Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Is Santa Coming?

I don’t know what to do about Santa. Who knew that the fat guy in red would ever pose a problem for me? I grew up not believing for a moment that Santa was real. My parents didn’t want to lie to my siblings and me, or to substitute the man in the red suit for the baby in the manger. I don't feel scarred by never believing. Brian grew up believing in Santa for awhile, but eventually caught on. He doesn’t even remember when he realized that Santa was his parents, so he clearly was not traumatized by the revelation like some kids are. He remembers that the magic of it was exciting for awhile, but is inclined, as I am, not to lie to our boys about Santa. A friendly man in line at the coffee shop the other day asked the boys who was coming soon (they didn't answer, just kept counting the chocolate milks) and then asked me slyly, "Well Mom, is Santa coming?" I didn't mean to, but I basically unloaded on him what Brian and I have been talking about when it comes to Santa. He had no idea the answer to his question would take so long.

Things to consider:

Enchantment: The magic of it does seem like it could be fun. Looking into the sky and searching for a sleigh and a really nice old man using flying reindeer to bring you what you want must be amazing. I don't want to cheat my kids of childhood fantasies, but on the other hand, I remember being completely enchanted by books I read as a child even though I knew they were fiction. I mean, knowing that Gilbert Blythe wasn't real didn't stop me from wanting to kiss him. I simply can’t bear the thought of having 10 year-olds who still believe in Santa and to whom we will have to one day admit we’ve been lying their entire lives. I’ve read what other parents have written about being in that exact position and how paralyzing it is. What else might we be lying about to them? 

Cookies and Carrots and Elves: I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell my boys to leave cookies for Santa and carrots for his reindeer. I couldn’t tell them that an elf is watching to see if they are good and report to Santa. It would eat at my conscience. No way. It was nothing that my parents told me and so it seems so unnatural and silly to me. For me, it would be like telling them with a straight face that Curious George is sitting on the toilet taking a poop in front of them even though they can’t see him. Which would probably make them want to beat me up, by the way.

It’s Still Magical: I loved Christmas growing up. For my family though, the magic and mystery of the season did not come from Santa and his elves, but from the gifts that we bought each other in secret and whispered about together, the kind things we did and made for others around us, the baking we did together, and of course celebrating the miracle of Christ’s birth all those years ago. We always got boxes of gifts and baked goods from my grandparents in Minnesota, and gifts from other distant family members. My grandparents who lived near us always gave us great gifts and came over for dinner. I remember lying underneath our thin, probably crooked Christmas trees (cut from the woods behind our house) every year looking up at the lights and ornaments and wondering about the gifts under the tree. Wondering who had given me what. Wondering how my brother would react when he saw what I bought him. Wondering what it might have been like all those years ago for the shepherds keeping watch over their sheep and that little couple in the stable. My sister and I hung snowflakes from our ceiling with fishing line and put lights up in our room. We fell asleep every night for a month listening to Christmas carols and plotting how we were going to pull off surprising Mom and Dad with something nice. Christmas Eve was always exciting. After our extended family left, we tried to fall asleep. We would hear Mom and Dad whispering and giggling as they filled our stockings, and we would squeeze our eyes tight as we willed ourselves to sleep, wondering what little things Mom had been hiding all year (and where?!) would appear in our stockings. It was a magical season, just not elf and reindeer powered.

Please Don’t Hate Us: I know that this decision would have social repercussions. How many of our friends and relatives will Cal or Clark offend if they blurt out to their children that Santa is not real? I don’t remember that my siblings or I ever did that. We knew Santa was pretend, but we didn’t shout it from the rooftops. I just don’t quite know how to delicately handle the situation.

Finding Middle Ground: The boys just a few weeks ago discovered Santa. “Who is that silly man?” Clark asked me. I told him it was Santa and he didn’t ask any questions. I don’t think we will actively tell them Santa isn’t real, but we aren’t going to make a big deal of it. As for now, they know that people give each other Christmas gifts—we’ve had a few gift exchanges with friends and with my brother. They have helped make Christmas gifts for friends and relatives. They know that the gifts under the tree are from us and Grandma and Papa and Gammy and Poppy. They know that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Why complicate things and create what could be a problem down the road? Instead I guess we’re basically ignoring the jolly old fellow for now and hoping that other elements of Christmas prove more memorable for the boys. 

As the man at the coffee shop said, while grasping for his double cappuccino on the way out the door and undoubtedly regretting having engaged me in conversation, "It's a big decision." 

