Tuesday, March 08, 2011

"Our children will never believe in Santa Claus"

I recently saw a message board online where a mother asked how other families keep the magic of the Tooth Fairy alive in their homes. Apparently, her daughter had just lost her first tooth and it was an exciting moment. I'm guessing she was expecting lots of cute replies with stories and traditions from all over the world.

Well. That was not the case by any means. Responses poured in from passionate parents saying they do not promote any make-believe characters in their homes. "To do so would be unfair to our children, who trust us so much." "How can we teach them to be logical, realistic human beings if we invent fairy tales for them?" "Raising your kids to believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy is nothing more than glorified lying, if you ask me."

Santa Claus is an evil story made up by parents to deceive their children!
(Photo credit: Aunt Maggie)
I had never really heard of people being so adamantly against make-believe! I hadn't considered it lying either. After all, Santa Claus is a story of St. Nicholas, who was quite real and did bring people gifts. It's just carrying on that tradition. And while a small part of me can understand where these folks are coming from, I kind of felt like telling them, "Chill out..."

Children have imaginations, and there's really nothing you can do about that (except try to squash them, perhaps by saying, "Only the things you see are real! You will never believe in Santa Claus!"). I personally don't see anything wrong with encouraging them. Eventually kids figure it all out, but I don't remember being traumatized when I found out Santa, the TF, or the EB weren't real. (Or maybe I was and I've repressed it. Gosh, thanks, Mom and Dad!)

We already started a little tradition, called the "Elf on the Shelf", where a few weeks before Christmas, you set out the Elf to watch the children in the house and report back to Santa every night. The family is supposed to think of a name for the Elf (my husband sweetly named him "Creeper" until Little Olive can name it herself) so he becomes a part of the family. I think it's a really cute idea.

Of course, you can take it too far. (Everything in moderation, right?) It should be about the kids, about adding a little something extra to their childhood. I don't think it's okay to use fear/monsters to keep your children in bed at night, or something like that. But positive, happy, cute additions are harmless, to me.

What do you think?


chefpelsor said...

Lol I just wanted to comment as a child who WAS traumatized. I think the issue was that I got to the age where some kids knew, some kids didn't, and I would fight for santa claus because my mom and dad said he was real. I've always been a debater at heart, so one day I was verbally throwing down for him at school, came home and told my parents about it, then they told me he wasn't real. It felt like.... betrayal. At that age, I was so fragile and so upset. Now I'm all for imagination, but like you said, it can go too far. Maybe my parents put too much emphasis on believing in this being that didn't really exist that delivered toys instead of believing in the spirit of giving and love. Eh, I dunno, it's touchy!

i.ikeda said...

I read an article once that imo gave a very nice compromise. The parents celebrated Christmas with Santa and co until the kids got old enough to have classmates begin the arguments. Then when the daughter came home asking that question, the mom sat her down and told her the story of St Nicholas and how Santa Claus is the continuation of his good deeds and tradition. She told he girl something like "now, we're all Santas keeping up his tradition because we believe that what he did was something worth repeating."

I like it because it explains that Santa is no longer alive and so in that way he's not "real." But it also tells the kids that yes he is real, as a historical figure, as a tradition, and that his good deeds still live through us.

I plan on doing something like that. :)

The Exceptional Parent said...

I would have been traumatized too! Do you think you'll teach your kids about Santa, considering your experience?

Louie, I love that compromise. Kids find out at different ages and that sounds like a great way to bridge the gap of make-believe and tradition.

Anonymous said...

Children with imaginations grow into adults with imaginations and thank goodness for them! Without imaginative people who invent, create, push the boundaries and try when others say something can't be true, where would this world be?

As a side note, disappointment in many flavors is an inevitable part of life. That doesn't at all mean, however, that I'm going to try to squash every situation that may result in it. I will be thankful for the enjoyment I receive and then grow as a person by learning how to handle situations that aren't what I wanted them to be.

LuAnn said...

Well, you're welcome, Maggie! LOL!

I think it was G.K. Chesterton who said something like "If you try to keep the "boogeyman" away from children, they will think him up anyway! And remember the old Christmas movie "Miracle on 34th Street" where the Mom tried to keep her daughter from believing things she could not see, like fairy tales and Santa Claus? She was a sad little thing until Kris Kringle came along!
There are so many things that are real that cannot be seen, and the beautiful imagination of a child can be prepared for these big truths by the loving introduction of gentle, little stories about Santa, the Easter Bunny, and all those good things. The only danger is if these things mask the reality of the holiday. When it's all about Santa bringing gifts and not about Baby Jesus, or all about the Easter candy, and not a word about Jesus rising from the dead, then it's game over, imho.

