Why I’m going to keep letting Santa and the Tooth Fairy ruin my life

December 11, 2013 | 108 comments

My daughter told me that she has a loose tooth this morning, and her words struck dread into my heart. Right now, I just barely have some holiday cheer going on up in here. We’re actually having a nice Advent instead of having the weeks leading up to Christmas be the stress-fest that they usually are — but we’re hanging on by a thread. I’m like a woman trying to walk a tightrope while juggling a lit Advent wreath with Christmas tree ornaments and a baby. It’s all going fine now, but the slightest breeze could send this whole show crashing to the ground. And the loose tooth might be that breeze.

The problem is not the tooth per se, but the fact that a shocking lack of foresight and self-knowlege led me to start the Tooth Fairy tradition when my oldest child was little. I am barely competent enough to do the things that earthly beings are supposed to do, so the fact that I willingly signed up to take on the responsibilities of a peppy fairy with magic powers was an inexplicably dumb move. It’s likely left my kids with the impression that the Tooth Fairy is somehow both legalistic and flaky, and maybe occasionally drunk. Since the trinkets that I attempt to keep on hand as Tooth Fairy gifts all end up going into the same black hole where half the kids’ socks go, and I rarely have cash on me, I’ve ended up throwing out a bunch of spontaneous limits on her visits that add up to a very bizarre set of regulations. My children must imagine that her service contract looks something like this:


And then there’s Santa, Ruiner of Attempts at Christmas Budgeting. I was all proud of myself for sitting the kids down and explaining that we won’t be doing a lot of gifts this year because money is tight, but that that’s okay because that’s not what Christmas is all about. They nodded sweetly and said that that’s no problem. It was a touching moment that warmed my heart…until they added, “We’ll just ask Santa for our presents!”

In theory, I like the idea of holiday fairies and elves and bunnies. The line between pretend worlds and the real world is blurrier for kids than it is for us, and just as I had an involved conversation with my four-year-old about the details of her imaginary friend’s personal life this morning, I think that talking to kids about men in flying sleighs and toy-making elves and reindeer on roofs can add a lovely mystical element to childhood. And in households run by people who can deal with life, I’m sure it does. In my house, the way it plays out is that the kids end up wondering what it is about fairy land that makes so many of its inhabitants so incompetent, and I end up totally maxed out because I have taken on the to-do list of someone who can fly.

All of this has left me to ponder the question: Why do I do it, then?

Nobody has to keep up the Santa tradition these days; in fact, about half the families I know don’t have any traditions involving pretend creatures. I even know plenty of people who started down that path but then switched gears one year, telling all of their kids the scoop about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny once and for all. Heck, maybe I could wrap it up with the birds and the bees talk and just get it all out on the table in the most horribly awkward parenting conversation ever!

A rough trip down from the attic leaves us with a statue of Mary,  Jesus,  and St. John the Baptist.

A rough trip down from the attic leaves us with a statue of Mary, Jesus, and St. John the Baptist.

I’ve been thinking about that option all through Advent, and I’ve decided not to do it. As much as all our fairies are ruining my life, I’m going to stick with them, at least for now. And my main reason is this:

It is the way our families have always done it. And I need — desperately, seriously, dying-man-in-the-desert-level need — one area of my life as a parent that I do not have to agonize about. As a modern mother, I am required to obsess over every. single. aspect. of my children’s lives. I have to make ALL THE CHOICES about ALL THE THINGS and I am EXHAUSTED.

Sorry for the caps lock, but seriously, people, I am supposed to be pouring all this energy into what food we eat and what types of shows they watch and what type of video games they play and how much time they spend doing those things and what sports they play and what sorts of clothes they wear and whether we should vaccinate and circumcise and pierce ears and…GAH! I can’t even send my kids to the school down the street without second-guessing it because now we have the options of homeschooling and charter schools. (And now that we homeschool, don’t even get me started on the opportunities for hand-wringing analysis. I seriously just had a conversation about whether our grammar curriculum is holy enough.)

There was a time when mothers just did things the way their own mothers did, and that was that. There are plenty of downsides to that kind of cultural environment, but I’d imagine that one huge upside is that you don’t burn up half your mental energy questioning everything you do. Ultimately I’m glad that we live in an age where we’re all free to break from tradition and do things our own way. But I have to draw the line somewhere, and I’m drawing the line with our fairy traditions.

Setting out cookies for Santa when I was six.

Setting out cookies for Santa when I was six.

I asked my 99-year-old grandfather last weekend if they did Santa when he was a kid, and he said yes. People in our family have been having Santa come visit their kids for as far back as he knows. Same with the other side of my family; same with Joe’s family. There have been a mix of strong believers and not-so-strong believers, and I don’t see a correlation to the Santa thing, so I’m not too worried about that aspect of it. Therefore, in this one case, I am going to trust that our dozens of ancestors knew what they were doing. I’m going to assume that the fact that this tradition has had such a strong presence in our families for so long means that it had some kind of meaning or value to or forebearers, and I’m going to leave it at that.

And so when my daughter finally loses that tooth it will be whisked away by the Tooth Fairy, who will probably be a day late and have only a lovingly chosen and hastily wrapped toy from the discount bin at the nearest drugstore to offer. The Easter Bunny is going to keep littering the Easter baskets with stuff that looks suspiciously like old Halloween candy, and Santa is going to keep bringing the kids a haphazard assortment of gifts that are much less expensive than the ones they asked for. And when people ask me why, I am going to relish the fact that I have no involved defense for my choice, and I’m going to enjoy every word of it when I say: “Because that’s how we’ve always done it.”



  1. The other Becky

    I am totally with you on the mental exhaustion that comes from having to agonize over EVERY SINGLE THING. It is one reason that convinced me many years ago that having some regular household jibs be divided by gender stereotypes is a good idea. Enjoy your fairies.

  2. Meghan

    Vaccinations are not even a topic of debate in scientific communities anymore, so you can save yourself some anguish there. There is only one viewpoint that is backed by legitimate studies published in peer-reviewed journals.

    I apologize for sounding like a nutcase, especially since I don’t even have kids, but it is so hard (as a scientist) to see how poorly real research is communicated to the general public.

