Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy Walk Into a Bar

Okay, not really; I don’t have a joke to back up that headline. Strangely, though, I have had Santa and his cohorts on the brain lately.

I don’t know if it’s the sudden appearance of Christmas displays that has prompted the contemplation, but something has gotten me thinking. My husband and I have very different opinions on the whole Santa situation. I think Santa is a fun and magical thing for children to believe in; Jon disagrees. While there are various arguments on both sides of the equation, the reason behind Jon’s reluctance to indulge the Santa fantasy is really heartbreaking to me. He grew up in an incredibly devout Christian family. He wasn’t allowed to watch most television, his music and books were censored to a horrible degree, and he toed the “good godly boy” line into his teens. Anti-choice, bible thumpin’, the whole lot.

As he got older, though, the façade begin to crumble. He realized that many of the things he had been force-fed growing up were exaggerations, misconceptions, sometimes even outright lies. He is an atheist now, taking the completely opposite track from the one his parents laid out for him. What does this have to do with Santa? He thinks that it is wrong to lie to kids, wrong to mislead them deliberately, and he feels it will make kids angry when they find out they are being lied to, like he was.

For me, I don’t remember being angry when I found out Santa wasn’t real. I have vague recollections of bits of information starting to not make sense, like why Santa and my dad had the same handwriting, and eventually asked my mom if Santa was real. Her answer? If I wanted presents, I had to believe in Santa. That is a line she still holds firm to this day. We still get stockings and presents from Santa every year. It was the same with the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny; slowly but surely I think most kids just figure it out, and most kids aren’t devastated or resentful. However, if the innocent realizations are coupled with more damaging lies and misinformation, the pain it can cause can be difficult to get over.

I think a lot of parents and adults hide information from kids for what they feel are the best interests of the child, and most of the time they are right. Some things are not age-appropriate, some are such hard realities that we want to shield them from them for as long as possible, and sometimes the adults themselves are not prepared to give honest answers because it can be incredibly awkward (hello, where do babies come from conversations!). Unfortunately, sometimes people also don’t give kids nearly enough credit. Not only do they misjudge how much they are able to handle, they also erroneously believe that kids don’t pick up on everything. EVERYTHING. They notice every hesitation, every mistake, every break in our voices or nerves. It becomes harder to pull one over on them pretty early on these days.

For the parents out there- How do you handle the Santa issue? Do you see it my way, a harmless fantasy that will eventually come to light, or like Jon, as a lie that isn’t necessary? For those without kids, have you thought about your position on this? Are there any kids in your life who have dropped a loaded question on you and forced you to stumble around looking for the right words to say?

7 replies on “Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy Walk Into a Bar”

My young cousin pronounced one Christmas Eve that he was uncomfortable with “some strange man creeping around the house late at night”. As a childless atheist Santa is not something I have thought about but it’s a great question. I am going to bring it up with my boyfriend, who sounds eerily like your boyfriend, except his was a Catholic upbringing. I don’t remember when I found out Santa didn’t exist and that information didn’t have a profound effect on me.

Your cousin is awesome. Just straight up awesome. It’s totally true, though, some random dude skulking around your house. Kids really do say the darndest things.
Does your boyfriend have all kinds of weird issues around being lied to as a kid, too? It really does break my heart, because I feel like so much of the fun stuff for my husband was overshadowed.

Yes, he does and it has come up recently because he had to act as godfather to his sister’s. She and her husband are non- believers and went through with the christening to appease their father….They are both really frustrated by it all in the when will it end and I don’t want my kids to be brought the way sense.

I have a 7yr old son who is very bright. He’s asked questions like “where do babies come from, because I know it’s not a stork. We don’t have those in Texas”. On the latter part, I don’t know if he’s right or not, but I’ve found that honesty is the best policy, but it needs to be explained at their level. Every child is different too.

Son – Where do babies come from?
Me – Mommies have tiny little eggs in their bodies and when they are ready they grow into a baby, just like dogs and cats.
Son – *nods and goes back to video game*

Son – Is Santa real?
Me – What do you think?
Son – I think there are a bunch of Santa’s because one guy can’t deliver presents everywhere, but there is a head Santa at the North Pole.
Me – That’s exactly right!

The questions, What do you think, Why do you think that, and How does that make you feel are great ways to figure out what they are thinking about something without giving away the wrong answer.

This is so, so true. I have friends and family members who have been caught off guard by loaded questions so they just start rambling and end up giving the kid WAY more information than they were looking for or create a totally confused situation when the child was really looking for very little info.

I am totally on the honesty is the best policy tip, too. My 4 yo niece found a tampon and asked my mom, sisters and I what it was for, and we all looked at each other, trying to figure out how to explain it without freaking her out about bleeding from her vagina. I said something along the lines of “When girls get older they have a thing called their period and these are what we use for them.” “Oh. Can we do a puzzle.” Conversation over. All my anxiety was for naught.

BTW, your son sounds like a really cool kid. I love how kids work things out in their heads, and he sounds very thoughtful, which is the best!

As an atheist, I’ve always like this article from the author behind Parenting Beyond Belief:

“Santa Claus, my secular friends, is the greatest gift a rational worldview ever had. Our culture has constructed a silly and temporary myth parallel to its silly and permanent one. …By allowing our children to participate in the Santa myth and find their own way out of it through skeptical inquiry, we give them a priceless opportunity to see a mass cultural illusion first from the inside, then from the outside.”


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