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 faÃ§ade 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?