    Here is a fantastic video on the topic, which also includes a source list in the video information:

    • Monica

      I disagree with your opinion, Meghan. I think the general public is grossly misinformed about the reality of vaccines, due largly impart to the scientific community. The reason vaccines require sometimes multiple booster shots now is because they’ve failed in providing the lifelong immunity that was once touted. This simple but insightful fact is glossed over in many scientific communities today. Measles, categorized as a childhood disease, can now be seen in previosly vaccinated adults, often with greater complications and/or risks.
      This combined with the unknown effects of any particular vaccine on an individual are enough to make someone think twice about vaccinating.

    • the other Becky

      It is true that sometimes research is not adequately communicated to the broader public. It is also true that just because something has become accepted, or no longer a topic of debate in scientific communities, that does not necessarily mean that they are right. This is not really the time or place for a full and complete discussion of the pros and cons of vaccinations, so I will just say this. The “scientific community” can tell us, with more or less accuracy, certain facts about relative risks of this or that procedure. However, the decision about which risks we prefer to take is not, and never has been, a scientific decision. It is a value question, and as such it is right that it is an individual decision.

  3. Maggie

    If I may, The tooth fairy at my house brought Gold $1 coins. Go to the bank, get a roll and stash them in a safe place. My teens still have several each.

    • Katherine

      I LOVE this idea.

      • amy

        Same here. Gold one dollar coins are Tooth Fairy currency at our house and they get ONE for each tooth. I have 4 kids, ages 8-18 and before gold coins it was silver dollars. Makes (one tiny aspect of) life just a tad easier! πŸ™‚

        • RC

          I was given silver 1/2 dollars (I’m 30 now). I think I still have them around, somewhere…Probably stashed at my parents house where I originally hid them. ha! $2 bills are a cool addition to a currency collection as well. (Inflation)

    • Diana

      A $1 coin is what we’ve done. It is a lot for a child until they are old enough to not believe anymore anyway! I did make the “mistake” of leaving a note from the tooth fairy because my daughter had read a library book about this type of exchange. That escalated a bit and ~8 years later “Flossy” still owes her a poster of all of the different kinds of fairies in Fairyland. I will be better prepared or just make sure the younger one doesn’t read that book when she starts school! LOL!

      • Jill Belarmino

        I used just ONE one-dollar coin for all their teeth! When the child would come running to me with it, I’d get excited and ask them to let me trade it for a dollar bill. It was always available in my top drawer!

    • Erica

      Yup. Do it! Works here.

    • Julie@teachinggoodeaters

      The first time the tooth fairy came she left a “gold” $1 coin… my daughter looked visibly disappointed, so I asked what was wrong and she replied, “She didn’t even bring real money…”

      Since that point the tooth fairy has continued to disappoint. It once took her five days- on the fifth day, she finally sent an email saying that every time she tried to come to the house someone was awake (we did have a new baby in the house) and so she finally got fed up and left the money in the mailbox.

      I don’t really blame the tooth fair(ies?) for not putting our house on the top of their list though… someone told my daughter that there was more than one tooth fairy, so, in response, my daughter began leaving notes for the tooth fairy with questions including (every time) “What is your name?”

  4. LeAnna

    I love this! Advent/Christmas is always such a heavy time for thinking, pondering, and guilt-tripping over family traditions especially as a Catholic convert who grew up with different traditions to what every Catholic on the Internet seems to be doing. I keep clicking on posts with Jesse Trees and houses decked in Advent colours andandand…

    And then I remember that part of the beauty of having a family is building our own traditions, and keeping our family traditions alive. Because when my children grow up their deep memories, the ones formed by that beautiful repetition of time after time, aren’t going to be formed by what their Mum sees other people doing on the internet. They’re going to be formed by the things that make us Porters (and in this house, it’s starting the Christmas music on December 1st, consistently procrastinating on putting the tree up, and then leaving the tree up until well after Epiphany because we celebrate Ukrainian Christmas on January 7th and I usually use a “12 days of Ukrainian Christmas” excuse to be lazy about taking it down!).

  5. Camille

    Keep Going Jen! You’re doing well and keeping up family traditions is important! Also, if you ever have time for a great couple of books try Tending the Heart of Virtue by Guoian or Esolen’s How to Kill the Imagination of Your Child. You’ll find Santa is important!

  6. Michelle

    Oh my gosh, this is so funny. I was just bemoaning that I ever started the St. Nicolas Day coins in the shoe tradition!!!

    And my greatest recover is, “Well, are you sure that you checked everywhere?”. And that is when I rush up and put the fairy loot in a place off to the side. Our tooth fairy was much more competent when I only had two!!

    • Michelle

      oops. *Nicholas.

    • RC

      I have been informed that the Santa Claus tradition stems from the St. NICHOLAS tradition, but then it was set more to coincide with the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

  7. TheresaEH

    Have the tooth fairy leave just one dollar, then let the child who lost the tooth visit the dollar store when daddy is home πŸ˜‰ My kids gave up on the tooth fairy and saved their lost teeth for their grandparents who were wayyyyyyyyyyyy more generous that the fairy ;D

  8. Amelia @ One Catholic Mama

    I totally agree about the mental exhaustion that comes with deciding every.single.thing. I’m all for picking something and just doing it and not having to worry about it anymore. (which is incidently why we don’t really do Santa, because I can’t afford the mental pressure of trying to pick gifts from a magical creature when our Christmas budget is almost non-existant). But, I can defintiely relate to the whole “this is how we’ve always done it so this is what we’re doing it thing.” And, I totally agree

    Although we do sorta do the tooth fairy..but our tooth fairy requires at least 3 days notice and is super cheap and leaves things like a quarter (or a dime or a nickel or a penny..whatever we have).

  9. Caroline M.

    This is great! I grew up with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy etc, and we were pretty broke most of the time. The important thing is the tradition. I don’t remember most of the gifts I got, but I remember the wonder of the empty plate with crumbs, the full stockings that had been empty, the lore. It didn’t make me think God was just another myth, and it didn’t make me think my parents were liars. And I have every intention of Santa Claus visiting my children as well.

  10. Colleen Martin

    You know what is the great thing about our Faith and traditions? We don’t all have to do them the same way, and God still sees our heart’s intentions and loves us anyway! Just look how thick those books of Saints are, and how differently they were raised and lived their lives, but (spoiler alert!) they all made it to Heaven!!

