I loved Santa as a kid. I loved believing. I loved trying to stay awake to say "Hi" and give him a big hug (I probably drove my poor parents crazy trying to wait until I had finally fallen asleep to put gifts under the tree). I loved that my mom and grandma and my brother and I would bake cookies to leave him along with a glass of milk. He would always leave a thank you note even when we switched to carrots because Santa had let Mommy know he couldn't eat cookies anymore. And over time I came to realize he wasn't real but I still loved to pretend and so did my brother. We "protected" our parents by continuing to pretend with them, too. LOL. They knew we knew but I guess no one wanted to admit it. It was fun. It was light. I didn't think of my parents as liars.
Therefore I didn't even think about it with my own kids. We did Santa gifts and family gifts. Santa gifts were wrapped in different paper. The kids were always so excited to come see what Santa had left them. Once I had ordered a necklace for DD. It came broken. The company sent a replacement. I gave her both with a note from Santa that he hoped she could repair the necklace (she was good at that sort of thing) because his workshop didn't have time. DD was thrilled. She worked hard on fixing the broken one and still has it. Frankly, by the time she got the necklace she was upper elementary. I was certain she already knew Santa didn't exist. She was always so savvy that way. She knew people in costumes were just people in costumes by the time she was 3. I thought we were just having fun pretending. I truly never thought that she still believed.
When DD was 13 and DS was 9 DS came to me to talk about Santa. He asked me point blank if Daddy and I were Santa. I admitted we were. Again, I thought he already knew. He was fine with it. He thought it was funny. DD was in the room. She was devastated but said nothing except to ask for confirmation. I didn't realize how shocked and disturbed and hurt she was. She didn't share with me her feelings for quite a while. But I could see in her face that she had not known. I had been wrong. She really still believed at 13. I felt horrible. And felt even worse when I found out how much it had affected her.
A while later DS was at a friend's house playing. Friend was older than DS but had a lot of younger siblings. DS shared his revelation about Santa, thinking he was probably the last one to know. His friends did not know. Kids were upset, some were crying, parents were upset, DS came home devastated at what he had done. I felt awful again. And deeply regretted handling things the way we did.
If I had to do it over again I don't know what I would have done but I would not have done what we did the way we did it.
OP I think your best option may be to simply sit him down and explain that the IDEA of Santa is something that has existed in various forms for a long time. The IDEA is real. Maybe help him with some historical context on why Santa exists and how the idea has evolved. Share with him that it is part of the overall culture and you had thought of it as a fun thing but realize that it is time to explain that Santa the person doesn't exist, just the idea. It may be painful. It may be hard. But I fear that the older he gets the more he may see this as a lie perpetuated on him even though he has started asking questions and trying to understand the process. Be honest. Be kind. Give him some idea of the reason behind Santa so it doesn't seem like some big monstrous hurtful lie forced on little kids to "fool" them.
Edited by OneStepAtATime, 20 January 2018 - 08:50 AM.