Every so often the age range of our children creates little dilemmas – and Christmas is one of those times! Remember we’re the ones with a teenager, a toddler and Molly in the middle to create a balance.

The current parenting dilemma is to do with Father Christmas. Is he real or not?

Our Teenager is 14 years old and showing all the signs of being a normal teenage boy. His idea of cool Christmas presents are pretty much based around what’s happening at Rebel Sport rather than what Santa is going to bring down our dodgy chimney. For some years now he has clearly been in the adults’ camp when it comes to the “big” question –  “Does Santa Exist?”

Our daughters are 9 and 4 years and sadly the older is on the cusp. She doesn’t really want to believe Father Christmas is a myth and very much wants her school mates to be wrong, but the look on her face tells a different story.

I think the older two are secretly very pleased that we have a pre-schooler in the house so they keep a little bit of the magic going through her. She is an avowed believer and her current concern is whether the Grandparents’ house in Geraldine (where we’re spending Christmas) has a “Chimee” for him to fit down – fortunately they do, which is a great relief to her.

I’ve always been a great believer in keeping childhood fantasies alive for as long as possible. I only discovered last year that the tooth fairy isn’t real! To me the belief in fairies, pixies, goblins, tooth fairies and Father Christmas helps children keep being children.

I know every generation has said it before me but, they seem to grow up so quickly these days.  I think that a little fantasy is good for their imagination. There is something delightful about little children fervently hoping and praying for a special present from Father Christmas and trying to stay up as late as possible just in case they can see him climbing out of the neighbour’s chimney.

I will always treasure memories of looking out the window for signs of his sleigh with my little boy on a dark Christmas Eve a few years ago. If by chance a plane flew by at the time I could enhance the story by suggesting that the flashing navigation light was in fact Rudolph’s red nose.

The traditional snacks are dutifully left for Santa every year. The sprinkles of soil for the reindeer foot prints, mince pies, biscuits and orange juice, plus the half eaten carrots the reindeer leave behind after the visit are all part of the magic of Christmas in our household.

Every year we are grateful that our eldest is just as keen to preserve the fantasy for his littlest sister and plays along with the ruse with passion.

Of course we do the obligatory phone call to Santa on 0800 222 222 just to ensure he’s on the case. I was pleased to hear he still uses “ho, ho, ho” and hasn’t been put off by the PC Australians who’ve banned the use of the term because it is derogatory to women (“Ho” being a hip hop term for a lady of the night).

Interestingly, when we called Santa he was looking for one of his reindeer which had run away. I relate to that because my dog DJ is always running down to the beach and getting me in trouble. I have a mental image of me running down the beach looking for DJ and bumping into Santa in search of Blixen.

Santa’s onto it. He still hangs out at shopping malls and you can write to him at: Santa’s Workshop, North Pole 0001, and now you can even write to him on email at:


Apparently Rudolph is his web master!

There is a lovely story relating to the existence of Santa and it dates back to the late 19th Century. An 8 year old girl called Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the Editor of the Sun newspaper in New York in 1897 saying her friends told her Santa wasn’t real. She was asking for some sort of proof that Santa does exist and she received a famous reply from the Editor.

Dear Virginia,
Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a sceptical age. They do not believe except what they see..

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies.

Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can view and picture the beauty and glory beyond.

No Santa Claus?

Thank God he lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

What a great response and I’m sure Virginia was more than happy with it, once someone had it explained it a little. She was only 8 after all.

So for the 14th year on the trot we will set up our table by the fireplace, sort out the carrots and a chocolate wheaten biscuit or two (Santa loves them) the juice (Beer is out of favour – drinking and driving sleighs is an Arctic offence) and a little note of thanks to an old man with his special gift to spread happiness around the world. It’s nice to think we’ll be doing the same thing for at least a few more Christmases to come.


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Mark Leishman is the devoted dad to three children- Paddy, Molly and Rosie. His children span 10 years in age so he has plenty of experience in everything from sleepless nights to teenagers.

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