  11. Anne McD

    You know what? When your kids are grown, they are going to sit around the Thanksgiving table roaring with laughter, talking about the crazy things the tooth fairy left, five days late, or the awesome Easter baskets with Halloween candy. Traditions are tough. Some are best kept simple. For us, the Tooth Fairy brings 50 cents per tooth, $1 if it has to be pulled. I realized what a racket this was since I’m the one getting the bill…

    For my son’s first few birthdays, I got it in my head that waking up to balloons was the best possible way to start his birthday. Now I”m going on seven children and my husband laughs at me as I head out the door, grumbling, at 6am on their birthdays, but I won’t stop. Its our thing.

    And I’m thoroughly exhausted from all the decisions we have to make as a mom, too. Uncle.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I just had a long conversation with a friend about how we wish someone would have warned us to think VERY CAREFULLY before announcing any new holiday/birthday traditions (like, “Mommy will make you whatever kind of cake you would like on your birthday!”) It’s something I often think of at 1:30 AM the night before a birthday. πŸ™‚

    • Laura M

      I’ve always thought that would be the best way to wake up too (never have actually woken uo to them)… keep it up!

  12. Anne

    It’s a well known fact in our house that it can take the tooth fairy up to 2 weeks to respond to a lost tooth. πŸ™‚

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I am SO GLAD I’m not the only one! πŸ™‚

  13. Kathy@9peas

    The tooth fairy began placing teeth in the kitchen window (for Mommy to see and remember) instead of under pillows at our house. I explained to my kids that now that there are 9 pillows to look under, she needs our help to make it easier. What I really needed was to see that tooth to remind myself the tooth-fairy has to come. It works, and we kept the magic, just tweaked it.
    As to Santa, we keep his magic too, but no matter what ‘over the top’ gift they asked for they have always been happy Christmas morning with what our budget could offer. Do not fret, keep reminding them he is St. Nicholas and that his gifts are not like winning the lottery, but more of love.

    • Rosie

      I love this response! Thank you for sharing, great idea about the window sill for the tooth. Also what a nice answer that it is a give of love. πŸ™‚ Who doesn’t like getting presents, even if it’s small? πŸ™‚

  14. Amanda

    When I was growing up, we definitely had Santa, but he only brought one gift for each kid (albeit usually a “big” gift, something a little more expensive or highly desirable) and filled the stocking. The rest of the presents, however numerous or not they may have been depending on budget that year, were from our parents. As my mom put it later, “I want to get some credit for all the effort I put in to gift shopping for you guys!” I loved that way of doing it ad hope to continue that tradition with my own kids.

    • Melissa

      That has been our tradition also. Since my husband’s family’s tradition has always been to open gifts on Christmas Eve, and my family’s tradition was to open them whenever my pediatrician dad got home from hospital rounds, we split the two parts of opening gifts. Family gifts are opened Christmas Eve and then Santa comes during the night and leaves one gift for each person (including mom and dad), and fills the stockings with chocolate and a little gift.

  15. Connie

    Thanks for the laugh! I loved Jesus, Mary, and John the Baptist. I was sad when one of my twins decapitated one of my wisemen yesterday by bumping into my nativity set – I might just leave him out now as is. Maybe Herod caught up with one of them after all!

  16. Rosie

    Thank you for this article. One thing I loved that my husband said is Santa, Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, etc. actually can help children to believe in something they can’t see!!! I just looked at him and was like “WOW” what a great thought! Why can’t holidays be “dual”? One part to include the fun/imagination and the other with the Holy meaning & depth? I was trying to think of an example/analogy (I love analogies, they help me to put things into perspective πŸ˜‰ and came up with when I was at school as a kid…there was a time for learning and then there was recess, both were practiced everyday at school and important for development, learning and just plain fun. πŸ™‚ GREAT article (…btw, agree w/your concerns about vaccines πŸ˜‰ pray and follow you God given maternal instinct πŸ™‚

  17. Smoochagator

    I am highly tempted to do the OPPOSITE, but for the same reason. I did not grow up with Santa, and I have no idea how to do “the Santa thing.” I don’t feel that I missed out on anything magical – I read Santa stories and watched Santa movies, but I knew that they were just stories, like any other fairy tale. And because I didn’t grow up with the Santa myth, the idea of trying to propagate it REALLY stresses me out! Seriously, I asked my husband, “So, how do you do Santa? Like, how do you teach the kids about it?” And he was like, “Um… you just talk about it…?” I think he was marveling at my inability to figure out something so simple. I was feeling like I HAD to do Santa, because so many people recoil in horror when they find out that I didn’t have Santa, but since the whole thing confuses and stresses me out so much, I think I may just forego it – especially since I know from personal experience that Christmas is no less magical without the fat elf-man.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I have all those same questions and DID grow up with Santa. I would totally skip it if that were my background! It’s like you get a free pass! πŸ™‚

      • Michelle

        I grew up with Santa and don’t do it with my kids. I received some nasty backlash from my extended family at first. I tried my best not to tell anyone, I figured no one needed to know. My mother eventually caught on and was extremely mad at me, she took it very personal. I only agonized over it because extended family was upset. Once I got over trying to please all of them, I listened to my gut and did what I was comfortable with. For me that means no Santa. I don’t care that others think I’m depriving my children. We have made the right decision for our family and for us that meant letting go of a tradition that wasn’t giving us peace.

  18. Megan

    Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist made me laugh so hard that I cried!!!! Oh, heavens-to-Betsy, this blog totally helps me keep my own crazy in perspective. Thanks!!!

    We do Santa in our house, too, which I was originally a little unsure about (lying to kids seems yucky to me). However, I’m starting to realize how important Santa is to my children’s development.

    I’m a theology professor in my day job, and one thing I’m realizing is that college students really struggle to understand the concept of myth and symbol and their deep importance in religious thinking and the development of our spirituality. I think that by giving my children Santa, I am helping them to develop their mythological imagination.

    Our culture has so thoroughly identified “what is true” with “what can be factually proven,” and it is very hard for my students to transcend this rather weak and sterile interpretation of ‘truth.’ When we talk about the Bible, for example, they get stuck on “well, it’s true, or it’s false, but it can’t be true unless it actually happened exactly this way.” And they miss the whole point.

