After 25 years in the storytelling biz, we at Story District have learned a lot and want to share our stories and insights with you. As we prepare to tell true seasonal stories during “It’s a Wonderful Life,” we’re reminded of the tales that gave us the warm fuzzies in seasons past — like when Mike Kane accidentally broke the truth about Santa to his daughter in Story District’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Disappointed you didn’t get to see Mike tell this story live? Look ahead to the new year on January 10 at Union Stage with Story District’s “Firsts and Lasts” — stories about bringing in the new and letting go of the old. We’ll gift you with big discounts when you use code First23 online.
I want to put a disclaimer at the top of the story. There’s a spoiler alert about Santa Claus. I wouldn’t want someone to read this story and feel like I was the one that ruined the magic of Christmas for them. Because I believe in the magic of Christmas.
When I was a little kid, my folks could always pull it together long enough to make Christmas special for me. Now that I have two little girls on my own, I’m all about being an “awesome daddy.” I want to make Christmas a big deal for them. So on December 1, we go up to the breakfast counter, and we start filling out our list. And I tell them to ask for the world. That’s the magic of Christmas, whatever you want. If the phone rings while they’re writing their letters, I’ll do this number where I answer like, “Hello, Santa Claus? Yes, this is Daddy!”
Because Santa Claus calls me Daddy. Believe me, it would cause more confusion if he called me Mike.
Back on the phone I’ll say, “Yeah, there are two little girls here.”
And both my kids like, “Oh my God! Is that Santa? Daddy, don’t hang up! I want to talk to him. Get my list!”
That’s it. That’s the magic of Christmas. I love it.
But my oldest daughter is very practical. She’s very analytical. Last year, she cornered me in the kitchen. She was six years old. And she comes up and she says,
“Daddy, can I ask you a question and you promise you’ll tell me the truth?”
And I said, “Yeah, whatever you got.” And she goes, “So if I asked you this question, you promise you won’t lie?”
I was like, “Yeah, I promise. What do you got?”
And she goes, “Is Santa Claus real?”
I don’t actually consider it lying to a child if you’re doing it to preserve their innocence. So I tried to put it back on her.
I’m like, “Is Santa Claus real? What kind of question is that? Are you real?”
And she looks at me and goes, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
No, it didn’t. It’s not like I needed her to believe forever. I know that I went way too long. I remember coming down on Christmas morning and being like, “Santa Claus put a carton of cigarettes in my stocking!” And my Dad being like, “Oh my God, what a loser.” So I don’t need her to believe in Santa forever. But in this day and age, is it too much to ask that your kid holds out til like seven or eight? So I try to get wishy washy with her.
I was like, “I think thatt…the spirit of Santa Claus is very reall… to millions of boys and girls all around the world.”
And she was like, “So he’s fake?”
I’m like, “Yeah, he’s fake.”
I saw the hope dash off of her face. And she looked at me and she went, “So all those presents that were under the tree…that was just you and Mommy the whole time?”
And I was like, “Yeah, that was just me. Mostly me actually because I’m an awesome Daddy.”
And she went upstairs and she started to cry. I followed her and I said, “Listen, someone at school told you that Santa Claus wasn’t real, and it broke your heart. I get that and it stinks that you won’t be able to believe anymore. But it’s really important that you don’t make someone else feel that way. No matter what you do, don’t go to school tomorrow and tell other kids that Santa Claus isn’t real. And for God’s sakes, don’t tell your little sister because now that’s all I have left in my dear life.”
She goes, “No, no I wouldn’t.”
Two days later, the school calls us.
My wife answers the phone like, “Hello. She did what? Oh, she did, did she?”
She hangs up the phone and she’s like, “That was your daughter’s teacher. Guess who told the entire reading group that Santa Claus wasn’t real?”
So I go upstairs and knock on the door and she’s playing on the floor. I’m like, “Hey, just wanted to check in to see how our little secrets are going. That’s still going well?” My daughter has no poker face at all.
She was like, “Yeah, no…that ship sailed.”
I see now how this is coming close to home and I can see the next step is to ruin it for her sister. So I gotta put it on lockdown now. I know my daughter responds to embarrassment. That’s the way I punish her because there are weak spots in the awesome Daddy plan. I try.
So I say, “Put your coat on. We’re going to each one of those kids’ houses and we’re going to apologize to their families for ruining the magic of Christmas.”
She gasps and says, “But that would be embarrassing!”
And I say, “That’s the point, right?”
So we get into the car and go to each one of these houses. We stand in front of these families and knock on the door, she hides behind my leg completely embarrassed, and she pokes her head out and she’s like, “I’m sorry, I told the kids that there was no Santa Claus.”
Most of the families were cool. But the last house we went to was bizarre. The mother invites us inside and we sit down and my daughter says, “I’m sorry, I told Elizabeth there is no Santa Claus.”
And the woman just laughs and she goes, “Oh sweetie, we told Elizabeth there was no Santa Claus when she was three years old.”
And my daughter and I shared this expression of horror. My daughter goes, “But you’re the Mommy.”
And the woman goes, “That’s right. That’s what Mommies and Daddies do. They tell their kids the truth.”
I quickly was like, “Wait, this isn’t going as planned. Abort mission! Abort mission!”
As we were walking out of the house, I’m dreading the ride home and the conversation that I’m going to have to have with my daughter. We get in the car and we start driving home and not a word is said. She has her head pressed against the glass, she’s just staring out the window, and I feel like a failure. We pull up to the house, I turn the engine off, and then she just turns and she looks at me and she goes, “Daddy. I’m glad you weren’t the one that told me about Santa Claus.”
And I realized that in this moment, I had gotten so wrapped up in the magic of Christmas and Santa Claus and I forgot about what’s most important. It’s that I’m an awesome daddy.
About Story District: In 1997, The Speakeasy was born, an open mic series for storytelling. Over time, we evolved into Story District and now we host dozens of shows and classes every year, as well as leading trainings and creating custom performances for businesses, government agencies, colleges and nonprofits. Visit StoryDistrict.org, subscribe to our podcast Story District Presents, subscribe on YouTube at StoryDistrictLive and follow Story District on Instagram.
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