I’ve never been the type to cave to peer or societal pressure, yet if you ask me why I kept telling the Santa lie long after I wanted to boot him out on his jolly ass, that’s the reason I’ll most likely give.
There can be intense pressure from family, not to mention everyone else who thinks it’s cool to poke into your business. There seems to be just as much (if not more) outrage over trying to take Santa Claus out of the Christmas picture as there is trying to take out Jesus. It comes at you from everywhere, and if your own experience was relatively benign, it’s sometimes easier to just go with the flow.
By the time I figured out I really couldn’t do it any longer, I was just about through with it anyway, so I sucked it up and rode it out. They came through unscathed. I can’t say I did. I hated it and hated that I gave into it. I was so glad to be done with it.
Except I wasn’t, of course. But what started as a simple case of lying is bad, mmmkay? is now so much more. It’s not just that it’s a lie, it’s the type of lie – one you know they have to find out about, and when they do they will know you consciously chose to lie to them.
“It’s just a harmless fairy tale.” Of all the reasons brought up to defend perpetuation, that one baffles me most. If believing in fairy tales is so important to you, why are you offering your kids a good reason to never believe in them again? Why are you giving them magic only to snatch it out of their hand?
And there it is, the reason/defense/excuse that enables everyone to keep the ball rolling. People still believe. They grow up to believe in Gods or magic or fairy tales. But I wonder: How much harder is it to accept or embrace any kind of faith with Santa facts in the background?
What really brought this home to me was a link I came across in Kym G’s piece on Santa. It’s an article pointing out how Santa can teach kids to use critical thinking skills to debunk religion – if one’s a lie, might is also stand to reason the rest are as well?
The only way I’ve ever tried to steer my kids on spiritual matters is hearty encouragement to find what – if anything at all – makes sense to them. I share what I think but in the end I simply give them as many sides of the subject as possible and let them figure it out for themselves. It’s worked okay so far; neither of my big kids seem to have any spiritual issues. One is a laid back pagan, the other (last I checked in on the subject) is a laid back “who knows, who cares?” Come to think of it, that pretty much mirrors the beliefs my husband and I hold.
The Santa thing doesn’t seem to have affected the big kids’ ability to believe, nor has it helped them along the way to atheism. But there’s that wondering thing – what difference might there be had I not bought into it? Things turned out okay with it, but might they have been better without it? There’s no way to know, of course, and while that’s not a tail worth chasing, I can’t help thinking about it.
I’ve racked my brain trying to think of a single person I know who grew up without the Santa myth, and I can’t. A Google search gives articles on all sides, but what I’ve found only talks about the impact on a child, not any possible impact on the adult that child will become.
Writing about it has forced me to really think about my decision – not just the decision itself but also the reasons behind it – and how those reasons changed while I wasn’t paying attention to the subject. It’s no longer just about not lying. If telling the myth can stack the deck in favor of critical thinking and eventual atheism, can not telling it help stack the deck toward an easier acceptance of the possibilities of faith?
In the end it’s still the same action: not lying. And certainly not lying to help perpetuate something devoured by consumerism and greed. But this time around, I’d like to try not lying as a way to lay the groundwork for something he can keep believing in.