    So I’ve learned I can’t start the discussion with the Bible — I start with Santa. Because they ‘get it’ about Santa in a way that they really can’t when I talk about religious myths. Nobody in our culture is attempting to prove the literal scientific existence of Santa — and so it is easier for my students understand how Santa is mythical rather than fictional. Then, from there, we can take on other, deeper, truer, more fundamental religious myths, and explain how important they are and that at their deepest levels, they ARE “true.”

    Thinking of it in this way makes it easier to tell my daughter stories about Santa — because I just keep reminding myself, it’s not fiction, it’s myth, and she deserves to have access to our rich mythical tradition. And it will help her to develop the mythological imagination that she will need in order to have a deep relationship with our faith tradition. She deserves that.

    • Claire

      Yeah, Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist had me in hysterics too!

  19. Mary

    You know, I’ve started to view the many decisions we have to make as mothers as a way to show my love rather than a way to stress me out. I don’t think we’re supposed to throw our hands up and just give up but I also don’t think we’re supposed to lose our peace. We can use our intelligence and prudence and research to make the best possible decision for our kids all the while knowing that grace will make up for what we cannot. And we can talk with others about those things without giving or presuming judgement, at least in theory. That said, I think of all those things you listed that doing or not doing Santa is the least consequential of any so be at peace πŸ™‚

    Also, I’m finding it hilarious you found the need to include raisins for Santa πŸ™‚

  20. Renee

    Love this post! Keep up the good work…Santa matters and so does the Tooth Fairy. : )

  21. Lynne

    It’s these posts that I come here for. The ones that bind us together in our broken humanity and incompetence in the simplest tasts. My 9 y.o. no longer believes in the tooth fairy, not because I purposely undeceived her but because after so many times of the fairy not showing up for a tooth, she just lost faith. Parental guilt much? But (nearly) every year the kids sit on Santa’s lap and spell out their hearts’ desires and every year they get appropriately priced items that don’t require food, water or batteries. Really, though, your picture of the broken holy family says it all. In fact, you might say it’s a metaphor for our lives. We’re broken, but we keep the flame alive!

  22. Marcy K.

    Somehow I don’t think you will be adding this to your holiday plans: http://nypost.com/2013/12/10/its-time-to-shelf-the-elf/

    I personally hate a lot of the holidays and birthdays because it just seems like more work. I don’t take joy in it. It is just another thing I have to do that gets put on the list. I almost did a happy dance when my mother Facetimed me yesterday and delicately said “Do you mind if we stop exchanging Christmas presents? We have everything we need.” I wanted to say “Mind – are you kidding!” but I restrained myself.

    • Mama A

      Someone bought our family that Elf on the Shelf, and I felt roped into doing it (very badly!). Auntie called the kids to see how it was going, and she asked if our elf got into the cookie jar or played any tricks or was caught fishing for goldfish crackers. My five year old explained that our elf hadn’t budged from the bookcase in three days because “We got a really lazy one.”

      • Jennifer Fulwiler

        LOL!!!! That kind of thing happens to us all the time when well meaning relatives buy us toys that require effort on mommy’s part. πŸ™‚

  23. Amber

    I am cracking up because the last 2 nights the tooth fairy has forgotten my 9yr olds tooth!! She wakes up and rolls her eyes and says ” I guess dad was up all night again playing Minecraft and the tooth fairy couldn’t come again)…DOH!!! LOL Anyway the tooth fairy had to pay her big time for that one last night. Jennifer I understand your pain..and your out there in the public eye having to have your parenting under the microscope. At the end of the day, you have to live with your kids and you know them best. Forget everybody else and just do what is right for your family. After 7 kids I do things my way. I use to have a opinion about everything when I was young and had only 1 or 2 kids but after 7 I have realized..I. don’t.know.jack!!! Only God keeps us afloat and after I realized that I keep my mouth shut and just let things lie. We do Santa, we do tooth fairy..guess what..the kids out grow it at some point and then help with the little ones. I love that! So keep on keeping on, and don’t freeze! I live in the DFW region and my pasture is full of frost today..oh and I woke up with a scorpion in the bathroom!! I laugh now every time I see one cause I think of you and then yell for my 15yr old to come kill the thing that is trying to kill me!!!!!

    • elizabethe

      My son lost a tooth last week. The tooth fairy forgot to come THREE nights in a row. The third morning he came downstairs and said very quietly. “I am angry at the tooth fairy.” I texted my husband to quick put money under the pillow. I think he just gave him the money and told him the tooth fairy dropped it off.

      But this is the same son who last year (when he had just turned 6), when the tooth fairy forgot and I made some excuse to him yelled “NO! There is NO such thing as the Tooth Fairy! You just forgot and you are making up some excuse!” and stormed out of the room.

      So he knows, he’s just playing along.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I was young and had only 1 or 2 kids but after 7 I have realized..I. don’t.know.jack!!!

      I laughed out loud at this. Yes, yes, yes. I feel like I know less and less with every kid I have.

  24. Anna@Don't Forget the Avocados

    I have to say, I love your statue of Mary, Jesus, and St. John the Baptist. There is nothing like a vivid object lesson to bring home Scriptural stories to children.

  25. Katharine

    I think it’s odd that you say continuing to do them makes it easier on you yet your title says they ruin your life!

    My parents did them but we don’t. I can’t get past the dichotomy of teaching children about truly imaginary things and teaching them our Faith, which can be hard to believe itself. I don’t fret about it though, my life truly is just that much easier not worrying about any of it at all.

  26. Kathleen Basi

    This really resonates this week. And the holy family statue is priceless. πŸ™‚

  27. Dana Laviano

    This is a great post. My two daughters are 9 & 11 and the older one has figured out the tooth fairy and Santa but my youngest is hanging on (with a death grip). I confess that I cannot wait to be done with this nonsense. I agree it is important for kids and that’s why I’ve done it but it just means more work and I am tired. I’ve had that same sinking feeling when one of my girls announces, “I have a loose tooth!” Because the literal translation of that statement in mom language is, “S***, now I have to stop by the bank on my way home and then figure out where the glitter is.” I long for simpler holidays and things can’t be simpler when there are mythical creatures involved.

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      S***, now I have to stop by the bank on my way home and then figure out where the glitter is

      This is going to be the title of my next book.

      • Dana Laviano

        Mine is going to “This is why Mommy drinks.” πŸ˜‰

  28. Tacy

    I LOVE this!

