"Will Santa Claus come to both houses?" What a loaded question asked by my 5 year old. My immediate response was, “Let me send Santa an email and see what he says.” That should buy me enough time for me to stress over the question, do some research, and then come to my own educated conclusion. Right?
My daughter had never been away from me on Christmas morning as her father and I previous lived fairly close to each other, but now that my career had taken me to another state, we would be separated on Christmas Day every-other year. This is but one of the unintended consequences of divorce as well as personal and professional promotion, but one that I was (and still am) willing to accept in order for my children and I to be in a better situation.
I have decided that Christmas will not be a competition for me. I’m not competing with my ex, my children’s friends, or the parents in the shopping commercials. I could afford to buy most of what she wants that comes across the TV, but children will more than likely only value each toy less. I had already explained the reason for the season, that Jesus was not born on December 25th, that that is the day that the majority of the world celebrates his birthday, and that there is nothing wrong with celebrating the day before or after. Now I had to think about Santa Claus’s plans too?
I’d thoroughly researched successful transition when moving children and Santa’s delivery schedule was never mentioned. The easiest way to solve this problem would be to explain that Santa is not real and so his schedule is irrelevant. Because I knew that my 5YO couldn’t keep a secret and that the parents of her entire class would be faced with the consequences of my actions, I decided against that route.
Ultimately, what this question about Santa’s willingness to fly to two states for one child brought about was realization that I cannot always be prepared for every question that roles through her inquisitive mind. I am prepared for the “Why did you and daddy divorce” question and “Why can’t I just stay here with you” question. After all, I am a therapist and have helped many co-parent through similar questions and situations. The best way to address this was to first consider what Santa represents to parents who allow their children to believe in him. In the lives of some miserable people, Santa is just another way to compete for a child’s affection when one’s parenting lacks in other areas. In some instances, he is a ploy to convince children to behave if only for a short period of time. For the rest of us, Santa is simply a representation of one of the many sacrifices that we make to see our children happy throughout the year.
So will Santa come to both houses on the same night? Yes, he will! He knows that children with divorced parents need love in both homes. In some cases, Santa may bring some of the exact same toys to both homes, but many of them will be different. How exciting is that for children to be reminded again that they are loved no matter which home they are in and that even Santa has considered some of their irrational fears? Way to go mom!...I mean, Santa.