Saturday, December 24, 2011

On Santa Claus and Debra Winger

I've seen a few parents ask others what they do about Santa. Do they tell their kids Santa is real? Do they tell them he lives forever in the North Pole, riding a sleigh driven by flying deer? And if they do all that, do they eventually tell their kids Santa wasn't real? Or do they wait for their kids to grow up and figure things out by themselves?

Well, here's why I can't do any of it. Here's why I tell my kids Santa is just a regular guy with funny clothes.

This is not a "Parents should never lie to their kids" post. I believe there's a place for fantasy in kids' lives, and there's nothing wrong with believing. My wife still remembers fondly the day she packed her bags and waited outside for the van that was supposed to take her to the Bad Girls Farm. It's one of her favorite father-daughter stories. And I took it away from her because my boy asked me if the farmer was coming and I had to tell him the truth.

So here's my story. Here's why I physically can't lie, joke, or even fib. And it has everything to do with Debra Winger.

When I was a young kid, let's say 8, my family and I watched a movie on TV together, and when Debra Winger showed up, as she often did in 80s movies, my father said, "You know, she's my first cousin."

Now if my dad told me something, it had to be true, even if it was just an off-hand comment. Which is why the next day I told everyone is school that Debra Winger was my dad's first cousin. Every time Debra Winger reappeared on our family's TV screen, my dad said the same thing, which reminded me that no matter how low I got and no matter what life threw at little me, I would always have this glamorous Hollywood connection to non other than Debra Winger. Of all people.

And as long as my dad kept reminding me about his Hollywood cousin, I kept telling people. I told old friends again, and I told new friends. I told elementary school friends and high school friends. Eventually I joined the army and told people there. "Remember Debra Winger? She used to be in movies? Well, she's my dad's first cousin! Cool, eh? I know!"

Until one day in my early twenties, I was sitting with my dad in the living room. We were watching the news, and when my dad saw one of the reporters, he said, "You know-- This guy was with me in the army."

I nodded.

"And do you know Debra Winger, the actress?" He continued. "That's his first cousin!"

Debra Winger


  1. Thank you for the Debra Winger memories. I wish she was my cousin, kissing cousin anyway. I also wish I didn't lie to my kids, but I can't help exaggerating myths. My kids believe in Santa and the Tooth fairy much longer than is sensible

  2. Mario, I wish I were related to Debra Winger too... Funny that my mom told me the tooth fairy was living presents under my pillow, but I never had a doubt about who it was. I never thought of that as a lie. Just a game we were both playing.

  3. When I was 5, we had a Christmas party in my day care and my mom told me that a snow queen flew into the building in her sled the moment I turned away. I was telling the story of the flying snow queen as if I saw it myself for the next 5 years and couldn't understand why no one believed me! For some reason I thought my mom would never lie to me.

  4. Thank you for your blog and your post. I'm a relatively new father (1 year old), and I find your commentary very amusing. I remember one day in grade school around Christmastime I told one of my friends that Santa wasn't real. He turned to me and said, "Yes, you are right, but the story of Jesus and the Three Wise Men is totally true." I didn't have a rebuttal for him. It took me many, many years to come to terms with that particular story.

  5. Svetlana, I know what you mean. And as a parent, you don't even notice these lies. You don't even consider them lies--you think of them as jokes, not realizing you're the main source of information for your kids. And if you tell them a snow queen flew into the building and forget to mention you were joking, they will believe you for years!

  6. Father and Owner, it's funny. In elementary school in Israel, they told us about God writing the Torah and giving it to Moses on the mountain. Then in high school, the Bible teacher kept referring to "the writers." It was very confusing. Someone here was lying to me... Which meant I had to make up my own mind according to my own short life-experience. At least it all made me learn to think for myself.



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