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Santa Did What?

Photograph by Getty Images

“Did you guys get everything you wanted?” I asked my stepchildren last Christmas as I bundled up wads of discarded wrapping paper. Both of them nodded, each of them entranced with their “big” gifts. Chloe finally got the Barbie Dream House she had been lusting over while Trey’s castle and ogre were the highlights of his morning.

“I just have one question,” Chloe asked me as she rearranged Barbie’s tiny cutlery on the kitchen table. (I’m pretty sure that was the last she ever saw of those miniscule forks and knives, by the way.)

“What’s that?”

“How come Santa wrapped our gifts? He didn’t wrap our gifts at mama’s house.”

Uh oh.

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I had been worried about this. Ever since my husband and I started dating, I wondered how the differences in Christmas celebrations at each of their parents’ houses was going to affect Chloe and Trey.

It’s not that things are wildly different and, for the most part, I think they enjoy having a bit of a different day with each parent. But the differences in Santa might make them suspicious, and that makes me nervous. When I was growing up, I had a bag at the foot of my bed that Santa would fill with gifts and the rest would be under our tree. It was a surefire way to know if Santa had been to our house because the bag would either be full or empty. I can remember dragging the bags down the hall with my brother and sister, squealing with delight when we saw our stockings and other gifts under the tree. I wanted that badly for my own family, but when I brought it up this past Halloween to Chloe and Trey, they both looked at me like I had two heads.

Will our little investigator start asking more questions about Santa and why he has to do things a different way at each house?

“Santa doesn’t do that at mama’s though. Why would he do it at your house?” Chloe asked.

I wavered, just like I did last Christmas. I think I said something vague like Santa knows what each household likes and can adapt to whatever they want. Just like some people don’t have fireplaces, so Santa has to get in a different way.

I’m nervous about how long we can keep up the differences before they get wise. Will they just enjoy the different experiences? Or will our little investigator start asking more questions about Santa and why he has to do things a different way at each house?

The same goes for a difference in holiday schedule. Last year, we didn’t get the kids until 3 p.m. on Christmas Day. Instead of having them come home to presents already under the tree, we decided to write a letter to Santa, asking him if he would make a special trip the following weekend so we could all celebrate the big day together. Naturally, he did, but goodness how I agonized over it. I was terrified that Chloe would think it was just too weird that Santa would fly all the way back to our home in Georgia just to make all of us happy.

RELATED: Christmas With the Stepkids Comes Later This Year

And then I had to remind myself of the spirit of Santa and the magic of Christmas. I had to remind myself that this is the season of goodwill, of peace and joy, and I can guarantee that Santa didn’t mind one bit doing things a bit differently for us.

Maybe I should have him write that in our letter this year.

If you have stepchildren, how is Santa different between the children’s two homes? If you grew up with a stepparent, do you remember being suspicious of Santa and his changes?

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