The Santa Dilemma

It began in September, shortly after E started preschool.

She started talking about Santa Claus. She mentioned in passing that he was going to come to our house at night while she slept and leave stuff behind. Just typing that, it sounds creepy. I dismissed it and dodged the conversation for awhile.

Then, a few weeks ago, it picked up again.

We were at Target and E came across a toy she desperately needed. I told her that we weren’t going to buy it because we had plenty of toys to play with at home.

And she busted out the big S guns.

“Okay, Momma. I’ll ask Santa to bring it. And he’ll bring it to my house and it’ll be Christmas time.”

Oh boy.

I don’t want the girls to believe in Santa.

I’m not going to lie to them and say Santa is a real person who brings Christmas gifts to all the good boys and girls.

Does that make me a bad, Grinch-y, Scrooge of a parent? I don’t think so.

Suppose I encouraged my kids to believe in Jolly St. Nick. Eventually, they’ll catch on or hear from a classmate that it’s all a hoax. If I perpetuated this lie and orchestrated grand schemes to confirm his existence, I’m guilty of bold-faced lying to my children and they’ll know it.

If Santa was a lie, what else have I lied about? God? If it was okay me to lie about Santa, is it okay for her to lie to me? Maybe if it’s just a little white lie?

I know how my kid’s mind works. She’s logical and thorough. While she loves to play pretend and use her imagination, there are very clear lines of right and wrong and choices involved.

My parents took this same honesty route. The ironic part is that despite their truthfulness, I still believed in Santa. You know, the whole Miracle on 34th Street idea of just needing to believe enough. This willful suspension of disbelief faded the night I saw my father carrying our gifts down the stairs in big black garbage bags. I was sad but even in my 5-year-old brain, I knew nothing had changed. Christmas was exactly what it had been all along.

If you play the Santa game with your kids – rock on. I’m not knocking it. I just know how E’s mind works and that is not a path I want to go down.

When E mentions specifics about Santa bringing toys, I say, “Santa is a nice idea, E. It’s fun to play pretend and tell the stories. But Momma and Daddy get you presents at Christmas.” Otherwise, I reinforce that Santa is just like Elmo, Mickey Mouse or Dora – fun, but not real.

Christmas is a magical time and it isn’t about a big man in red. It’s full of excitement and kindness shared between friends and strangers. We talk about the historic Saint Nick and the significance of giving gifts. We discuss Jesus’s birthday and Magi.

Being a no-Santa family is a lot harder than I expected. Everyone talks about Santa. The cashier at the grocery store, the girl cutting E’s hair, even the gentleman waiting in line behind us at the post office.

“Are you being a good girl for Santa this year? He’s coming soon, you know.”

At preschool, Santa will pay a surprise visit during the Christmas party.

I’m not anti-Santa, really. It’s fun to pretend and we don’t avoid it. I don’t mind people talking about Santa to the kids and fully realize we are in the minority with our beliefs.

And I would never, ever want our honesty about Santa to ruin it for other kids.

I figure most kids believe until they’re 5, maybe 6? Here’s hoping E can keep her honesty to herself until then. Maybe with the encouragement and promise of some fun, Momma and daddy purchased toys on Christmas morning?

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7 thoughts on “The Santa Dilemma

  1. Every kid is different, but I appreciated that my parents lied to me about Santa. Maybe I was a little slow and figured it out later than most kids? It never occurred to me to even question his existence until I was old enough to realize the magic behind the lie. I used to ask my older brother if he was real, and he would say, “I believe in the maaaagic of Santa.” And I appreciated that even he didn’t want to spoil it for me! LOL But I guess he didn’t lie, either!

  2. This is a tough one. We do the whole Santa thing, but we don’t focus on it much. Sometimes I feel badly that I don’t make a big deal about Santa for her, like I’m cheating her out of some extra magic, but even a little bit of Santa talk does feel disingenuous sometimes. The other day we were talking about the Christmas story and she asked, “Mama, was Jesus real? ” And I emphatically told her yes. I think when she asks me if Santa is real one day, I’ll need to tell her the truth about that too or it will call into question everything else I’ve ever told her. But until she asks, we’ll play along. When I was a child and asked about Santa Claus, my parents said it was a game they were playing with me, and I was finally old enough to be in on the game. So I never felt lied to or cheated. I’ll probably try the same tactic. I can appreciate your tactic too and I think every family has to do what works for them!

    • I hadn’t thought of the “game” explanation. That makes sense. For us, its helpful that E has never been a big fan of Santa. Last year, she was terrified of him so I was surprised she seemed to excited about it this year.

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