My concern, of course, was a bit unfounded. Like many of us who really, really wanted to believe in a mythological character, Will was internally processing the Santa equation (it just doesn't add up!) while defending the fairy tale to his sister. I should have noticed that he was a bit less passionate this year with explaining the metaphysics of a bag that can hold a gazillion presents. Although he wouldn't dare question the Wife or me on the subject, since that may stop the flow of presents, he watched and waited. Not too different from the skeptic who begins to see the glaring holes of their native born religion, but are afraid to ask the obvious questions in fear of being ostracized from their social group or of eternal hellfire.
There was new evidence that brought my boy into being a full blown Santa heretic. On Christmas Eve we were went about our rituals of leaving milk and cookies out. The kids were then brought upstairs to their bedrooms and tucked into bed. I went downstairs and cleaned up the kitchen a bit (I had cooked up the world's best beef stew and sage dumplings for dinner). Afterwards, I joined the Wife and her aunt in the living room, wondering when it would be safe to stuff the stockings.
"You should check on them," she said.
And here is the rub, when the myth itself does not convince a follower of its innate absurdity, often times the incompetency of the people who are trying to perpetuate said myth shove the believer into disbelief.
I crept upstairs and poked my head into each of the children's darkened rooms. Silence. Happily I went back down and announced that they were both in asleep. Presents were brought out from their hiding places and stuffed into stockings.
That's when the sounds of little feet were heard walking down the stairs.I quickly locked the door, and the team brought the filled stockings into another room.
"Why is the door locked?" It was Will. "I need to go to the bathroom."
I opened the door. Will carefully looked around while walking to the toilet.
"Why did you lock the door?" he asked again.
I have a policy about Santa: I am neutral. The myth is harmless (there are no Santa-based suicide bombers to my knowledge), and though I don't tell my kids that He isn't real, I refuse to bend over backwards hiding the truth. Unsurprisingly, I chose to meet absurdity with absurdity.
"I locked the door just in case we were attacked by zombies so that they wouldn't be able to get upstairs."
Will looked at me. Hard. He went to the bathroom and then went back upstairs.
Christmas came and went. Presents were opened, relatives and friends came over for breakfast and dinner. All in all the day went well.
The day after Christmas, however, Will had a moment alone with his mother. That was when he pounced. "Are you and Dad Santa Claus? Why did he lock the door? There are no such things as zombies!" She muttered a few halfhearted responses in the vain hope that maybe our boy wasn't really growing up. He must of walked away with thinking what many other skeptics have reflected about those who are the guardians of myth: These people have no idea what they're talking about!
Later, I chatted with Will who was deep in a book. I said that I would give him a straight answer to any question he had. "Why did you lock the door?" he asked.
"I didn't want you coming downstairs."
"Mom and I are Santa Claus. We were placing gifts in your stockings."
"Oh." He then went back to reading his book.
"Hey, I'm going to ask you not to tell your sister, OK?"
And it is fine.