There is more to regret than the “Reindeer Food” falsehood.
Leading my sons George and Jack to believe in Santa Claus when their skepticism dawned and they asked, “Daddy, is there really a Santa Claus?” was wrong.
As Greta Christina suggests in her rewrite of Francis Church’s answer to eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, I owed them the truth at every step:
No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus. Love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. But Santa Claus does not exist. He is a story made up by your parents. You should be extremely suspicious of anyone who tells you otherwise.
Telling them the truth would not have been cruel. It would have detracted nothing from my love for them and it would have given them a clearer view of the world they live in. As Greta Christina writes, their hearts would still have been glad :
No Santa Claus! That’s right. He doesn’t live, and he never did. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will still not exist — and no amount of fatuous, manipulative bloviating will make him real. And the heart of childhood is still made glad: by fancy, by poetry, by romance, by beauty and joy, by truth and knowledge, by love and generosity and devotion, and by the boundless magnificence of the universe.