Thoughts? I would love any input and/or advice you might have. Leave a comment! What is your experience as a child and/or parent? What have you told your kids? What do you plan to tell your kids? Why? Will you disown us if our boys tell your kids that Santa is pretend? I’d really love to know.

Santa-killer out.

Talk about seasonal magic: The boys eat their first-ever candy canes.

This is me one toothless Christmas before we moved to the woods
and cut our own trees.
I seem pretty well-adjusted, right?


  1. Yup, I find it hard to lie to the kids. I tried to benignly ignore Santa as best I could but my daughter was freaked out by the idea of some stranger coming into the house to deliver presents and there was no way I was going to let her remain afraid just to perpetuate this jolly man tradition. Good blog.

  2. This is a tough one, Dawn. I have struggled with the same decision. In the end we play the elf game and let Santa bring our kids gifts. I have asked a few people about the big lie and the answer I have gotten is that it is pretty harmless. Just like Brian I don't remember when I stopped believing. i never felt duped by my parents. Actually quite contrary, I thought it was amazing that they accomplished all they did on Christmas Eve and it made me appreciative. Especially going through it now with my own kids, I understand the effort that went in to keeping this secret. In our house Christmas is still about Jesus. Santa gets a little credit for his one gift and stockings, but our kids know the reason for the season and so will your boys regardless of whether you tell them about Santa or not. Sometimes I wish we didn't play the Santa and Easter Bunny ( i hate the bunny more) game. I think most kids figure it out gradually and aren't harmed by having enjoyed the mystery though. And to answer your question, if the boys told my kids Santa isn't real I think I would be upset. It's one thing to figure it out because you are old enough to get it. It's another to have your little cousins be in on the secret and blow it in the middle of the season. I think that would be traumitizing. But in the end the decision is obviously all yours and Brians. I think playing Santa and Elf on a Shelf is fun and when my kids realize it was us the whole time I am guessing they too will appreciate the effort and not wonder if their whole life was a lie because we let them believe in Santa.

  3. For the sake of keeping the discussion in one place to access later, I'm going to paste some comments from people on my facebook page:

    KARA said: We have always told our kids that Santa is not real but that some people like to play that game with their kids. when people ask them if Santa is coming they politely say no, we celebrate Jesus'birth. It hasn't been a big deal. I haven't had anyone in public get all upset about it. I think it depends on the parents. Some parents treat it as a game although the kids no there is no Santa and others are really adament about it like he is a real person. I am always sad for the families that are really adament about it. Statistcs show that between the age of 0-5yrs. you are teaching your child to trust you and what you say is the truth. So when telling htem Santa is real and having taught your child to speak the truth then they really do believe you then in their later years you say it was all a lie. How much do you think they will believe all you said to them while they were young, what other things were lies? From a religious point if Santa was a lie then is Jesus a lie too. It can cause your child to question you. DO I think its a sin to play Santa, no. Do I think its a sin to lie you bet I do. I never did Santa and did not suffer for it and neither did you. Explain it as a game. You and huby will figure it out.

    LYNDA said: I don't remember what we told our kids - Lynette believed in the tooth fairy and Easter bunny, and I know we didn't encourage that! She just liked believing in magic, I think. A writer's imagination. I think what your friend Kara says is good. I always struggled with Halloween - how can you encourage kids to go from door to door begging for candy on one day, when the rest of the time it's "don't you dare talk to strangers, or accept food from strangers"

    KRISTY said:
    So, I just wrote a very long reply on your blog, pushed publish...and it disappeared. Because I lack patience, I will write a shorter comment here: I, personally, see no harm in Santa Claus. I remember the joy of making cookies for Santa and waiting for him on Christmas Eve, so we have continued the tradition with our babies. However, I don't remember believing in him for very long (possibly due to my older brother). I don't even recall the moment when I understood he didn't actually come down my chimney. I was not traumatized whatsoever and I don't even really consider it lying. I know that my parents enjoyed seeing the excitment and joy in a child's eye and even though we stopped believing long ago, my mom still gave us one present from Santa every year until I left for college because it brought her joy to do so. My children understand the true meaning of Christmas, as much as a three and five year old do, and they look forward to singing Happy Birthday to Jesus as much as they look forward to leaving cookies for Santa. I think it can become tricky with the possibility of kids telling other kids what they believe in but...such is life. As parents we are left with the task of constantly dealing with what others tell or teach our children. If my babies found out today that Santa was not real, I would happily explain to them the story of St. Nicholas and the joy of passing on the fun traditions and imagination..and I don't think they would feel lied to or traumatized. I think that with good parents, such as you and Brian, you can't go wrong either way. There is magic in Christmas with or without Santa.


    oh, and I meant to add that if my kids flat-out asked me if Santa were real, I would explain to them the magic and excitement of the idea of it but I would tell them that there is no actual person coming into our house and leaving gifts. My babies believe in him based on the fact that they are kids, they have read about him in books, and they've seen him on tv and at the mall. I've never come out and told them Santa is real..because he is not...but the magic and joy of him is real - so as long as they are just my innocent babies and they believe in it, that is fine with me.

