At what age do children stop believing in Father Christmas?
In the case of my stepdaughter
, as she approaches her 11th
birthday in a week's time, it's now.
It wasn't a lightning bolt of revelation, nor even something that slowly crept up on her. It just is! One minute she did believe in the roly-poly bearded fella; the next she didn't.
Last year, she'd lock herself in her room for hours on end, scribbling her long letter to the North Pole.
This year, she sarcastically raises her eyebrows whenever Santa is mentioned.
Such as last month, when I asked her what she wanted for Christmas.
After 10 minutes of reeling off every present known to kid-kind, I said: "Don't tell me – tell Santa. Write him a letter."
"Yeah, right," she replied, and smirked. And walked away, laughing.
But she still keeps up the pretence of believing, for mine, her mum and her dad's sakes (because we're not quite ready to wave goodbye to those 'baby years' even now!) but mainly for her younger brothers
They do believe in Santa – with a passion that is so sweet it' could rot your teeth.
The eight-year-old especially. Each day, he opens a door on his advent calendar and checks the Norad website
for the countdown to when Santa will set off on his present-delivering journey. When he got to sit on the great man's knee at the school Christmas Fair
two weeks ago I thought he was going to pass out with awe.
For him, the existence of Santa is an absolute indisputable cast-iron fact. Which the other day presented a bit of a dilemma.
It happened when I found a note to Santa written in my son's scrawly handwriting. which read: "Dear Santa, I believe in you. How do you manage to deliver presents to all the children all over the world? I have already sent you my list and I have been a good boy. Love Tom xxx".
That should have been that, but then the next day, I found my stepdaughter writing a reply – as if from Father Christmas.
It read: "Dear Tom, Thank you for your letter. I can deliver presents to everyone because of the time difference. If you stay being a good boy you will get all the presents you want."
OK, big deal. So what's the dilemma? Well, it was two-fold:
1) I didn't want my son to think Santa had written to him when he hadn't – because I thought he would be crushed if he discovered the truth i.e. that it was his sister playing him along; and
2) He isn't going to get all the presents on his list because neither I, nor Santa, are Russian billionaires and haven't won the Lottery.
So what's a dad to do? Ensure the lad never saw 'Santa's reply' or let him read it and play along with the fantasy and deal with the consequences as and when they unfolded? I decided on the latter and crossed my fingers.
Later that evening, Tom found 'Santa's reply' under his pillow and rushed into his sister's bedroom like a kid whose Christmases had all come at once.
"Daisy, Daisy," he yelled. "Santa's replied. He says I'm going to get all my presents if I'm good."
I wasn't sure what would happen next, but I half-expected Daisy to lift the wool from his eyes and shatter all his dreams by revealing the truth of the letter.
But instead, she studied the letter and declared it authentic, saying she'd had a letter like that when she was Tom's age.
Then my son came into the kitchen to see me.
"Have you seen my letter from Santa, dad?" he asked.
"Wow, son, that's amazing," I replied.
And then he floored me.
"Don't worry, dad, you don't have to pretend. I know Daisy wrote it. She was just being kind," he smiled.
"Besides, that's not Santa's handwriting!"
Super Racer Sledge, £24.99, from <a href="http://www.supertrampdirect.co.uk/" target="_blank">Supertrampdirect.co.uk</a>. </p>
A strong but lightweight sledge manufactured in Sweden suitable for all types of snow. There’s a pulling cord to take the sledge back up the slope, and a moulded grab positioned at the rear. Light enough for a pre-teen to handle with ease, but big enough for the average adult (so don’t worry if he has a growing spurt). Colours may vary.</p>
Addictaball, £12.95, from <a href="http://www.red5.co.uk/" target="_blank">Red5.co.uk</a>. </p>
A 360-degree, 3D puzzle maze, with three starting points and three game modes. Once you start, it’s impossible to stop – fans say that you have to keep going until you a) complete it, or b) are driven insane. Addicts span all ages (and include a surprising number of adults).</p>
Ghost Hunt, £29.99, from <a href="http://www.firebox.com/" target="_blank">Firebox.com</a></p>
Billy Bones’s skull moves randomly, projecting ghostly visions all around the room. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to shoot at them with a laser gun. When you make a direct hit, Billy will scream - and your laser gun will record the score. Three difficulty settings, batteries not included. </p>
The Island of Thieves<strong> </strong>by Josh Lacey, £5.99, Andersen Press, £4.49, from <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">Amazon.co.uk</a>. </p>
The first of two books about Tom Trelawney and his uncle, the eccentric Harvey Trelawney, The Island of Thieves tells the story of what happens when the two of them travel to South America on a quest for hidden gold. But Harvey has some dangerous enemies who are after the treasure, too… Funny and full of adventure, with pirates, treasure chests and sea voyages. </p>
Table Tennis Set, £9.95, from <a href="http://www.dotcomgiftshop.com/" target="_blank">Dotcomgiftshop.com</a>. </p>
Brilliant fun for tweens - especially if they practise hard and end up beating older brothers and dad - this table tennis set comes with two wooden bats, a net, clamp brackets and three ping pong balls. Box includes rules of play.</p>
Gyro Flyer Remote Control Helicopter, £31.99, from <a href="http://www.firebox.com/" target="_blank">Firebox.com</a>.</p>
A revolutionary three-channel RC chopper with a sturdy metal body and advanced gyroscope, giving it great in-flight stability. It can land wherever you fancy and is controlled with a twin-toggle transmitter that doubles up as charging unit - plug in for 20 minutes for six to eight minutes of flying action. His only problem will be stopping his dad playing with it.</p>
Horrible Science Experiments, Assorted, £15.95, from <a href="http://www.johnlewis.com/" target="_blank">Johnlewis.com</a>.</p>
Order this, and you will receive either ‘Explosive Experiments’, which will allow him to create and launch a rocket, watch a volcano erupt, make a lava lamp and mix up some seriously slimy snot, or ‘Really Rotten Experiments’, which includes a cockroach soap, fart pot and fake poo, and will help him to learn how the stomach works (with the aid of some green slime). Utterly and completely horrible.</p>
Hackysack, £4.75, from <a href="http://www.wickeduncle.co.uk/" target="_blank">Wickeduncle.co.uk</a></p>
The Hackysack is what all those young guys are always kicking around on the beach in Brazil. You play keepy-uppy with it and after 8 million goes, you get to be a world-class footballer. Essential for anybody who wants to play in the Premier League one day. </p>
Nerf Vortex Nitron Blaster, £44.99, from Hasbro, and available at online at <a href="http://Argos.co.uk" target="_blank">Argos.co.uk</a>.</p>
The first fully automatic disc blaster in the Nerf Vortex range, the Vortex Nitron blaster can hold up to 20 green foam discs and launch them up to 60ft. It includes a front handle to help steady the shots, and a Targeting Scope accessory so he’s always on target. Age 8 years + but the whole family will have fun with it. Batteries not included. </p>
Lego, The Lord of the Rings, The Mines of Moria, £69.99, but shop around - £59.99 from <a href="http://www.johnlewis.com/" target="_blank">Johnlewis.com</a> and £49.87 from <a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/&tag=aolpdishedit-21 " target="_blank">Amazon.co.uk</a>.</p>
Defeat the giant cave troll in the abandoned Mines of Moria with six mini figures – Pippin, Boromir, Gimli, Legolas and two Moria orcs. Weapons include a chain, a club, a bow, a double-bladed axe and a small hobbit sword. The set also has two skeletons. You can never have enough skeletons.</p>