  29. Melody

    You have just made a good case for why we do not do Santa. πŸ™‚ We’ve never had him here and now that I’m overwhelmed with homeschooling 7 and doing my best to love my handsome best friend, I’m just so glad we’re off the hook with all this. We have the most wonderful holy day celebrations and kids imaginations are solidly intact (fairy dolls currently all over my stairs, having been strewn about by Lewis and Tolkien’s biggest fans) and it really is about all I can do to keep all that going. You clearly understand what I mean when I say that because you write about it so well. What I love about your post is that it illustrates to me how the single greatest component of our holy day celebrations is not whether or not we introduce magical reindeer, but how well we 1) honor God and 2) tend to the mind, body, soul of our household inhabitants. Our families celebrate differently but all of our little people are going to know how much they are cherished by us and by God. Win.

  30. TB

    I find it nicer when baby Jesus and the saints (St. Nicholas, St. Lucy etc.) are leaving the presents. On the other hand, if they sometimes miss their appointment, it’s better if the kids are disappointed in Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, …

  31. Sandra

    It’s lovely when they no longer believe (I have two children past the age, one in the middle of the tooth fairy business, and one toddler who I think will know the truth very early. Once, my oldest lost a tooth, dropped it in the garbage and asked, “Can I just have my dollar now?”

  32. LPatter

    This was so worth it SOLELY for the JTB cameo at the Nativity. Amazing.

    Too exhausted thinking about ALL OF THE THINGS to say anything else πŸ˜‰

    (But I’m pickin up what your puttin down, sistah.)

  33. GeekLady

    Your kids saying “Don’t worry, we’ll just ask Santa for our presents” really resonated with me!

    In our house, Santa has only ever brought one gift per child. But this year, GeekBaby has been arguing intently with me about how Santa always brings LOTS of gifts. I don’t quite know where he got it from, but he’s convinced that Santa pretty much backs a dump truck up to the (figurative) chimney and pours the toys in. It’s never been that way in our house. It will never be that way.

    So here’s my dictate on the matter. Santa only ever brings one gift because he is about generosity, not greed. Some parents might think one isn’t enough and supplement with more toys, but Daddy and think one is plenty. And therefore you should think very carefully about what you would like best. And no, Santa is not bringing you an iPad.

    Santa also fills stockings, of course. But stockings are almost all consumables. Chapstick and new handkerchiefs and candy/fruit/nuts and playing cards. Teethers and gerber puffs for the baby. Things like that. The kids get new mittens, mommy and daddy get little useful odds and ends. Everyone gets a new ornament for their collection. This has been a lean year, so I’m making paper star ornaments from this pattern: http://spoonful.com/crafts/wrapping-paper-stars.

    Santa contracts out to Mommy for the mittens, of course. But I have so much Christmas knitting left I’m not sure I’ll get them done.

  34. Joanne

    I have forgotten to do “Tooth Fairy” duties at LEAST twice. The first time it happened the poor kid was heartbroken and I felt terrible. After that he wasn’t too surprised. The last time it happened it was coincidentally Columbus day. I told him that the Tooth Fairy has Columbus day off, just like our neighbor the letter carrier. She came the next night.

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who has this problem!

  35. Mary Creger

    Several comments from this old grandma…
    1. One of our wise men got beheaded this year too….we only have a collection of about 14 nativity sets….E6000 works wonders to restore heads. I loved the John the Baptist guardian of Mary and her Precious Baby!
    2. One of my son’s kindergarten teachers actually knocked one tooth out of his mouth. That of course required an envelope with a long explanation. When I went into his room to exchange envelopes under his pillow, he was awake. I thought that a good save would be to put my arms around his head on the pillow and inch his envelope off the bed and leave mine. He heard his envelope hit the floor and after I left the room I heard his exclaim “mom, dad! The tooth fairy was here! I have the money and I can see her footprints on my sheet!” a true believer!
    3. Why didn’t Santa bring that expensive gift? Well, my darling child, who do you think Santa gets all that money to buy the supplies for the elve’s work? Parents pay according to their ability. That got me off the hook until
    4. Third grade when he came home from school and demanded the truth about Santa. I could lie to my beautiful son no more. He wanted to know why I lied. Well, sweetie, did you have fun with it? Every child needs some magic in their life. Well, mom, did you lie about the tooth fairy and the Easter bunnie too? Yup, sure did! And I had as much fun as you did and you’ll do the same for your kids.

  36. Charlotte

    Oh dear… looks like you’ve been sucked into the Santa Wars. I know I was probably guilty of being just as opinionated as those mommies when I was their age so I try to be patient with them. I’m so glad that wisdom comes with age because now, I just don’t care. Everyone wants to make sure they are doing it “THE RIGHT WAY” and once you get older, you start to realize that there is no ONE right way. The only “RIGHT WAY” is the way that works best for you and your family and as long as you take parenthood seriously and really try to do what is in your family’s best interest, it’s gonna be OK. Seriously, our ability as rational creatures to find a way to justify just about anything we want to is amazing. So, one person justifies “telling their kids the truth” because lying is bad and someone else justifies celebrating the jolly elf because imagination and fanciful creativity is good. One person justifies no Christmas carols until Christmas because Advent is a time of waiting and preparing and someone else justifies listening to their favorite carols now because this is how we prepare for Christmas, you have to practice right? I’m of the mind to say now, if it’s not illegal, immoral or indecent, then just do it and who cares what anyone else thinks. We all have different things that are important to us. Obviously keeping up family traditions is important to you. My family was so dysfunctional that kicking and choosing traditions I deemed worthy was key when my kids were little and I’m thrilled with the way we’ve made our own.

    On that note, we do “Santa” and leave cookies for him, but my kids don’t think he’s a magical elf who lives at the North Pole. He is goodly St. Nicholas who is just as real as all the other saints in Heaven and if he can somehow leave them a treasure in their stocking on Christmas Day, it’s just as possible and miraculous as St. Therese sending showers of roses. Now that my older children know “the truth” they know that it is the sprit of his generosity that keeps us acting on his behalf.

    And the tooth fairy is a ditz around here. She has been known to wait weeks before scheduling her visits and she has brought all kinds of weird stuff, very similar to what can be found at the bottom of my purse, surprisingly enough. She’s also been known to come during the day while we were out at the library and even while the kids were playing right outside in the backyard and I was busy in the laundry room and didn’t hear a sound.

