Miriam Gwynne told her 8-year-old daughter, Naomi, there is no such thing as Santa Claus.
And while the blogger behind Faith Mummy doesn’t advise every parent go off and school their children about the real St. Nick, for Gwynne, it was the “the most magical thing” she could have done.
For starters, Naomi had seen the jolly man in several different places despite the fact that there is only one Santa. On top of that, they all looked different.
As Gwynne wrote, Naomi:
…became very distressed and confused that Santa could be in the middle of the shopping mall, at her school party AND in the North Pole making presents all at the same time. Why did some Santa’s wear glasses and others didn’t? Why would some be tall and thin while others were short and tubby?
Then, Naomi had heard Santa must slip down the chimney to deliver presents, an idea she could hardly stand, as her mom explained:
The very thought that a stranger would enter her house while she was asleep utterly horrified her.
Not only did Naomi “jump every time the doorbell [rang]” after learning that hard truth, but she now worried endlessly over the monumental responsibility Santa was said to have on Christmas Eve:
Even though the whole story of him leaving gifts for her should have eased that anxiety she was worrying over how Santa would carry everything, whether his reindeer would get too tired or even if she would be forgotten (cheers for that one Peppa Pig!).
Gwynne said her daughter lay awake at night fretting over how much work Santa had before him:
I could not continue to see her so nervous and anxious over something that was meant to be a joyous and wonderful occasion.
Then there was the day Santa visited Naomi’s school. Gwynne recounted her daughter “watched in horror” as her classmates fawned over a perfect stranger:
Having spent years trying to get her to understand basic social rules such as we don’t talk to strangers and we certainly never sit on other people’s knees all of a sudden she watched in horror as every other child she knew broke all of these social rules just because the “stranger” was dressed in a red suit. Her autism makes breaking any sort of rule horrifying and very distressing so Santa became linked with people doing very strange and confusing things indeed.
The last straw came when Naomi found out about Santa’s “naughty” list. According to Gwynne, Naomi’s brother (Gwynne’s son) has complex needs and is nonverbal; thus, it can be challenging for him to express himself.
After a particularly “difficult” weekend in which her son had caused damage to the family’s home and accidentally killed Naomi’s fish by putting bubble bath in the water, Naomi was told her brother might not make it on the “nice” list:
So when someone heard about her brother’s behaviour and happened to tell her he would be on Santa’s naughty list and would not get anything for Christmas she hated Santa more than she has ever hated anyone ever before.
Gwynne said her daughter cried and pleaded for mom to tell her Santa wasn’t real:
So I had to tell her.
Gwynne wished she had told her daughter sooner:
All of a sudden everything now makes sense to her. She can now reason in her mind how ‘santa’ can be in the shopping centre, the local school and somehow in the North Pole at the same time. She realised that the chimney stuff is all a story and there is no need to fear a stranger coming in her house while she is asleep. She understands why children suddenly want to sit on someone’s knee and tell them what they want for Christmas because the man in red is actually not a stranger to them at all. But most importantly of all she knows without a doubt that her brother will have gifts this year regardless of how challenging and difficult his behaviour can be.
Gwynne said Naomi is more excited for Christmas than she’s ever been.
She knows she is getting presents, she knows who buys them and she knows how we get them. For some children with autism the magic of Christmas is actually in finally finding out Santa is not real at all.
And as for reacting to the news that her brother accidentally killed her pet fish just before Christmas, Gwynne wrote: “[She] still loved him fiercely.”