My son Liam walked up to me, put his hands on his hips, scowled, and said, "OK, Dad. What did you know, and when did you know it?"
Now it was my turn to scowl.
"Liam, have you been looking at news sites on the Internet again?"
"Come on, Dad. Be serious. I heard something at recess today and I want to know if it's true."
I sank back in my chair. Heard it at recess? My mind raced between possible topics drugs, sex, smoking. I wasn't prepared for this talk yet. Besides, Liam is only in grade one. What the heck were 6 and 7-year-olds doing talking about these sort of subjects? That principal was sure going to hear from me, by golly.
"So is it true Dad? There is no Santa Claus? And that you've know this for some time?"
I cleared my throat. I twiddled my thumbs. I stared at the ceiling.
"Liam, I don't think we should talk about Santa that way. And you tell your friends at school it's unpatriotic to talk about Santa like that, especially at a time when our economy needs all the help it can get."
"Dad, you're not answering my question."
"Yes, to the best of my knowledge and considering all current intelligence at my disposal, I do believe that your supposition is true."
"Yes, Liam, there is no Santa. At least not a physical one."
"But Dad, you told me just before Christmas that you were sure there was a Santa Claus? Isn't that lying? Didn't you tell me it was wrong to lie?"
"Well, Liam, it's not that I wasn't concerned about the issue, you just have to put these things into context. I didn't lie so much as understate the amount of data I had. Your mother and I really had very little forewarning that Santa is not real. While we had received some reports, they were only fuzzy and thin."
Liam scowled again.
"Dad, Mom told me that you told her that you've suspected that there's no Santa for several decades. And I have the reports from my friends at school. You mean to tell me that there was all this stuff about Santa not being real, you weren't able to figure it out yourself?"
I shifted uncomfortably in my seat.
"Son, while it is true that 'chatter' about the non-realitiness of Santa was quite noticeable last December, look at what was happening when you last asked me the Santa question. Mom was pregnant with your sister. Your grandmother was visiting. We had just gotten a new dog and the au pair was leaving. I think it's understandable that signals were missed. But I'm not sure pointing the finger of blame will do anybody any good."
"Does this mean the tooth fairy and the Easter Bunny are made up too?"
"I can't give you the answer on that right now, but I can promise you that your mother and I will learn from our past mistakes, and work closely together to make sure we get all the important information about the reality of imaginary creatures to you as soon as we have it ourselves. Never again will we allow a made-up character to intrude upon our family's sense of security."
Liam looked at his shoes. "Dad, will you raise my allowance?"
"I knew I sniffed politics. Go ask your mother."