Off to See Santa

My Daughter Wants Something Santa Will Not Bring

In early fall, I point out a star and teach my four-year-old daughter to make a wish. “You can wish for whatever you want.”

She wishes for a puppy, and I think it’s adorable.

A few weeks later, my mom points out a star to her and recites:

“Star light, star bright,
First star I see tonight;
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight”

My daughter shrugs and says, “I don’t believe in wishes on stars.”

I stammered out a WHA?

“I wished for a puppy and didn’t get it. That star-wishing stuff doesn’t work.”

Fast forward to this month and she’s climbing on Santa’s lap. He asks her the requisite question, “What would you like for Christmas?”

My heart drops because I’ve seen the letter.

“A puppy,” she states matter-of-factly.

Santa stammers something about not bringing pets, which I appreciate given we have four cats and a dog, and while we could technically afford to feed and shelter a puppy, I don’t believe we have enough time to give it.

Santa asks again: “What else would you like?”

My daughter squirms off his lap with a firm A PUPPY.

Off to See Santa
I do believe in this puppy necklace will inspire Santa to listen.

She’s a little girl who loves puppies. She has puppy mittens and puppy shirts and was a puppy for Halloween. She wore a necklace of puppy wearing a santa hat to meet Santa Claus, and every day, no matter what her friends are playing, she joins in as some version of a puppy. Puppy baby. Puppy superhero. Puppy freeze tag.

I begin to do the math: how many stuffed puppies we could buy to overwhelm her disappointment? If we factor in a singing one and a robot one, will it be enough? I enter a terrorized state of my-four-year-old-will-stop-believing-in-the-magic-of-Christmas-maybe-we-should-get-her-a-puppy, but my husband stands firm.

My kids already believe most Santas aren’t real. For my seven-year-old, it’s more the obvious reason: “Why would Santa hang out at the mall when he should be at the North Pole preparing to whip around the world faster than the speed of light?”

But my daughter doesn’t walk that line of fantasy and reality as easily as her brother or myself. When I finally wore my parents down after two years of asking whether Santa was real, I refused to believe them. I accepted that 99% of the gifts were from my parents, but for many years beyond second grade, I confided in my friends that one gift I received my mom thought my dad bought and my dad thought my mom bought, but really Santa brought it to me. I wanted to hold on even when I knew the truth, but now I have this daughter so willing to let go, which makes this puppy an accidental a test of sorts. She’s not actively attempting to prove anything but is her little intuitive mind searching for a reason to not believe? Just like stars, Santa either makes dreams come true or can’t. For whatever reason, she doesn’t have much of a middle way in her.

I already know that this will probably be our last year of both believing as my son will be eight years old next Christmas, and he’s not so great at keeping secrets. Anyway, I’ve never felt terrible comfortable with lying about Santa. And of course, I think it’s okay for kids to not get everything they want on Christmas or in life. But none of these comfort me when I think of my four-year-old daughter unwrapping present after present looking for a puppy and finding instead the death of Santa Claus.

Alex Iwashyna

Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and writer by 30. She spends most of her writing time on, a humor blog (except when it's serious) about her husband fighting zombies, awkward attempts at friendship, and dancing like everyone is watching. She also has a soft spot for culture, politics, and rude Southern people who offend her Yankee sensibilities. She parents 2 elementary-aged children, 1 foster baby, 3 cats, and 1 puppy, who are all Southern but not rude. Yet.

7 thoughts to “My Daughter Wants Something Santa Will Not Bring”

  1. Oh NO! Navigating this paradox will be difficult. I agree with Kristin up there in the facebook comments. Having Santa respect your wishes might be a good out. Four year old is just to young to lose the Magic of Santa.

    My crisis happened a few years down the Road when the kids at school started to interfere.

    This what happened at our house….

  2. Oh this is a tough one. I don’t disagree with Scott. A puppy is a big responsibility and you could easily tell your daughter you told Santa that another puppy couldn’t happen right now. My 8 and 6 years olds still believe but I am slowly getting the feeling we might have one more year. She however is a good secret keeper. I’m with you though I won’t lie to my daughters, but I also don’t want them to grow up too fast or lose the magic of the holidays and life by too quickly losing their naïveté (I hope I used that word right?!). Ohye!!

  3. Last year I bought an Elf on the Shelf. This year, when the elf appeared and I was talking about it, my daughter looked at it for a minute. Then she said, “That elf can’t talk. She’s not real. She’s a toy.” When I looked down at her face she was looking at me as if I had lost my mind. I was in the middle of waving at the “toy”. My daughter believes in dragons, princesses, and unicorns, but I am already wondering how long she’s go to buy into Santa. She’s never actually seen Santa in person. I’ve never taken her to have her picture taken with him and we don’t have a mall or anything. I think it’s easier for her to believe in things she never sees in person. We were on the fence about Santa, but then decided we wanted to cultivate her sense of magic and imagination, but I still have these moments where I just feel like a liar and a little ridiculous – like a few days ago with the elf.

    The only thing I can think to do about the puppy situation is to have Santa leave her a letter telling her that a lot of kids asked for puppies this year and that it seemed fair to give the puppies to the kids that didn’t have any pets yet. She is blessed to have cats and a dog and they make her so happy so other kids deserve to have those moments too. Maybe appeal to her empathetic side or sense of justice. Maybe have Santa leave her a new pet toy and thank her for being such a good pet owner.

  4. Oh this is SO hard. My daughter wants a kitten; my son was a specific stuffed animal that was not particularly special until we left it at camping this summer. (They don’t ask Santa for those things, just “the wishing star.”)

    I like the idea about Santa understanding that a puppy won’t work at your house right now. Maybe he can write a letter in conjunction with a special stuffed puppy? Spitballing here…

  5. I don’t know if it helps, but when the girls (who are NOT as puppy obsessed as N) ask for a puppy, we just explain that Sammy Dog is our dog right now, and we want to give him all the love and attention we can for as long as we can. Until they meet someone who has more than one dog, it works for us. 🙂

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