As a mom trying to raise honest, kind and caring children, there is no time of year more conflicting for me than Christmas.
Last year, I paid Target $30 for The Elf on the Shelf so that I could orchestrate an elaborate lie for Luki. I explained that an elf had arrived at our home from the North Pole - sent by Mr. Claus himself - to watch over him.
"Every night, he flies back to the North Pole and tells Santa if you've been naughty or nice," I told him. "He comes back really early in the morning and sits in a different place each day. You have to find him when you wake up."
We named our elf Juanillo and when he returned this year on Thanksgiving Day, Luki was ecstatic. Ever since, Tony or I move Juanillo to a different location each night and watch Luki's delight in finding him every morning.
I love to watch my son's excitement around Juanillo, but there's a little part of me that can't quite get over the fact that I'm straight up lying to my child.
I didn't grow up believing in Santa. In Cuba, where I was born, Santa Claus was a symbol of imperialism and forbidden by the communist regime. I was 9 when my family immigrated to the United States and too old to believe, but my younger brother heard about the bearded fat man in his kindergarten class and came home convinced that we needed to put some hay on the roof of our apartment building for his flying reindeer.
My mother - who had never heard such nonsense in her life - attempted to convince him that what his teacher had told him wasn't true. "I'll buy you whatever you want, but there's no such thing as Santa," she said. "Did he ever go visit you in Cuba? Do you think he's going to go visit your cousins who still live there?"
But my brother was relentless. "Let's just try it," he pleaded. "If it doesn't work, it's OK...but maybe it's true and we won't know unless we try it."
His unwavering belief in magic broke my mother. Santa came to our house that year.
My mother lives in Africa now. After my father's death three years ago she decided to do something more impactful with her life, so she moved to Equatorial Guinea to work as a missionary at a school there. She is surrounded by children who live in dire poverty.
Luki and I speak with her often, and she sends us videos and pictures of the children she's working with. I've explained to my son that he is incredibly blessed and fortunate to have so much and that grandma is with children who don't have any toys. Still, there's a part of me that wants to take it a little further and ask him, "Do you think Santa is going to visit the children in Africa?"
I'm torn. He is only 3 and I want him to believe in magic, but I also find it profoundly unfair that my son gets to greet Juanillo every morning while so many other children in the world don't even know what it means to make-believe.
Is this something other parents experience as well? How do you teach children about society's inequalities without breaking their ability to believe in magic? Can I really have it both ways?