There must come a time in every Santa-loving child’s life when they learn that the big guy is a big myth. Most parents hope to break the news gently, which is why a whole group of Massachusetts parents are pretty ticked about how their kids learned the truth.
The kids — 26 second-graders at an elementary school in Stoneham, Massachusetts — learned the hard way yesterday that some people are jerks just to be jerks when they got a Santa Claus truther from a substitute teacher just days before the winter and holiday break.
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Some of the kids came home in tears, as one does when one is still very young and extremely invested in the magic that Santa brings to the table, and parents learned that it’s not even like this was a conversation about Santa that got out of hand or even a case of foot meeting mouth. It was just… mean.
According to parents, the sub just dropped the Santa Bomb apropos of nothing, completely unprovoked during story time, when she supposedly said, “Santa Claus is just a character. There’s no such thing as Santa Claus, and it’s your parents who buy all the presents for you.”
Merry Christmas, kids.
Some parents and adults opt to not perpetuate the Santa myth for a variety of reasons, which is fine, of course. However, there does seem to be a certain social contract between pro-Santa lie people and anti-Santa lie people to just keep their mouths shut all around and let kids find out when they find out or when their parents decide to gently break the news.
Even parents who tell their kids early that there’s no such thing as Santa will remind their kids to keep it to themselves so they don’t ruin it for their peers. It’s just a standard strategy for letting kids enjoy the little bit of excitement that life has to offer before the world turns them into bitter, jaded skeptics.
Of course, eventually they find out.
A classmate lets it slip, or they catch mom wrapping gifts at 1 a.m. on Christmas morning, or they just put two and two together. It has to happen, but usually they’re either old enough to not freak, or parents can mitigate the damage pretty easily. But finding out en masse from a stranger they don’t know from Adam a little more than a week from Christmas? Honestly, it sounds like the plotline of a bad Hallmark Christmas Special.
At this age, kids are about to figure it out anyway. A study conducted by the University of Texas at Austin found that by age 7, just under half of kids know the jig is up. By age 9, only about 30 percent of kids believe in Santa. That’s a big drop, and it kind of makes this whole thing sadder: Most of these kids would have figured it out by this time next year anyway. Couldn’t they at least have had one more Christmas with everyone’s favorite chubby prowler?
It’s easy to see why parents would be mad, though they might consider the example they’re setting by calling for this woman’s head and insisting to anyone who will listen that “Christmas is ruined.” Yes, it’s disappointing. But irreparably destroyed? One mom referenced the actual ruination of dreams in a phone call devoid of any irony to a local news outlet, which seems kind of exaggerated.
The substitute pulled a huge Ebenezer, and she was banned forthwith from the school, who used a staffing service to hire her. That’s a reasonable consequence. It’s time for parents to ask themselves what Santa would do and to focus on preserving whatever magic they can for their kids on Christmas. There’s still plenty of that to go around, Santa’s existence notwithstanding.