Composing from the Heart said...

Another thing, you don't want your kid going to school or on the playground and telling all the other kids, "What? Santa isn't real, Mom told me." Then you have many angry parents!

chefpelsor said...

I'm not sure how we'll handle it. I. ikeda had a good idea. Though, I'm still pretty sure they won't be missing out on that much if I decide to explain him from the beginning, that he was real and we're trying keep his spirit alive. I think a child's imagination can run with that, too. I'd rather my kids know what's really being celebrated, the birth of Jesus Christ who saves, and see Santa as a man who wanted to celebrate that, too, in the spirit of Christlike love and generosity. There's a lot of stuff that's kinda fun with it, but I guess I'm having trouble with teaching something as reality when it's absolutely made up, vs. teaching reality so they know it's made up. When a kid uses imagination, they know it's made up, they know that cup of tea is fake, but they know it's fun to pretend. I'm also seeing it being difficult to explain God and Christ when I've also explained Santa in the same light. Oh, Santa's fake, but I really want you to believe in these other two beings who seem like they could be even more fake (you don't see Jesus at the mall) and I'm not kidding about them.
Again, tricky!

LittleYogini said...

Wow! I'm so glad I stumbled upon this post. You posted a comment on Natural Born Mama saying you were writing about Santa and I jumped over here as quick as possible. This has been a HUGE issue for me as I see Christmas and Easter as Christian holidays. Being that I'm not Christian I don't feel the need to celebrate them, except perhaps in the spirit of gathering with loved ones to celebrate love and togetherness. After all, I wouldn't celebrate a Jewish holiday because I am not Jewish. For me it's not a lying to my kids thing...it's very much based on spiritual beliefs.

Well when I tell people this you would not believe the response. They (almost always being non-Christians who celebrate Christmas) act as though I am a devil Grinch. I'm pregnant with my first and I have thought for years "how am I going to present this concept to my children?" because Christmas is such a deeply held tradition in our society that most people can't imagine being without it!!

I don't want to 1) take away from the meaning of Christmas as the celebration of Jesus's birth. I have too much respect for other people's spiritual beliefs and hope they'd have the same for mine. I was happy to see a few people here brought up the same concern but from the Christian standpoint...and 2) I certainly don't want to squash my children's imagination! However, I think I could encourage it in other ways besides Santa, and I think we could come up with lots of traditions that celebrate imagination, generosity, love, family, etc. It's just a matter of dealing with other people's upset over our decision.

As an alternate perspective shift for Composing from the Heart: there are many kids who don't believe in Santa-whether Jewish or Muslim or otherwise that Santa believing children will encounter in life. What you've said is something people have said to me and honestly, it makes me angry that I'm expected to uphold Santa so as not to upset other parents. I think that's a really unfair expectation. I personally would teach my children to honor other people's beliefs and not "spoil" their fun. But, isn't that a part of life as well? Coming across others who don't share your beliefs, respecting one another, and still finding common ground?

I've written about this on my blog http://ayoginijourney.blogspot.com/2011/02/yoga-and-living-authentically.html

and in response to the outrage on Facebook to my Christmas comments: http://ayoginijourney.blogspot.com/2011/02/more-on-living-authentically.html

Sorry for the long comment, but this is something I've gotten a LOT of grief over and I'm so fascinated by it. I'm still trying to figure out how to handle it as some people pointed out that many Christmas traditions are pagan and I don't want to alienate my kids from family and friends gatherings during the holidays. I know of someone who did something similar to what i.keda said except that they told the story of KK from the time their kids were little as a tradition to show the example he led by. They also make each other gifts so as not to get wrapped up in the commercial aspect.

Thanks for this post and all the comments. I hope there is more discussion. Any more ideas/perspectives shared are so helpful.

Free said...

I think we do things as parents according to how we experienced childhood. I did feel it was a lie and confusing so for my children I allow my children to believe but I wont encourage it. I just don't feel comfortable doing so.
It seems people are worried my children will tell theirs, "Santa is not real" and ruin Christmas. But it seems the "Jesus and the Bible are fiction" is more prominent than it ever was when I was a child.