Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Santa, Can You Hear Me?

At the age of 7, I was debating whether or not I still believed in Santa Claus. My mom must have picked up on my waning belief in the jolly gift bearer.

Mom: Do you still believe in Santa Claus?
Me: (not sure how to respond) Uhhhh...I guess not.
Mom: Good! Do you think your sister will like this Teddy Ruxpin for Christmas? (pointing at it in the ad)

And that was it. The Santa myth debunked. Although we continued to "play" the whole Santa routine well into my high school years, if not even college. My mother will never outgrow it.

The topic of Santa has come up a few times this week. It occurred to me yesterday that its likely a matter of minutes before my mother calls to say "Are you not going to take Ella to see Santa this year?" The answer to that will be "no" mostly because at this point, Santa stands more of a chance of scaring her than he does of exciting her. (Plus I'm not all that certain that she wouldn't just yank his beard right off.) Besides, what more would we benefit from such a visit, outside of a picture that would require a 2nd mortgage in order to be funded.

So we dodge the Santa issue for another year, but its likely that next year we'll not be so lucky. And Santa -- he is an issue. The Don takes a strong stance against telling a child that there is a Santa, with his main concern being the whole "You're lieing to your kid" idea. Brad pointed out that this is just one of many lies we tell our kids, i.e. "Yes Johnny, you can be anything you want." (His example, not mine.) The Don is willing to go along with the Santa thing for as long as I see fit, as long as its understood that he is in silent opposition and isn't likely to go out of his way to perpetuate this myth for our children.

I take his concerns seriously, and I'm not sure how to proceed. If you do tell your kid that Santa is a fabrication, you then must go about coaching your kid to not ruin it for everyone else for fear of being "those parents" and/or "that kid". Then I wonder, will she ever look at me and say "Why is it the other kids get to believe this fun thing, and you party poopers ruined it for me when I was 3?" To which I'll reply, "Go ask your father!" ha!

My conclusion thus far is that we'll simply not tell her anything. We'll not go out of our way to promote Santa nor will we do the opposite, by telling her that Santa is a big fat lie. Perhaps Santa will put a gift under the tree and a few in her stocking, but when she asks -- we'll tell her its really us, playing a fun game of make believe. Okay, now I'll pause while all of you with children older than mine laugh at my simpleton ideas that are certain to fall apart as soon as my daughter discovers the bearded saint who originates from the north pole with flying mammals leading the way for his flying sleigh.

Bottom line: I have no clue.

My sister emailed me with the opposite problem today. She can't get her daughter to stop believing. At the age of 9, when all of her friends have long since given up on the idea of Santa, my niece maintains that she still believes. Surely many of her peers have already gone out of their way by now to insist that Santa is not real. My sister is now debating if there is any harm in her continuing belief, and wonders if its time to set Abby straight. Abby is far from immature, but is instead one of those kids who LOVES being a kid, and probably recognizes that giving up Santa is giving up on a part of her youth that she'll never get back. I would say that she actually completely understands that Santa isn't real, but simply refuses to let that be her reality. Needless to say, her imagination is vast.

I loved the whole idea of Santa. Loved imagining his secret world of elves, the stable full of reindeer, and a shop where toys were built. Is it possible to tell your child that Santa is really a part of make believe without ruining the joy of imagining the kingdom that is Santa?

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