Anyway, the main reason I keep my kids out of stores is all the explaining I have to do.
"Mommy, why doesn't our Elf look like that one? " (pointing to stacks of Elf on the Shelf boxes)
Those Elves are tricky bastards. Last year, a kid in my daughter's class told her she didn't have a "real" elf because he wasn't the standard issue one sold in stores (proving irrefutably that little girls are bitches pretty much right out of the cradle). This question was relatively easy - my daughter has a private, family nickname and our Elf references that name. The next one was harder, "Why do people buy Elves when Santa sends one to your house?" Hmph. I think my answer here was something about wanting the book that came with it, so people understood what to do when their real Elf arrived, and that the Elf included was just a stuffed animal. This of course led to a long discussion about what the elves do the rest of the year. (Just so you know, they work from February to November in Santa's workshop, are sent to spy on families for the month of December, then get January off. They like to vacation in Bali.)
"Mommy, why doesn't Santa bring toys to everyone?" (after listening to a Toys for Tots commercial)
Toys for Tots is an excellent organization and one that has received many a toy from me (especially if there is a Marine doing pushups in the front of the store. YUM!) However, in my son's world, Santa brings toys to all good children. Period. End of story. There are no parents involved. No money. No midnight sales or online shopping. Elves help Santa build all his toys at his workshop in the North Pole, then delivers them on Christmas Eve via sleigh and reindeer.
So, who, exactly, are these children who aren't getting any toys? As an adult, I realize that many situations can occur that keep kids from getting toys -but they all involve parents and/or money. But as a kid, the only way you don't get a toy is if you are bad. Luckily, the little guy got distracted and I didn't have to answer the question, but woe is me if my daughter gets hold of that train of thought. She's got a little streak of evil in her and would see the loophole immediately; i.e., if Santa doesn't bring you toys, then the people at Toys for Tots will, regardless of the good vs. bad question.
"Mommy, why are those stores so busy?" (in Toys R Us, buying a birthday present for a party)
See above about the Santa myth. No parents. No money. No shopping necessary. I told her there were a lot of birthdays in December.
And finally, "Mommy, we've seen six Santa's today. Which one is the real Santa?"
That one led to an explanation of how Santa has helpers, dressed just like him that he sends all around the world to keep an eye on kids and to visit with them to find out what they like and dislike. The helpers report back to the one true Santa. But then, to make sure they kept waving and giving all those hard-working Santas the respect they deserve, we told the kids that the real Santa does spot checks. He likes to nip out during his lunch break and randomly show up on street corners waving a bell, or at the mall to take pictures, or to preside over a breakfast at a firehouse. Today, he may decide to visit our town, tomorrow, he may be in Guam. Or Hawaii. Or the Netherlands. You never know which one could be the REAL Santa, so better be nice to all of them.
One day soon, Santa will be a mystery no more.
One day, some nasty child will share that he isn't real, or I'll slip and talk about buying a gift that was supposed to come from Santa, or she'll finally figure out that all the boxes that arrive in December aren't all for Daddy's job (a hide-in-plain-sight trick that still miraculously works), or she will catch us in the act of either moving an Elf or the gifts. I know that I'm tap dancing on quicksand trying to keep the magic alive for another year for my daughter and hopefully another few years for my son. I know that while I bitch and moan endlessly about the Elf, and all the running around I do during this season, that the magic of Santa really surrounds the entire family. I love hearing the kids giggle as they find the Elf in a different hiding spot every morning. The serious discussions about what Santa does with his time, the look of utter delight as Santa talks directly to them (via video), or when they receive a personalized letter from Santa in the mail. Their eyes really do shine, their faces really do glow. They really, really do believe. And I'll do anything in the world to keep that going as long as humanly possible, even if it does mean shopping at 3am on Black Friday or racing around like a lunatic the one day per week my son is in school til 2pm to get all everything on my list. Helping Santa may be hard work, but it really does pay off.
"A thousand years from now Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood." - editor, The Sun of Chicago, 1897