  37. Cassandra

    AMEN SISTER!! Caps right back ‘atcha.

  38. Laura


  39. Mary

    I join my previous two commenting sisters and shout AMEN SISTER! Before this age of instant exposure to everyone else doing everything exactly the way we “should” be doing it, most people just continued traditions. Thank you for this. And, if no one else has told you today, you’re doing an amazing job raising your beautiful children. Good work.

  40. Christine Johnson

    If I had to deal with the shaming articles that are going on about Santa right now, I’d’ve gone completely insane when my kids were little (as opposed to the mostly insane I am now).

    The Tooth Fairy almost NEVER got here on the right night, and i only have two kids. And when we were short on money, we told our girls that Santa, who, after all, is a Saint and loves Jesus more than anything, was worried too many children were focused on presents more than Jesus. We said that he asked if we would be a family that would be part of a program he was starting (I sounded less technical about it then) where he would only bring 3 gifts, and they wouldn’t be wowza kinds, either. We didn’t pick up the slack. Stockings didn’t count (and usually were filled with Dollar Tree stuff, anyway).

    I came from a family who was short on money often when I believed in Santa, and Santa frequently brought clothes and necessities for Christmas. My poor father was MORTIFIED every year when we would pull underwear out of our stocking (“It makes them fluffy and full!” – Mom), but we always got socks and underwear and school clothes for Christmas.

    Thanks for writing something that makes me feel less like I’m going to Hell for playing Santa for a few years with my kids. Seriously, the articles this year are like shaming stunts with little charity. I can’t say I would have still done it if I had the same faith I have today, but I can’t go back and change it.

  41. Mel

    Just plain awesome!!!

    After a few years of giving whatever cash I could scrounge up, sometime a 20 dollar bill and sometimes some change from the bottom of my purse…and consequently my child going to school and telling all the other kids the tooth fairy left him 20 buck which made me really unpopular with the other moms, I have now just started to say the tooth fairy is on vacation. Period. I don’t even give and ETA for her return. I just say give me your tooth, I’ll keep it in a safe place until she gets back and then I hope they forget about it. It’s worked out so far. :).

    Finally yes after stressing the hell out all of advent to perpetuate the Santa myth, my kids are now old enough and know I’m Santa. And the toothfairy, which is why they have accepted she is perpetually on vacation. They know they will get what they want within reason, one year my son asked Santa for one of those jeeps kids can drive around in and I just said straight up no honey Santa isn’t going to bring that. I tried to keep the expectations reasonable so that I could get close….

    We can try really really hard…but I think Christmas is about slowly learning that joy in life does not come from what we receive but what we give. And gradually over the years, this has been the take away from Christmas. Love, family, fun, joy, laughter, giving, and sometimes even disappointment because a toy breaks or doesn’t live up to the hype. Then they learn, joy doesn’t come from things. Joy comes from hope. Joy comes from service. Joy comes from love. And this is what it’s all about anyway.

  42. Catherine

    I love this! This kind of post is why I read your blog. Keep it up!

  43. Annemarie Thimons

    Thank you! I couldn’t agree more! Catholicism holds that the world is good, and many things in the world are good and can be used as windows to our faith. We need our imagination to grasp the mysteries of our faith. Our Catholic faith hinges on the Eucharist, an enormous mystery of faith that we must use our very imagination to believe in. You prompted me to publish my post that I’ve been working on : http://athimons.com/
    Thank you, Jen!!

  44. merrylark

    You made me laugh. And you warmed my heart. I don’t have children, but I have my own special culture of chaos, and too often feel guilty about it. Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of care giving to others, continuing on after my Mother died this past April. I haven’t been able to grieve much. It’s like I’m emotionally clogged. It’s also that I’m just that sad. My mother was a bright star in my life. Even at 93 she made my world a much better place. In fact, I’m quite sure Heaven greeted here w/ “at last! Almeda’s here!!! Yea!”. But I miss her terribly. She was one of those moms that did everything mostly right and seemingly w/out tremendous effort (altho’ I doubt there’s been a harder worker than my mom). But one of the things I treasured about my friendship w/ my mom was that she never, ever, criticized me for my lack of rising to her example! And looking back, I realize that so much of what I thought was Mom doing things the “right” way, was Mom making things up on the fly and being perfectly unabashed about letting herself be the authority on “this is how it’s done.”. :). So much of my creative play, so many of the things I treasured as a child, was/were possible because Mom could make something wonderful out of any nearly-nothing. Surely, this is one of the loveliest ways to learn about God’s goodness and Being-with-us-ness. THANK YOU for sharing from your heart. You brought a big smile to mine. ~ML

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      ML, your mom sounds like an amazing woman. I am so sorry for your loss, even if it is Heaven’s gain. Thank you for telling us about such an inspiring person.

  45. Becca

    As someone who is barely competent, but also extremely insecure about my own limitations — dude, thank you! This post gives me so much peace! We really do have too much to think about, and I get so overwhelmed and exhausted by it all. We do Santa but drew the line at that stupid elf on the shelf. (We have one – my mother – but don’t pretend it comes alive and causes mischief while we are asleep. The creators of this thing obviously never saw Poltergeist.) Our tooth fairy is known to be flaky. I pretend that this is charming. If the kid has to wait longer than a week for the tooth fairy to come, she writes a personal note to apologize.

  46. Elizabeth

    Well, it looks like you’ve managed to escape that dastardly Elf on the Shelf. Talk about ruining Advent–every other day I get shamed by my children because our elf is old and torn and doesn’t leave cute notes and presents like the other elves. Who knew it would turn out like this . . .

    Thanks for the hilarious post!

  47. Rebecca

    Holy guacamole! I think I share your brain. I really think this is amazing. Thank you for sharing it. There absolutely has to be something we moms don’t have to obsess about.
    Our kids are smart, they know when we are settled and not settled about a subject and to let this one go and carry on as usual takes guts! Also takes less away from our true first role as child of God. We have to allow ourselves to just be.
    I am not going to reread and proof this and I hope you know my gratitude and lifted burden in my own advent I felt as I read this. I truly enjoy and grow from your sharing and thank you for taking us to the real of your life. Same things, thoughts and concepts plague me at times and I believe you are on the right track. Praying you can enjoy, or survive this season, wink wink , in great peace with your decision.
    P.s. if our kids need therapy later I life because of our traditions i guess we can find a good one and share on a blog about that also!

