This year I was one of them: Those annoyingly-together holiday shoppers who have nearly everything bought, wrapped and shipped by Thanksgiving. So you can imagine my surprise (make that absolute panic) when my girls and I ran into Santa last week at the mall.

“Can we sit on his lap?” they squealed. “There’s not even a line!”

Ignoring the fact that at the tender ages of 6 and 8 my daughters already know that a long line could spell the death of a dream, I agreed to let them crawl into a fat male stranger’s lap and lie promise they’ll be nice and not fight in exchange for some pricey electronics or a pony.

“What would you like for Christmas this year?” mall Santa quizzed my eight-year-old.

“A pottery wheel, furry white boots, the Game of Life and a camera!” she replied without hesitation.

I would like to add here that none of these things were on her list. Not one.

“A camera? Really? You want a camera? You have a camera!” I stammered, honing in on the mack-daddy item and giving Santa the stink-eye.

They both ignored me. “Have you been a good girl this year?” he asked, A) as if she’s going to say “Actually, no, not really” and B) also implying that if she answered yes she would get the fucking camera! (And also, heads-up Santa: You’re supposed to know if she’s been good. It’s right there in the song, for the baby Jesus’s sake.)

My daughter lied nodded solemnly and he sent her off with a candy cane, a coloring book and a giant stocking full of false hopes.

When we got to the car, I tried the old stand-by deflector. “You know girls, I read in the paper that Santa’s already finished making presents this year,” I said, trying to sound casual. “The article said he’s very busy wrapping everything now. But I’m sure he’ll take good care of you.”

As much as I want my girls to believe in the magic of Christmas for as long as possible, I have to admit it’s going to be a lot easier when they discover there’s no flabby old dude out there whose sole purpose in life is to give them the crap their parents won’t.