I knew one day it would happen. We were going to have “the talk” with the kids. The end of innocence is inevitable. Sigh.

Our youngest is by far the mature one. He has a blend of his father’s skepticism and his mother’s emotional insecurity. He knows the truth; he just refuses to believe it. Our daughter has inherited my sense of optimism that anything is real if you believe it; thus, she believes everything initially, then analyses it to death later. Together, they are clever, manipulative geniuses. Whether it is a performance involving whining and full-on tears or temper tantrums with the issue of fairness debated at length, our children are talented.

When we parents stand before them with moderate humour (and caffeine for the battle), we usually have a good cop and bad cop balance in check (roles we rotate depending on the issue). Then the kids don’t stand a chance. It’s when they divide us that things go wrong.  One night, while mommy was working, the wise child sensed his father’s weakness, having realized daddy was separated from the parenting herd.

“The talk” began like this: “I don’t believe Santa Claus is real.”  It was more a question than statement. The tone was enough to startle the Carpenter. His paranoia comes from hearing me use a similar inflection when I say, “These jeans make me look fat.” You see his dilemma, right?

He said later he was like a deer in the headlights. How could his own child possibly question the validity of Santa Claus? And how could the good-cop parent pick that night to be working? Truth or dare: which was right? Silence.

The wise child continued. “I think the gifts come from the parents, who buy them at the store.” Again, it was not really a statement.  Our daughter stood wide-eyed, watching the inquisition carefully. If the Carpenter so much as flinched, the outcome could go terribly wrong.  “What?” The Carpenter was incredulous. “Wherever would you get that idea?”

His eyes must have shifted. The children saw his panic. While the blood rushed to his head, he did his best to hold off the questioning, but the floodgates of what-ifs and how-comes had opened. It was too much for one parent to bear. Ill equipped and unprepared, the Carpenter tried to fend off a barrage of questions. Some truths were declared, while others were left unclear, open to possibilities. Unfortunately, the Carpenter’s fatal mistake was forgetting to tell me that conversation went down at all.

The next morning, I got the full report from the children. Apparently, I was not to worry about buying gifts this year because Dad’s union was going to send his vacation pay to purchase all the things my children wanted from Santa.  Ho-ho-hold it. That was the message of the night? What on earth had my husband told our children? The text message the weary Carpenter received that morning was not pretty.

Don’t worry, the good cop arrived for duty. Damage control is my specialty. Though my children remain skeptical, I know Santa is real.

Santa, I believe in you and I have only one request: that all naysayers receive coal. Except the Carpenter. He tries so hard.