Tell me, just WHAT do you say when your 5 year old child, riding in the backseat of the car asks you out of the blue, “Mom, does Santa Claus die? And what do they do if he dies? Do they get a replacement for him? How quickly can they get a replacement for him? And what about Mrs. Claus? Does she die? Or can Santa just live forever? How could he be that old to live forever?”
You can only stall for so long. Eventually, you have to answer the question.
After I did as much hemming and hawing as I thought I could get away with, I responded with something like: “Wow! Um… That’s a good question! I never thought about it. I mean, I don’t know. I suppose he might live forever, I mean, he does have Christmas magic. But then, he’d be the only person around that could live forever, so maybe he does die. But if he dies, I mean, they never announce it on the news. At least, I’ve never heard anything on the news about Santa dying. I’ve never read anything in the paper about it. And I watch the news and read the paper a lot, so I think I would have found out about that if it happened, you know? But Santa’s been around as long as I can remember. I mean, they’ve always had Christmas, as far as I know. I never heard anyone say they didn’t have a Christmas when they were a kid. I know he was around when your grandparents, and great-grandparents, and great-great-great grandparents were kids. But some of those folks are dead now, so I guess that would make him really old… Or maybe he does die but they find a replacement before Christmas and they just don’t tell us about it so people won’t be worrying about whether there’s going to be a Christmas…” and then, just for that extra special touch, I added, “You must be the smartest kid in the world to ask that. I mean, I don’t think many kids even think about that to ask. I mean, I’ve never thought about it before. Wow! So, um… How was your day at school today?”
Really, I tell you, it’s hard to come up with an answer when your head is spinning from the shock and you haven’t been given a copy of “The Parent’s Guide to Answering Difficult Questions”. And even if you had a copy, it’d be a little difficult to look up the answer while you’re driving.
After we got home, I distracted my son from his thoughts of a dying Santa with some comic relief in the form of Sponge Bob cartoons on Nick Jr. Then I pulled my husband into the garage where I hissed “HE ASKED ME IF SANTA CLAUS DIES?!”, and I proceeded to tell him the rest of this horrifying exchange. When I finished, my husband said, (rather smugly, I might add), “Santa doesn’t die, he RETIRES and he trains a new Santa in his place. Didn’t you know that? That’s what all the Santa’s in the malls are, Santa’s in training, hoping one of them will get picked to be his replacement when he retires. That’s what you should have told him…”
And I’m thinking, “No. I didn’t know that. And since you’re so damn smart, YOU answer the question next time.”
And there will be a next time. My son was quietly playing the other day, and I heard him talking to himself, something about babies in tummies, and then something that sounded suspiciously like “and the mom eats a babysicle… ” I closed my eyes and pretended that I didn’t hear him. But when it comes up again, I’m going to hem and haw and say, “Hmm… I’m not sure…” Then, I’m handing him the cell phone and say, “Here, call your dad, he’ll know!”
Merry Christmas in July!