Episode 12: How to tell the truth about Santa

Episode 12: How to tell the truth about Santa

with Martha Brockenbrough

How do you tell your child the beautiful truth about Santa? Martha Brockenbrough told her daughter, Lucy, via a heartfelt letter that she then turned into a book. We hear the story behind this beautiful way to help your child through this major life transition from a Santa-believer to a member of Santa’s team.

This week we are joined by Martha Brockenbrough, writer, teacher, musician and creator of Grammar Day (May 4th- mark your calendars!). She was an editor for MSN, written for NY Times, taught high school and, of course, written books in all genres and for all reading levels. She currently teaches at Vermont College of Fine Arts and continues to write books that look for hard truths and help her readers see that, in her words, “uncomfortable doesn’t mean unfair.” She joined us to talk about one of her picture books, Love, Santa: the beautiful truth about Santa and gives us some amazing thoughts on Santa and helping our kids navigate their feelings about the big man.

Tell your child the beautiful truth about Santa:

1. Love, Santa is just one of the many picture books that Martha has written, but it’s the one we wanted to chat about (‘tis the season, after all!). She shared with us the background and development of the book, from the letter she wrote to her own daughter in that “questioning Santa” moment, to a blog post that spread like wildfire, to finally the beautifully designed picture book it is today.

2. While the book is often used as a tool to help parents have what can be a hard conversation with their children, it is so full of love that it makes what could be a cold, hard truth become a warm, magical time that welcomes the child onto Santa’s “team,” where they get to help spread the magic for others. 

3. Once our kids are out in the world we cannot always control what they hear and what they learn, so being prepared for these kinds of conversations and thinking of them as “the greatest privilege of parenthood…loving our kids, even when they find out the world isn’t necessarily what they thought.”

4. Just like you always have granola bars in the glove box, to be ready for whatever parenthood throws at us, we can think ahead, have a plan and be ready for these moments. For instance, Martha knows that she won’t lie to her kids, so when asked point-blank about certain things (like Santa!), she knows what direction she would want to take the discussion.

5. She had some great thoughts on how to make the conversation about Santa a positive experience, including expanding her earlier, wonderful thoughts on welcoming the child to Santa’s team: “You’re on Santa’s team now. What do you want to give to the world? Is there someone who needs something? Is there something you have to offer? What is it? Let me help you do that. Give the kid the power! There is nothing that feels better than being generous and helping others.”

6. Martha’s daughter Lucy, whose question about Santa sparked the idea for the book in the first place, wrote a song called “Santa is Love” for her mother’s birthday one year. The song is Lucy’s interpretation of the experience she shared with her mother learning “the beautiful truth about Santa.” It is a wonderful companion to the book and a wonderful gift to her mother. If curious, the song can be found on iTunes and YouTube!

Martha left us with a great idea of how to get started on putting these great ideas into practice this week. She challenged us to get ourselves a book, maybe one that we wouldn’t otherwise have read, and ask why this person wrote it and why did it get loved enough to be published and see if we can expand the corners of our world just a bit.

We are so grateful to Martha for taking the time to talk with us!

Mentioned in this episode:

Martha’s website

Lucy Berliant’s song she surprised her mother with: Santa is Love

Books we mentioned:

Love, Santa

Cheerful Chick

Alexander Hamilton, Revolutionary


The Dinosaur Tooth Fairy

Finding Bigfoot

Missed our last episode? Listen to some great ideas for seasonal books and more from Cathy Balfanz here.

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