  48. RAnn

    The tooth fairy has been known to be a few days late around here too–and she gives $1.00/tooth. As far as Santa, if kids are young enough to believe in Santa, they are young enough that they are probably counting the boxes rather than the contents anyway. If your daughter wants the super-deluxe outrageously expensive Barbie or Monster High accessory, give her a doll (unless she has a room full of them, and hey, what’s one more)or clothes with the brand on them or something else in the line (a book, jewelry etc) that is within your budget.

  49. Lisa

    Parenting has become so complicated. I have finally learned to let a lot go and not agonize over a thousand decisions. It took me several years to realize that homeschooling was no longer the best option for our family because I had stressed so much about educational decisions.
    BTW, I am a terrible tooth fairy; I forget way too much so my kids learned that mom is the tooth fairy because my brain is swamped.

  50. Danielle @ Blissful Thinking

    Sometimes that’s exactly the best and truest answer there can be. And as a researchaholic I’m pretty sure I need to be perfectly ok with this answer more often in my own life.

  51. Amber

    Oh my goodness, that statue picture and caption made me laugh so hard!

  52. Julia Motekaitis

    So much to love, too little time to love it in! I have to run to pick up the kids. What I wouldn’t give for a pair of fairy wings if they could get me there faster πŸ˜‰

    My favorite line, until I come back to read it through again and find ten other favorites: “I end up totally maxed out because I have taken on the to-do list of someone who can fly.” Haha! πŸ™‚

  53. elizabethe

    brilliant. I love it. I lOVE the John the Baptist Statue, so funny!

    I think you hit upon what I realized was the number stressor in the modern parents’ life — decision fatigue. Decision fatigue is a real thing that people in the business world understand and that social psychologists have done studies on (they’ve studied doctors and judges, if I recall two of them), but that I think is probably under-understood by moms.

    Combatting decision fatigue should be a major priority in every home-keeper’s life. I look back on the all the old traditional ways of keeping house that I used to pooh-pooh, “Meatloaf every Monday? Pork chops every Tuesday? Bedtime at the exact same time every night? Errand day? routines?” I had utter disdain for that kind of thing. It limits spontaneity and creativity, I thought. But I look back and see that a lot of things I thought were just stupid and limiting actually served a vital function of protecting the main home-keeper from decision fatigue. It’s vital for moms to make these basic decisions just one time and then don’t second guess themselves.

    • JeniP

      Yes!! Decision Fatigue!!! I have this!! I hate hate HATE making decisions as it is, and as a mom of three kids under 6, I just can’t handle it.

      My Advent always starts about two weeks late. We move every year and Advent Wreaths/Christmas ornaments are always packed too far away and I’m too disorganized to get them until 2 weeks before Christmas. Sigh. One year I’ll be sure to have things in order. Right now I’m trying to make do with our Jesse tree…without actually having the tree. The kids just get to hold the ornament we’re talking about that night (when I remember to do it). Oh well – it’s a lesson in humility and a reminder that God is ultimately responsible for my children’s faith – not me – because I’m just broken and doing the best I can!!!

  54. Debbie Bastian

    thank you for this. The guilt around this time is endless, for those of us who are trying so hard to do the right thing – I had this thought this morning as I was bemoaning that we can’t even keep Advent as I would like – I wonder if Christ came to deliver me from Christmas? I don’t mean that is a bad way but I find I can make it so legalistic…

  55. Hillery potter

    I just wish I could give you a hug right now! It is easy to sit here and try to give you advice, but I am honestly in the same boat as you. Thank you for being honest, honest, honest.

    Parenting is hard work. Parenting while trying to regulate everything and analyze everything is impossible, but we keep trying!

    Christmas this year would have been impossible except for the fact that I have been able to sell some things around the house in order to finance the gifts.

    Now that the kids gifts are purchased and I still have to sew my husbands, I started worrying about stocking stuffers. There is always something to stress over! I then decided to allow the kids to use their allowances to buy each other small gifts and use those as stocking stuffers. Less burden for me, more joy for them (I hope).

    Keep on sharing here, it makes me feel not so alone. Thanks and God bless you this advent!

  56. Hillery potter

    And now that my oldest knows I am the tooth fairy, she just asks for her dollar and goes on her way!

  57. Mary Therese

    Loved all you said–I’ve been there too. Just wanted to share that my children finally made a “STOP” sign out of poster-board, with a little pocket on it. They put it outside their bedroom door with the tooth in it. It really improved the tooth fairy’s ability to find our house. Love the pic of the Holy Family. I will have to share that one with others!

  58. Erin

    Yes we do expend sooo much energy on questioning everything it is rather ridiculous. Into our 20th year of parenting, and about to have baby no 10 (literally any day) I look back on the early years and realise alot of those things really don’t matter, who cares. Relationships with your spouse and children are the most important thing, can’t stress that enough.
    anyhow I just laughed about your tooth fairy problems, I’m hopeless too, usually takes the tooth fairy two days to get here, and when asked I always say, “they must be on strike again” or ‘takes longer because we live out of town”. As we don’t do santa, kind of weird we do the tooth fairy. and yes I have to be honest, sometimes I kind of think maybe we were too militant to not do santa, and maybe we should of. though does save money;)

  59. Stephanie

    You go, Girl! Totally agree. : )

  60. Melody

    Who lied to your six- year- old little innocent self and told you Santa might like raisins?! πŸ˜€

    • Jennifer Fulwiler

      I KNOW! What is up with that? I meant to make a comment about that in the caption but totally forgot. That’s what I get for writing while tired.

  61. Catherine

    I don’t want to get into a big debate with anyone, but just to throw out our personal experience – we have let our kids in on the fact that all these pretend people are actually pretend from the beginning, but they still absolutely love to pretend them. Knowing the truth – at least when they know from the beginning – really doesn’t seem to diminish the fun of Santa, the tooth fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc. I guess getting stuff is fun, hands down!

    We read lots of fairy tales and encourage creativity, so I don’t feel like telling them the truth about these took anything away from them, its just what we felt comfortable with. We don’t want to be a drag of course, so so we also have drilled into them that all families are different, so no telling other kids.

