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.
|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?