Last night, we let our 9 year-old daughter sleep in the “big bed” with us as a little yuletide treat, if you will. We watched the Polar Express and all dozed off with thoughts of Santa running through our heads. When we awoke, our little girl had a question for us. One which we had thought might be coming.
“How come some kids say that Santa’s not true? That parents really buy the gifts that are from Santa and just put his name on it and eat his cookies to fool us into believing in him?”
NORAD, we have a problem.
I did the only thing I knew to do. Prove that Santa was real. And to do that, I turned to the internet. I mean, everything on the internet’s true, right? After all, that’s the way ol’ Al Gore invented it.
Anyway, the first thing I pulled up was the classic exchange between an 8 year-old girl named Virginia and a newspaper editor. And I must say, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” really hit the spot. In fact, I encourage all of you to read it to your children should you find them in the same skeptical boat we found our daughter. I had forgotten how magical the writer’s response was.
I could tell that it made an impression on her. But I could also tell that she still had her doubts.
“I know he’s real. But how come some of my friends don’t believe in him?”
So I went down my next rabbit trail, borrowing a line that a close (and clever) friend uses on his kids. “Honey,” I began, “Santa’s kinda like politics. Probably best not to talk about him as lots of folks have different opinions.”
Given that I’m not entirely sure my daughter understands the concept of politics (do any of us, really?), I knew my friend’s saying wasn’t going to do the trick, either. So I busted out the big guns. NORAD. Via Google.
I asked my daughter if she wanted to research the matter further, and she eagerly indicated that she did. So I asked her what she’d do if she wanted to learn more about Santa for, say, a homework assignment.
“Probably Google him,” she answered.
“Why don’t you do it, then? But be specific. Why don’t you Google the question ‘Where is Santa Claus?'”?
Once she did, the first site that pulled was the NORAD Santa tracker. I explained to my little girl that NORAD was the North American Aerospace Defense Command, and that they were a group of super-smart people who tracked satellites and the like. But once a year, they turn their attention to Santa. Strollerderby cohort Meredith did a great job of explaining exactly how the NORAD Santa tracker works, but essentially, it’s a combination of four things: radar, satellites, “Santa cams” and fighter jets (used peacefully, of course) which enables NORAD to track Santa.
“It’s all very complicated,” I explained to my daughter. “But it has something to do with Rudolph’s nose. And, as you can see from this here website, Santa is currently in Australia. He’ll be in South Korea soon as he works his way westward around the globe.”
My daughter’s eyes were the size of manhole covers as she looked at the data updating in realtime from the NORAD Santa tracker site. And because of it, I’m pretty sure she’s still a believer.
At least I hope she is. Because I have a lot of toys to put together tonight—the earlier I get started, the better. In year’s past, Santa’s been known to provide a pretty good bedtime incentive.
And I’m gonna need all the leverage I can get.
Merry Christmas, everyone!