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Monday, December 7, 2009

Santa Claus

It's not that I don't like him. I mean, what isn't there to like about a jolly senior citizen handing out presents. I was even a big believer back in the day. If you can look past the time that I told my sister he didn't exist in the bathroom of our house when she was seven or eight, I really have always been a fan.

And yet. I find myself unable to talk to the girl about him. To encourage her to believe in the mythology that is Santa Claus. Instead, I feel like I am standing on the precipice of a gigantic lie.

I try not to lie to her. Sure I tell the occasional white lie along the lines of all the cookies are gone when I have actually hidden them underneath the bread on the counter out of her line of site. I try not to lie though. I don't want untruths to be part of our relationship.

Santa Claus feels like an untruth. Something seems a bit wrong about embarking on a multi-year charade that involves me convincing her that he is real only to one day turn around and say ha ha we were just pretending. Next I will be telling her that the earth really is flat not round. All of these thoughts have prevented me thus far from excitedly talking up the man from the North Pole.

And yet. I find myself unable to tell her that he doesn't exist. To take away a ritual of childhood. A ritual that many of her friends and classmates will enjoy. A ritual that will make Christmas morning, a day that we celebrate as a secular celebration of family, less exciting.

Because Santa Clause, despite the fact that he is a figment of all of our imaginations, is fun. He brings surprises and anticipation. He brings presents that your parents would never get you. He brings presents under the tree that weren't there the night before.

And if I take away Santa, where does that leave the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny?

13 comments:

  1. It's funny, I hate the thought of having to do the tooth fairy, but Santa? You better believe I want them to 'believe';)

    I want them to mostly have joy/belief in the spirit of Christmas - even as they get older and out of the 'believing in Santa' stage, I want that joy to continue.

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  2. I'm totally into the Santa thing. I think it's more the spirit of him (giving, kind, generous, loving, nonjudgemental, etc) that i want him to know and believe in. it's not about the presents, or that's what we are going to try to instill. it's more about time with friends and family and the giving of time and love. though gifts when they can come will be a bonus.

    i didn't resent my parents for letting me believe, and i gradually came to the realisation about him myself, and my sister confirmed it. i wasn't traumatized. i enjoyed the magic and appreciate that my parents let it grow naturally.

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  3. Tough one. I guess you could take the approach "A lot of people believe that..."
    (Of course, that begs the question, "Do you believe in that, Mummy?")

    Maybe "There's a story about a man called Santa..." leaves it more open-ended?

    I'm sure you will figure it out... you still have almost three weeks to do so! :)

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  4. I'm struggling with this same thing this year. Gal Smiley asked me point blank if Santa is real, and I squirmed a whole lot before answering, "Yes." I feel so awkward about it. They are already full of questions about whether the Santa at the mall is the "real" Santa and I just feel so strange about assuring them that he is, when his beard is so obviously fake.

    I want my kids to trust me and know that they can come to me for the truth. Honestly, I think I care more about the fact that they not be the first kids on the block to find out about Santa -- I'm worried about backlash from other parents when my kids tell their kids the big secret. I'm keeping it up for now but I'll be happy when it's over.

    And the tooth fairy and Easter bunny are OUT. We don't even fake it for them.

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  5. @Rebecca I like the idea of Santa as a representation of the spirit of Christmas. I haven't really thought of him like that. It makes him more a symbol of the collective spitit. I have been am stuck thinking of him as the gift carrier. I will have to reflect on this some more.

    @Julie I didn't resent my parents telling me about Santa. I don't think the girl will either. What I am struggling with is that this will be the first time I will begin perpetuating a lie with her. Even though it is a fun lie that we will all enjoy.

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  6. My husband and I went through the very same debate!

    We opted for magic.

    It is so exciting to believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny. There are YEARS to live without magic.

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  7. I still have part of me that believes in Santa Claus, but I never really told my children much about the mythology behind it all - they worked out how he delivers so many gifts on one night, how reindeer fly etc all on their own. I know what you mean about lying, but to me, its never felt like that, I'm not sure why. Maybe because I still believe in him, or at least his existance once upon a time as Saint Nicolas who gave gifts to the poor and in a slightly strange way I suppose we are just carrying on his work..oh dear - I rambled again...

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  8. @Lynn I have also thought about what it means if we don't encourage her belief in Santa. How do we explain why other kids do. I would hate that she would be ruining it for other kids by sayging "actually, my parents explained that Santa doesn't really exist".

    @Chelle I do like magic.

    @april I will have to look into the history of Santa and maybe use that as a starting point when questions are asked. I guess what I find hard is the idea of having a "Santa conversation". But maybe I don't have to. Maybe I just leave it up to her to figure out her own way. See what it means to her and be there to answer any questions she has.

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  9. The tack I took was that I wouldn't encourage him to believe but that if he asked I would tell him the truth.

    Things is he asked last year, I told him I was Santa. He didn't believe me... I have been trying to disavow him of this notion ever since. (I think he is putting on a front now because he's afraid there won't be a Christmas.)

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  10. We do Santa. I do have my qualms, but less because of the lying and more because of the underlying message of 'good' and 'bad'. We don't do rewards and punishments in our house, and so I don't want Santa to use them either. So we really play down that part. There is definitely no elf on my shelf!

    (Although, this is just what works for us and what my comfort level is. If yours is different, that's totally cool.)

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  11. For me, there's a difference between a lie and a story. We do Santa in the same way we do all the other fictional characters: talking about what he looks like and what he does and making up stories. Our 3yo doesn't seem hung up on whether he's real or not, she just loves the drama. (Sadly, she missed the Santa Claus parade because she was too tired, but I took her 2yo brother and he got very excited when he saw Santa--waved and blew kisses. Does he know who Santa is? I don't know, but he loved him anyway.)

    If the kids ever ask me whether Santa is real, I'll just say, "What do you think?" Or depending how old they are, we might have a philosophical discussion about belief and reality. I see it as a game we play, but I don't plan to go to elaborate lengths to convince them that a man comes into our house on Christmas Eve.

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  12. We're going to try to not perpetuate the myth of santa, but we know that he will be part of our son's growing up. I think to position Santa as a fun story at Christmas is one way we can try, and to explain that Santa is the embodiment of Christmas giving spirit. That for some people, Santa is part of their celebrations, like celebrating Jesus' birth is for ours.

    I also hope thatwe can instill in him that some people will believe differently than us, and that is ok.

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  13. I just discovered your wonderful blog, so sorry for this late comment about Santa...we too have a problem with Santa, as we don't want to lie to our 4-year-old daughter (she is afraid of him, and doesn't like the idea of him coming into our house at night while she is sleeping!). It's a little white lie of course, but still a lie, wrapped in more and more lies. So our approach has been to focus on the real St. Nick, who was (by all accounts) a pretty great guy. I just say that the shopping mall Santa's are helping keep alive the memory and traditions of the real St. Nick. It keeps the magic alive, without feeling dishonest.

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