  5. Good blog post! I don't think I've ever really given much thought into the Santa thing. I remember being DEVASTATED when I found out he wasn't real... along with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy. However "traumatizing" that experience was I will still play pretend for my kids because I remember loving that jolly old man. My mom and I had a great talk about Santa the day I found out I hope I can explain to my kids as well as she did the reasoning behind the so-called "lying."

    Also, both my family and my husband's family are not religious at all. So Santa and gift giving rule the season rather than religion and celebrating the birth of Christ. In all actuality, I guess you could say that Jesus is just as real as Santa in our family. May lighting strike me dead!

    And I still get a Santa present from my parents every year. Which is always something awesome. :)

  6. I totally agree Dawn! We have told Evan that Santa is a pretend story based on a really nice man (St. Nicholas) who lived a long time ago. The funny thing is that he has CHOSEN to believe. It cracks me up! Every time he mentions him I remind him that it is a story, but then he will say, "I know mom. But when is he coming?" Mark and I have both reminded him about a hundred times that he is NOT REAL. So I guess Evan's desire to believe there is a Santa Claus is stronger than his mean old parents convictions and lectures on how hi really is not. :)

  7. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. They've been great food for thought. I was talking to my friend Karen about this earlier today: it's interesting that there are so many captivating characters in stories and cartoons that kids love, even though they know the characters are pretend, yet Santa and the Easter Bunny have gone from being fun, entertaining stories on their own, to being real to so many kids. So much to think about!

  8. and here are some more good comments...

    CINDY said:

    Dawn, I really enjoyed your blog.
    I think my parents were the ones who were sad once David and I realized there was no Santa. They really tried to keep it going, almost like they were trying to keep us from growing up. They seemed to try too hard to keep Santa alive for way too long. As long as the presents kept coming, we didn't care.
    My best Christmas memories are not of Santa, they are of lights and carols and candlelight church services. I even had 2 Santas - Mikulas and Santa Claus as well as Krumpusz, always watching us.
    But I do remember a few Christmas Eves, driving home after church, possibly seeing Santa and his reindeer, and I still remember how exciting that was. The imagination of the young is incredible.
    Merry Christmas and hope to see you, Brian, Cal and Clark soon! Love, Cindy

    LINDSAY said:

    I wasn't able to post on your page unfortunately. I wanted to say thank you for posting this! David and I were just discussing this issue and your post helped confirm our decision. It was very interesting to skim through some of the comments too. I grew up more like you and David grew up more like Brian. We both felt like there is enough magic in Christmas as it is. Plus we felt uncomfortable with the lying aspect. So, anyway, thank you.

  9. This is way late, but we actually had a discussion Christmas night about this (with my brother and sister in law since they have two children, 5 and a half and 3 and a half).
    Personally, I don't think Santa is a bad thing, and I don't think it's lying to your kids, either. Once you say you don't want to lie to your kids, how far does it go? Tooth Fairy? Easter Bunny? Superheroes? Princesses? Little white lies to get them to eat dinner?
    My worry came with what happens once the kids are in school. Kids usually believe in Santa until what? 8-10 years old? Your kids are really honest and vocal, which is great, but what if the boys rattle off to a school friend that there is no Santa? My sister in law said that that isn't her problem, which, ultimately, I suppose not. But, my sister in law is pretty religious. SO, what happens if some kid at my niece's school has parents who are atheists and the kid tells my niece there is no God?
    It gets really hairy, but I don't think, as long as it's fun for the boys, that there's any harm in playing the Santa game. I loved baking the cookies for Santa with my mom and seeing only crumbs in the morning. I'm like you're husband, though. I don't remember exactly when I knew there was no Santa. I think I remember figuring out that my parents and Santa used the same wrapping paper. It wasn't a biggie. Same with the tooth fairy and easter was fun to play the game, but we all grow up.
    I think your kids would have a blast with Santa...they're so darn creative. But I'm sure, whatever you guys do, Christmas will always be something the boys look back on with happiness and love.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...