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A Man of a Few More Words - by Swan Morrison

The Conspiracy

I have always harboured reservations about adults convincing children of the existence of Santa Claus. Perhaps it is an innocent myth, but it requires lies from those trusted adults. I sometimes wonder how many young people experience a sense of betrayal on discovering the truth.

This moral dilemma posed by Santa occurs just annually. More frequently, social pressure forces collusion with a more heinous conspiracy.

The mandatory reaction when a young woman announces that she is expecting her first baby is as culturally prescribed and socially enforced as the requirement to ask a toddler about presents received from Father Christmas. In conversation with first time mums-to-be it is de rigueur to express excitement and delight and promote a fatuous, mythical belief that parenthood is simply wonderful.

‘Why do we lie to them?’ I asked a group of fellow parents when the latest victim of this subterfuge had left the staffroom. ‘We’ve just told Janis that having a baby is going to be great and she’ll really enjoy being a parent.’ I shook my head in despair. ‘We all know that she’s really going to have at least twenty years of Hell: sleepless nights, poverty, massively restricted freedom, stress in her relationship which might break-up as a result, worry about finding good schools, conflict with argumentative youngsters and battles with bolshy, arrogant adolescents.’

‘Swan’s got a point,’ conceded Julia. ‘She’s only at sixteen weeks. There’s still time for a termination.’

‘Why should she get away with it?’ John said, angrily. ‘No one warned us. Susan and I were told exactly the same misleading nonsense that we’re feeding to Janis.’

‘At least if she’s got kids she won’t have to face the covert hostility of other parents,’ Sally reminded us. ‘The couple next door to me chose not to have children. They spend their whole lives doing what they like and having fun. I hate them.’

‘Bastards,’ agreed Julia, thinking of the damage caused to her home last weekend during the fifteenth birthday party of her son.

‘Of course I secretly do what I can to get even,’ continued Sally, ‘- damage to their cars, vandalism to their house, that sort of thing.’

‘I think that those who choose not to have children should pay tax at ninety percent and spend eight months each year in a forced labour camp,’ bemoaned John.

‘Hear, hear,’ everyone chorused.

I later encountered Janis in the car park. ‘It’s great for you that you’re having a baby,’ I lied. ‘I bet it’ll be fantastic.’ A thought suddenly occurred to me. ‘Did you believe in Father Christmas when you were a child?’ I asked.

‘Until I was ten,’ Janis replied.

‘How did you feel when you discovered that it wasn’t true?’

‘A bit disappointed,’ she admitted. ‘Still, it was fun while it lasted. As an adult you don’t get the chance to live a fairytale. It’s made me wiser though,’ she joked. ‘I’m not getting caught like that again!’