Milspouse Holiday Blog Swap 2011

This year I am honored to share with you the Military Holiday Guest Blogger series hosted by the popular military spouse website, Riding the Roller Coaster. It’s an annual tradition that started as a way to connect military spouses with each other, and it has evolved into a well-followed and widely publicized military event. Check out my guest post over at Chambanachik, and be sure to peruse the great list of other guest-posters at the Official Blog Swap Page at Riding the Roller Coaster.

You’re going to love my guest writer, Rebekah Sanderlin. She’s an Army wife, a mother of two (with number three on the way) and a journalist who lives near Fort Bragg, North Carolina. She writes a blog called Operation Marriage ( about military family life. Her work has published and aired at the likes of NPR, CNN, Huffington Post, USA Today,, and blogs at the Washington Post and New York Times. In addition to all of that (and infinitely more important), she’s a fabulous person with a penchant for humor and she harbors serious control issues, just like me. I’m so pleased to bring her on board for my very first guest post!

Operation MarriageWitty Little Secret guest post

By Rebekah Sanderlin

I’m not exactly sure how to start this. Guest blogging is like being invited to a party where you’re assured they’ll be tons of nice people, but then you get there and realize that you don’t know any of them. So you drink too much and eat eight mini quiches before you can split someone off from the herd long enough to start up a conversation.

So here goes…

The other day I was at the dentist dealing with my high-maintenance tooth. I have this one tooth that is now probably worth more than my car because I’ve had so much done to it — and it’s still not finished. There I was, kicked back in the chair, wearing the dollar store sunglasses and staring into the light as the dentist and hygienist worked to max out my Tricare dental benefit.

The two of them were talking nonstop, though occasionally they’d pause to ask for my thoughts, and I would say, “Argle bargle fargle schtop,” because that’s how it sounds when you talk with a pair of hands in your mouth.

Anyway, the dentist was telling the hygienist what her 8-year-old son wanted Santa to bring this year when the hygienist interrupted her to say, “We don’t do Santa.”

That made me smile — which is also hard to do with hands in your mouth — because I have a ridiculously dirty mind. To my thinking, for “us” to “do” Santa would mean having a three-way with someone dressed in a Santa suit … and while I’m sure that takes place in many homes during the holidays, it’s not exactly a time-honored tradition in mine.

But then her words sunk in and I realized this woman meant that she didn’t participate in The Great Christmas Hoax. She had opted out of the parenthood conspiracy that calls for millions of grown people (billions if we assume that China and India are in on it, too) to speak convincingly of elfin magic, flying reindeer and fat home intruders who manage to slide down chimneys in the wintertime without getting stuck or burned.

“Argle bargle fargle schtop,” I said adamantly, forcing them to remove their hands. I repeated, “What do you mean, you don’t do Santa?!”

The hygienist explained, “Our son is three. We don’t want to lie to him and then one day have to admit that we lied. He might not trust us. We’d rather just tell him the truth about everything.”

“I bet she’s a vegan, too.” I thought.

She continued, saying that her little boy will be just as happy opening presents from his parents as he would opening presents dropped off by Santa and the reindeer.

Well, maybe when he’s three, I thought, but wait until he’s six and he doesn’t get the one thing he waits to ask for until 11:15 p.m. on Christmas Eve. That’s when the Christmas magic makes for an awfully handy excuse. “I bet Santa was already on his sleigh and didn’t have time to go back and get it, Sweetie…”

What’s she going to say then? I wondered. “Life sucks, kiddo. You should have asked sooner?” That kind of ruins the appeal of Christmas, don’t you think? I was aghast.

Here’s the thing: Christmas is a lot of work and it costs a lot of money. My husband and I will be belt-tightening until the tax refund comes in just to pay for all this excess. So, the very best part of having kids at Christmas time is watching their little faces and hearing their little voices as they get all excited about Santa. We even double-down on the lies in my house by moving the Elf (whom my 7-year-old son inexplicably named “the Black Samurai”) to a different Shelf every night.

You see, as a military mom there are things in my kids’ lives that I choose to be honest with them about, things other parents might opt to hide — things like war. When my husband deploys, my kids know that it is because “Daddy has to go fight the bad guys.” Which means that they know there is evil in this world and that there are people who do horrible things to other people, sometimes for no reason at all.  My children have friends whose daddies have been killed in combat and friends whose daddies are missing limbs, and so my kids know that war is not safe. We don’t dwell on these things and I don’t volunteer scary or gory details, but I do answer their questions honestly. Living in a military town where the Army is the largest employer, I don’t really see how I could choose otherwise.

