Am I The Christmas Grinch? Andrea Mara On Parenting Through Christmas 5 years ago

Am I The Christmas Grinch? Andrea Mara On Parenting Through Christmas

“And as everyone listening knows, the presenters here on this radio station are the only ones who talk directly to Santa,” said the well-meaning man on the radio.

I tried to change the channel, but it was too late. “Why does he get to talk to Santa mum?” asked my four-year-old. “I thought you said nobody gets to talk to Santa?”

Um yes. I muttered something about the man on the radio talking to the shopping centre Santas, not the real Santa, and changed the subject – and the station.

I’m all for festive cheer and seasonal songs, but not if they generate questions I don’t want to answer (and – side-note – not if it’s Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer).

I have the same worries about the elves who are currently visiting everyone else except us. We went to see Santa recently along with a group of five other families, and when we were asked if anyone had an elf at home, every single child in the room raised their hands – all except mine.

I felt guilty – and nervous too, waiting for the inevitable questions about why no elf bothers to visit our house.

I did think about doing Elf on the Shelf this year, during the same moment I was considering attempting a homemade Christmas cake for the first time, even though nobody in our family eats Christmas cake.

Both ideas were put into the “choose your battles” box at the back of my brain, as I settled for the corner-cutting lead-in to Christmas that has been working perfectly well for the last ten years.

A few years ago, we did try Portable North Pole – anyone who has done this will know how fantastically well it’s put together. Santa talks through the laptop screen to your children and has personalised information about them. My kids loved it when they saw it, but the following year, when my husband suggested doing it again, I hesitated.


My eldest was seven at that stage, and I thought it might generate more questions than awe – why, if Santa doesn’t allow himself to be seen, would he be making videos for people?

Good question.

And maybe I’m wrong – maybe she’d have loved it and not wondered about it at all, but I erred on the side of caution. (With a healthy dose of “Sure we never had PNP when we were growing up and we turned out grand.”)

Around the same time as this, back when we were more gung-ho about embracing all of the seasonal options on offer, we tried getting letters back from Santa via An Post. This didn’t go well – two children got letters back, and one got none at all. We intercepted and eventually destroyed the two letters we did get because that was far better than telling one child Santa just didn’t bother replying to her.

The following year, my eldest put her return address on the back of her envelope, and a few days later, her own letter was returned to her. Again we managed to intercept, and avoided having to explain why Santa sent her letter back unopened.

The year after that, I made sure there were no addresses on the outside of the envelopes, but this time my eldest did get a letter back from Santa. She found it before I did, so I had to explain then why she needed to hide it from her siblings who wouldn’t be getting one.

In the end, I had to tell her that it’s really An Post who do it. “What?” she said in horror, “You mean An Post opened my letter to Santa? Will Santa not get it now?” Argh. I give up. A bit like PNP – it’s a lovely, well-intentioned idea, but one that can lead to questions I don’t want to answer.

So this year we’ll have no personalised letters from Lapland, no elves, no robins, no videos, no naughty-or-nice apps, and no direct line to Santa.

And in true 21st Century parenting-on-the-internet style, I need to stress that I’m not saying people shouldn’t have elves on shelves and personalised letters and birds who report back to the North Pole. I’m just saying that, having dabbled; I’m opting out.

It’s a little bit because I’m lazy, but it’s a lot because I’m afraid of over complicating the magic.

Right now my kids believe that a man in a red suits flies across the sky in a sleigh, then comes down the chimney on Christmas Eve and leaves presents under the tree – I suspect anything more might be a stretch. And for however few years we’ve left of this beautiful, magical window, I want to focus on the big stuff.

Sorry, elf.

Main image: How The Grinch Stole Christmas, Universal