Life with Ladybug: “Mom, is santa really real?”

By Shannon Magsam

I had been dreading this day since our daughter’s first Christmas in 2002.

For nearly 10 years we’d side-stepped questions about  Kris Kringle’s existence with vague answers like, “What do you think?” and “Who said that?” if a classmate mentioned that they didn’t believe anymore. Well, we’d really only had redirect the conversation for the past few years.

John and I recently had a conversation about what we’d tell Ladybug if she point-blank asked. We agreed we should tell her the truth. Nearly 10 years and 4th grade is really a pretty good run, we told each other. (The picture above is from several years ago.)

Well, last week as Ladybug and I drove into the garage after school, she was chattering like a little squirrel about her day, then abruptly started talking about Christmas presents. Something in her tone alerted me to a Big Question and I turned off the car, my mind working overtime. Words tumbled over each other like an air bingo machine: What to say? What to say?

She started talking about one of her best friends who had found some presents in the closet with tags that read, “From Santa.”

This particular mom told her daughter that Santa had brought them a little early. Ladybug said, “Santa doesn’t come early.

Then she told me that other “facts” didn’t seem to add up. Then she, gulp, straight-up asked me: “Mom, is Santa really real?

After a few loooong seconds, I asked her, “If Santa wasn’t real, would you want to know?

She said yes.

Here goes, I thought to myself. Then, to her, I said, “You’re right. It’s mom and dad.

I told her I never want to lie when she asks me something specific.

Then she started sobbing. We got out of the car and when we made it to the living room couch, I pulled her onto my lap (as well as someone with a kid who’s only four inches shorter than her CAN pull someone into their lap) and let her cry. She said repeatedly, accusatory, “I want Santa to be real. Why did you have to tell me?!

Then I launched into the mystery of Christmas and how I still listen for sleigh bells on Christmas Eve. I wanted her to have a graceful retreat back into believer-land if she wanted to take the trip. Just to ease into the whole idea.

Part of me really wished I had tried the beat-around-the-bush tactic one more time, just for a few more weeks and tell her AFTER Christmas. (“May is the best time to tell your kids this news,” one mom told me later.)

But a bigger part of me realized it was a fact of growing up, that I had survived the news and she would, too. Sometimes you just have to pull off the band-aid really fast.

Still, I was thinking about how the holidays had somehow now lost some of their luster. I don’t have younger kids, so the buck (Rudolph?) stops here. We’ve always talked about the true meaning of Christmas, but Santa was always so much fun to make cookies for and to try and stay awake for on Christmas Eve.

As her tears started to dry, she sat up and I swear I could see a light-bulb materialize above her head. Her eyes got extra wide.

What about the Easter Bunny, and leprechauns and the tooth fairy?” she asked in desperation. “Are they real?

I looked her in the face and gently said, “I think we’ve had enough truth for one day.

Oh, and about The Elf on the Shelf? You don’t want to know.

Shannon Magsam is mom to 9-year-old Ladybug, married to Ladybug’s dad, John, and co-creator of To read previously published installments of Life With Ladybug, click here.



  1. I absolutely love your stories. They remind me so much of my daugher (she turned 9 in September). She asked if Santa was real last year and we had to tell her the truth. She cried when we told her just like your daughter. She does have a little brother so we get to keep tradition alive a little longer. She enjoys all of it and helping play Santa with her little brother. Maybe your daughter can find a younger child that she can be Santa to.

  2. Melissa, that’s a great idea! I was the oldest and I always LOVED making Santa and the Tooth Fairy seem extra magical for my little brother and sister. Laynie does have some younger cousins, so I’ll tell her that she gets to be in on helping make the holidays extra special for them. Thanks!!

  3. I love that you were honest with her and that you also know where to stop the honesty for one day.
    It’s all still magic.
    My mom decided to keep it special by marking my gifts from the different reindeer, the snowman, the gingerbread man, etc. It kept the tradition fun without either of us having to lie about what was real and what wasn’t. We all knew the snowman was not out on black friday shopping for barbie dolls.
    Oh, and she still gives me gifts from these silly characters. And I still love it.
    You’re a great mama!

  4. Thanks, Stephanie 🙂 Love your mom’s idea — thanks for sharing! I also love the image of a snowman out shopping on Black Friday. Are you SURE he wasn’t?! Yep, it’s good to hang on to the magic this time of year. It has been sooo interesting to chat with other moms about this topic…

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