But, with all the ugliness in the world, maybe especially because of all the ugliness, I think kids deserve a little magic. What’s the harm in believing that a benevolent fat guy is going to squeeze down our chimney and leave behind (hopefully) exactly what they asked him to bring? Where’s the downside to fantasizing about a magical place with elves who make toys and reindeer that fly? They’ve got the rest of their lives to figure out the truth.

But I didn’t say any of that to the hygienist. Her child, her house, her policies — that’s how it works. Maybe she’d take issue with the pictures in my kids’ rooms of their dad dressed in full “battle rattle”… And I’m sure she wouldn’t understand why I need to stop writing now so I can move a rosy-cheeked white gnome called “the Black Samurai” off the chandelier while the kids aren’t looking.

Hey. My house, my kids, my rules.


18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Roller Coaster
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 18:19:55

    I can’t imagine not “doing” Santa. (Great, now you’ve put that image in my head of a big fat hairy guy in my bedroom…ewww!) I’ve never considered it lying, and I dread the day my kids stop believing. My 7-year-old son is very skeptical and has been asking a lot of hard-hitting questions about the big SC. I don’t want that magic to end. I’m finally rediscovering that lost magic through my children, and I’m not ready to give it up again.

    I also have to say that “Black Sammurai” is an AWESOME Elf on the Shelf name. We came up with Ernie. We so need to think of a better name. Are we stuck with that name forever or can we pretend he’s a new elf next year?

    Great post Rebekah, as always. And thank you both for participating in the blog swap. Hope you had as much fun as I did! Happy holidays my friends! 🙂


  2. DogBoy
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 15:21:18

    A little magic goes a long way. So does a little quiche. Eat the 8 quiche and make a lot of magic. It makes the world a better place.


  3. Mrs. S.
    Dec 15, 2011 @ 14:04:24

    Um… When I read, “We don’t do Santa” I instantly thought, “That’s what she said!” Ha ha! On another note, I think that is really sad and I’m sure it will come back to bite her in her ‘I don’t want my kid to have any magic in their lives otherwise they’ll distrust me forever!’ butt one day probably soon rather than later.


  4. Sarah (@gijoeswifeblog)
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 18:04:22

    Sometimes I feel sad for kids whose parents “don’t do Santa” and sometimes I don’t. The people I know only cut out Santa because they don’t want all the magic and pretending and gift-getting to overshadow the true meaning of Christmas – the real reason we celebrate. That I can absolutely understand. I have a feeling we’ll “do” (wink, wink) Santa because both our families do and it’s really just so much fun for the kids. What am I saying, it’s fun for the adults too! =)


  5. Julie
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 16:06:08

    I loved this post! Santa is so special. Growing up we knew that Christmas was about Jesus but we also believed in Santa. It made it that much more special. I am doing the same thing with my own boys. It is so much fun. I don’t see it lying at all.


  6. Wife of a Sailor
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 15:18:19

    I plan to let our future kids believe in Santa. And when they are old enough to ask if he’s real, I’ll tell them what my mom told me:

    Santa as you know it isn’t exactly real, but he’s based off St. Nicholas who really did go around giving people presents. Santa is to help us remember that we should be good to others. While the Santa in the big red suit isn’t real, there is a bit of St Nick in all of us and therefore, Santa will live on forever.


  7. doggirlknits
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 14:13:42

    Love it, Sister. I couldn’t agree more!


  8. Photina
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 12:52:33

    I loved this post. I don’t see it as lying either. I see it as giving them some magic during the year. I do the same thing as you and tell my girls when they ask about why their daddy has to leave and I explain what happens when they see things about the war or things happening. We don’t go overboard with Santa. Like Ann Marie Santa brings one gift for each of the girls and we leave out cookies and carrots. Otherwise it’s kind of low key for Santa. But they still get to believe in him. We just adopted an elf this year and her name is Sugarplum. We don’t do the traditional “she reports back to Santa” but we do take part in Elfish fun.


  9. Goodnight moon
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 11:58:59

    I really enjoyed reading this post! I feel the exact same way. Believing in Santa isn’t lieing to our children, it’s giving them magic and letting them see their imaginations run wild. Just like you, I am honest with them about the war. They see the effects of it, and know that our Fallen Heros go to Heaven, and why some of our Wounded Warriors don’t have limbs. I think military children especially need to believe in the magic of certain things. It breaks my hearts for the little children who aren’t able to have an imagination.

    great great post!!!


