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The Santa Talk


When my oldest, Nolan, was in kindergarten, he came home from school one day and asked my husband, Howard, “Dad, what’s your favorite finger?”

Looking at our son’s mischievous eyes, Howard had a sense where this was probably going. “I like all my fingers. I don’t have a favorite. I like my thumb and my pinky. I like my pointer finger and my ring finger,” Howard said as he pointed to each finger except the middle one. “Why Nolan?”

“Because this is my favorite finger,” Nolan declared as he gave his father the bird.

After explaining that pointing up a middle finger is not a nice thing to do, we asked Nolan where he might have seen someone do that. Any guesses as to what his answer was? If you said, “the bus,” you’d be correct.

In my career in education, though I was a secondary teacher for my teaching portion, most of my administrative life was at a K-8 level. It was as an administrator that I learned to talk with students about buses using the phrase, “a bus is a classroom on wheels.” The point of this was to have students be on their best behavior on a bus like they would be in school. Good bus behavior is hard to achieve since the “teacher” in this “classroom on wheels” literally has his/her back to the students. Thus, no matter how well behaved you hope the students will be, the learning on buses can be more worldly and colorful than I would expect in a classroom within the school.

Perhaps it is with the loss of innocence regarding the knowledge that certain fingers have certain connotations, that I feared Nolan would learn on the secondary school bus about Santa. I didn’t want that to happen, so as he neared Christmas his sixth grade year, I sat Nolan down for the Santa Talk. “Nolan, what do you think? Is Santa real,” I asked.

“Umm,” he responded not sure of what to say. I’m sure there was some important mental arithmetic taking place—if I say no, what impact does that have on presents? If I say no and the answer is yes, will Santa be mad I doubted him. If I say yes, will I look like a chump? He landed on a diplomatic response, “I’m not sure.”

“Well, I want you to know that Santa is not real. It’s a really special and nice thing that parents do for their children to create a magical feeling at Christmas. Please don’t ruin the special magic for your sister and brother, okay?”

“Why would I do that?!” he said as though he’d never, ever intentionally try to hurt them.

“I don’t know why you would do that, except to be mean to them and to daddy and me. Anyway, I didn’t want you to hear other kids talking at school or on the bus and be confused. I wanted you to hear it from me in case you had any questions. Even though Santa isn’t real, I’d love if you would help daddy and me be Santa by helping us pick out presents for Lilia and Oliver and wrapping them, etc. Would you like to do that?”


“Great! Oh yeah,” I continued, “Since you know that Santa isn’t real, you should also know neither are The Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny, or leprechauns. Again, these are all things that parents do for their kids to make them smile. Do you have any questions?”

“No.” The one-word answers of preadolescence was in full-force.

“Okay. Well, if you do, I’m here.” Nolan went to his room and I took a deep breath because I thought it went as well as it could go. I then realized there was one more thing that I forgot to tell him. I quickly went to his room, “Nolan! I should have told you God is real. I know I just told you all of these other things were not real, but you should know that God is real. I can’t explain why God is real and the others are not only that I know that I have pretended to be Santa, The Tooth Fairy, and everything else. I’ve never pretended to be God and with God, believing is something that takes faith.”


This interaction played itself out two years later when my daughter, Lilia, was in the 6th grade. I think Lilia was dubious about Santa’s existence, but she wasn’t going to show her hand.

Oliver, my youngest, is now in the 5th grade. That means, at least in our house, that this will be Santa’s last year. There will be no more letters to Santa, no more milk, cookies, and carrots, no more Elf on the Shelf (ours is named Kiddle). Knowing that this is coming next year has made each day of this holiday season even more special. What’s more, even though Oliver is outnumbered 4:1 with the knowledge that Santa isn’t real, I have never had a kid who believes in Santa more than Oliver! It is the cutest to watch him leave notes and treats for Kiddle. Just as heartwarming is that Nolan has taken the lead in hiding Kiddle around the house and writing as Kiddle in response to Oliver’s notes. If you knew my kids, you would know that this loving and generous interaction is like finding half a glass of milk and a plate with only the remaining crumbs from the milk and cookies left for Santa on Christmas morning—pure holiday magic!

With that, I’m wishing you and your family holiday magic for the rest of this year and into the next!


P.S. This week, I've asked Andrew Marotta, author of the re-released 2nd edition book, The School Leader, Principal of Port Jervis HS, and host of the weekly blog & podcast Educational Leadership and Beyond for a catch. Andrew and I met on his podcast: Click here to listen to #ELB and had a blast. He is an engaging and enthused leadership expert looking to help and serve his school, community, and his growing #PLN.

Here's who he caught and why:

Hi friends. I am 'catching' Dr. Rob Glibert, sports psychologist from Montclair St Univ in NJ. Dr. Gilbert has literally changed my life in just 3 mins a day. Really. I am challenging you to call his success hotline 973-743-4690 daily. And do not just call. Be at your desk or workplace, have a notebook, and with focus, write down what he says. This engagement will help you better retain and start putting into action the leadership points he talked about on the hotline. It's not a gimmick, there is no money involved...Dr. Gilbert is authentic, the real deal on leadership, motivation, and enthusiasm, so much so he's left over 10, 800+ messages on the success hotline. 973-743-4690. Call today. He talks for 3 mins, you then can leave him a 1 min message in return. He does connect with many of his callers.

Here's just a sample of just one of thousands of messages...He spoke about this concept the other day and talked about our impact on others. We, as educators, may never see our impact, yet many times it is there many years later.

"You can count the number of seeds in an apple,

but you will never know the number of apples in the seeds."

Keep planting friends. Thanks so much to Heather Lyon and her work on #Lyonsletters. You can find me on twitter @andrewmarotta21. I also welcome you to consider my upcoming Education Leadership Mastermind/Coaching group starting this January '21. Click here for more information. #Keeprolling

Andrew Marotta

Learn more about Andrew at

P.P.S. Please remember to...

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