    I got a HUGE kick out of the tooth fairy contract – because I have forgotten so many times. My oldest daughter thinks its hilarious that sometimes the tooth fairy has “very busy nights and you just have to wait another night and, you know, be patient and stuff.” Sometimes the tooth fairy is very guilty after forgetting multiple nights and leaves guilt money is all I’m saying.

    • sara mcd

      This is how we do it too.

  62. Bonnie

    Jen said, “There was a time when mothers just did things the way their own mothers did, and that was that.”
    Did you ever hear the joke about the woman who was preparing a ham at Christmas? Before seasoning it, she cut off both ends and put them next to the rest of the ham in the pan. Her husband asked her why she did that. She said, “My mom did it that way.” So the husband asked his mother-in-law, “Why do you cut off both ends of the ham before baking it?” She said, “That’s the way my mother did it.” So he went to Grandma and said, “Why did you cut off both ends of the ham before baking it?” She said, “Because my pan was too small for a whole ham.” πŸ™‚
    Merry Christmas in 14 days!

  63. Axis Mundi Shop

    We’ve streamlined our magical creatures with each additional child. The tooth fairy brings $1 and a coin from a foreign country (I have a whole bag I’ve collected over the years). The Easter Bunny brings a bag of Dollar Tree candy and toys ($5-7 each). Santa now just puts gifts in the stockings (candy, $5-10 gift card, Dollar Tree stuff).

  64. Ute

    I have a funny anecdote to contribute, regarding the St. Nicholas tradition: I’m German, married to an American soldier, and until earlier this year we were stationed in Hawaii. Since it is kind of difficult to fill flip-flops with candy, I decided to change the tradition and have St. Nicholas bring new shoes on December 6.
    Now this year we moved to Germany, and the kids had just gotten new winter boots, so I only purchased candy for them. Well, the night of December 5 comes around, and we all put our boots outside the door, when my son (6 years), happily announces: “We are getting new shoes tomorrow!”. Of course I hastily try to explain to him that St. Nicholas brings only candy to German kids. He thinks hard for a moment and then declares confidently: “That’s O.K., St. Nicholas knows that we are American!”
    He was not too pleased the next morning, and I regret ever changing the tradition!

  65. David Meyer

    A couple weeks ago I was adjusting my daughters pillow before bed and noticed a ziploc with a tooth in it. “The tooth fairy keeps forgetting daddy”, she says. As far as I know the tooth is still there.
    I have seriously considered having my 10 year old daughter take over the tooth fairy duties. She actually offered to.

  66. Katrina

    Oh the statue, haha! My husband dropped our holy family statue the first year we were married and the only thing that broke off was St. Joseph’s head…oh poor St. Joe! It was even funnier because the day before my husband had a conversation with a Jehovah’s Witness coworker who said the reason they don’t celebrate birthdays is because in the bible St. Joseph’s head was cut off on Herod’s bday. Needless to say my husband had to do some bible catechisis at work and he glued St. Joseph’s head back on.

  67. Matt

    We do not believe in Santa.

    While it is not a popular opinion, and it gets us phone calls from our kids teachers, pointed Facebook messages, and even blog posts written about us, we do not teach our children to believe in Santa. They read the stories, make the crafts and can even make believe about it, but we do not teach that he is real or comes into our home, etc. The story is treated like any other fairy tale, it is just a fun story.

    Why? Because we try very hard to be truthful in all we do and we use the Catechism’s definition of a lie to guide us, which states a lie is, β€œspeaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving.” Giving gifts from Santa, leaving out cookies that are then partially eaten in the morning, and all the other things parents to to make their children believe, we feel fulfills both points of what constitutes a lie. Therefore, if these things are lies, no amount of fun, good feeling, and tradition can make it right.

    As Saint Thomas Aquinas states in the Summa we can not even lie to protect others from great harm, “Therefore it is not lawful to tell a lie in order to deliver another from any danger whatever.”

  68. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    I just kind of forget to tell my kids about Santa. I’m not completely opposed to the idea; we just don’t focus on it – on accident…

  69. Erica

    Well said! It is SO exhausting making all these choices! Nostalgia makes it all okay, or at least that’s what I told myself when I bought my kids candy cigarettes the other day.

  70. Jen

    Well, here’s the funny thing about my kids. I have told them the “truth” on several occasions about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny – and they think I’m completely bonkers. They completely still believe, not the older ones, but the younger ones definitely. So, I give up and I’m just going to let them think what they want πŸ˜‰

  71. sara mcd

    The toothfairy gives cash at our house.

    Also, I have been raising my kids to think of Santa Claus as a nice game that people play to make the holidays pleasant but not something that we do at our house, but this year they all, including the eight-year-old, decided that Santa is real and by gum, they were going to wait on line and sit on his lap. Go figure.

  72. Bethany

    It’s (sort of) funny how this comment thread illustrates your point about all those kid decisions making your head explode — people have linked to vaccine data, linked to theologians warning of Santa . . . one can’t even have a quick vent about it in peace . . .

    Oh, and the Tooth Fairy always just brought us money — coins or a bill or whatever my mother could scrounge up, I guess. We were satisfied.

  73. Roberta Bazaldua

    Jennifer, I just have to say the photo of Jesus, Mary and John the Baptist made me choke, I was laughing so hard! God bless your Advent and Christmas seasons and thank you for the gift of laughter!

  74. Rose. K.

    Some kind of secular celebration may be good. But the funny stories and superstitions woven around it may not be healthy. Our children should understand that our festivals have background events and meaning so that their faith in Church can grow. The meaningless and secular way of expression like Xmas ,instead of Christmas, we should avoid

  75. Jennifer @ Little Silly Goose

    My grandparents had 8 kids and lived in a 3 bedroom one bath house on a sailor salary, so Santa did not work at all for their budget, but they saved all year to be able to celebrate Christmas with their kids. It was still simple, but it was special. My mom lights up when she reflects back on it. In order to keep Santa alive for my brother, my mom had to get him a bunny one year. He knew Mom would never buy that– it could only be from Santa. You’re right, there is something special about continuing your family’s tradition.

  76. Rachel

    I highly recommend you do what we’ve done and add in the ELF. What were we thinking??? We have FIVE kids!!

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