  10. chambanachik
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 09:45:39

    This was such a fabulous post. I don’t know how it’s possible to transition from laughing to choking up so quickly, but I did!

    *visiting the Milspouse Holiday Blog Swap posts!*


  11. Allie
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 08:26:50

    Blog Swap jumping!

    In my house the rule was, “If you don’t believe, you don’t receive!”

    I think my parents had it a little tougher since my brother and I are nearly a decade apart. When you are a cyncial 13 year old and your three year old brother is jumping on you at 5am to open presents from “Santa” it is very tempting to slip… but I didn’t.

    Not just for the ‘receiving’ part, but for the magic. I got to have an entire childhood of believing in something innocently pure and magical. I personally don’t think it is wrong to put thoughts and dreams of a fantastical nature into a child’s head to spark hope and imagination…. but that’s me. To each their own!

    Thanks for sharing your story (:


  12. To the Nth
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 06:55:52

    Should my husband and I ever have children, we won’t be “doing Santa,” but I reckon the fact that we’re Jewish and celebrate Chanukah this time of year constitutes a better excuse than your hygienist’s, Rebekah. 😉 For those who do celebrate Christmas, though, I see no harm in the shared make-believe of Santa Claus. It’s collaborative storytelling between parents and children, and the story that there can be a little magic in an uncertain world is worth telling.

    P.S. I almost snorted my tea over “The Black Samurai.” An elf with a name like that should have no trouble keeping kids in line.


  13. Rebekah Sanderlin
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 06:39:04

    Thanks for letting me post on your blog, Lori!
    @Erinn — I really, really want to believe in Santa and I have to admit that I get a little giddy when I see a particularly realistic looking Santa somewhere still. I think I was more excited than the kids when we saw Santa at the Christmas parade…
    @Ann Marie — wow, you give better answers than I do! I just tell them “Daddy has to go because there are bad guys out there who hurt kids and he is going to fight those bad guys so they’ll leave the kids alone.” To which my son usually asks, “why don’t their own daddies fight the bad guys…” and then I have to get all geo-political with my response until I usually just give up and say, “I don’t know! Just take my word for it!”
    One gift from Santa, huh? That is a phenomenal idea. I wish I’d thought of that. Maybe we can taper off Santa’s giving some this year and work towards that, you know, rather than cutting back to just one Santa gift and having the kids think Santa shafted them!


    • Ann Marie @Household6diva
      Dec 14, 2011 @ 14:40:14

      As a mom of two boys 4 and 6, we relate just about EVERYTHING to Batman and Superheroes! 😉


    • Ann Marie @Household6diva
      Dec 14, 2011 @ 14:48:58

      oops! hit the button! 🙂

      Maybe you can have Santa write them a special letter or something about wanting to know their super duper favorite thing they want the most in the whole entire world?!?!? So instead of several small gifts he wants to get them just one AWESOME gift this year? You know – and still stay within his budget – because Mrs Claus is pretty hardcore about keeping the checkbook balanced! 😀


  14. Erinn
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 05:33:42

    Ya know, I’m 23 and part of me still believes in Santa. A lot of it is because my mom still says there is a Santa but another part of it is because I need that magic in my life. I need something unbelievable to believe in because this world can get so damn unmagical with things like wars, bad politicians and just bad people in general. That dental hygenists’ kid is totally going to miss out on that magic my parents let me and my sister enjoy still to this day, and that makes me pretty sad for him.


  15. Ann Marie @Household6diva
    Dec 14, 2011 @ 03:58:20

    This past week, my newly turned 6 year old little boy asked me if Daddy was going to die or be hurt by “the bad guys” in Afghanistan. This is the 3rd year long deployment he has witnessed in his young life and ridiculously I somehow I didn’t see this question coming.

    So I told him what I’ve told myself each of the 4 years I’ve written letters to APO addresses in a war zone. “War is a dangerous place. And yes sometimes people die or are badly injured. But your Daddy believes in standing up for people who are afraid. And because he has honor, courage, and integrity, when all of the soldiers are asked to go on a mission he turns to us and says I love you very much, but I have to go now… so I will see you soon.”

    Just as you said, I am as honest as I can be with a mind toward the future when everything can be explained in depth.

    PS We believe in Santa brings them ONE gift every year.
    Mommy and Daddy get credit for the rest

    PPS and Fred (our elf on the shelf) sees EVERYTHING! 😉


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