How old were you when you found out Santa Claus wasn’t real? Hopefully you weren’t that old, and your parent (or whoever) let you down easy. If you were seven, I’d say you were old enough.
President Donald Trump, in a rare fit of inadvertent honesty, may have spoiled the Santa surprise for one kid on Christmas Eve after she called in to the NORAD hotline to check on Santa’s whereabouts and got the president on the line instead.
“Are you still a believer in Santa?” he asked, “Because at 7, it’s marginal, right?”
As the New York Times pointed out, Trump’s right! Seven is older than most kids to still believe in Santa!
Most children stop believing in Santa somewhere between 5 and 8 years old, according to several studies. That range has been largely consistent for decades; a 1978 study said that 85 percent of 5-year-olds believed, while just 25 percent of 8-year-olds kept the faith.
One 2015 study from Australia found that children are catching on earlier, perhaps because the internet is full of spoilers.
This, however, did not stop an enormous amount of pearl-clutching. The Times’s story itself is titled “Kids, Please Don’t Read This Article on What Trump Said About Santa Claus.”
If you have kids who can read, I am going to say right now it is fine to show them this article. It’s like the tooth fairy: it can still be a fun game to play with your kids without legitimately trying to convince them that a supernatural being is going to come into their room and steal their teeth. If they make it to the age of 7 and still believe this, you have messed up!
My coworker Rafi Schwartz (a parent) has a more moderate take: Parents can decide for their own kids, but an adult stranger ruining it for a kid that he’s never met is a dick move, even if he’s right. This seems perfectly well reasoned to me, but it still doesn’t excuse all the hysteria. In New Jersey, a substitute school teacher got fired for telling kids that Santa wasn’t real, and then telling them the truth when they asked about the Easter bunny.
I am loathe to defend the president, who undoubtedly has no idea how to talk to a child, but holy shit, everyone chill out. That means you, Dan Rather:
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss tweeted out a 1961 letter that John F. Kennedy wrote a girl named Michelle reiterating that Santa is real and even claiming to have spoken with him, but to me, this proves nothing except for JFK being a liar.
The president is an asshole, but if your entire holiday revolves around your children not catching you in a lie, you’re doing it wrong. Thanks.