seemed up to the task.

The next day, when I asked my 3-year-old what he wanted from Santa, my daughter’s eyes met mine. Hers had a gleam in them, and mine, a wink.

She’s become a keeper of special knowledge – which basically means that on Christmas Eve this year, she’ll be able to greet the real Santa and help polish off the platter of cookies.

The gleam in my own eyes this holiday comes from knowing the most precious gifts don’t cost a penny; only the time it takes to stop long enough to notice the pure-gold moments of life.

Roxane B. Salonen works as a freelance writer and children’s author in Fargo, where she and husband Troy are parents to five children. She also has a blog, www.areavoices.com/peacegarden