Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Santa Problem

Spoiler Alert: If you still believe that a jolly, jiggly elf wearing a red suit and white beard magically deposits presents under millions of Christmas trees all on one night, do not read any further. I mean it. If you read further, despite my warning, and then get angry at me for killing Santa, well then, I may also have to start poking holes in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy too. So, once again, if you are still gullible enough to believe that Santa is real, DO. NOT. READ. THIS. POST.

Santa. He causes me some problems. Big problems. Philosophical problems. He causes me enough angst, that I'd personally like to pull his beard off and whack him up side of the head will his fake belly pillow. I don't think that's the point of Santa, and I afraid I'm missing out on something. Let me explain.

I don't have any memories of actually believing in Santa. Part of this is because I'm the youngest of three kids. It's possible that my sister may have announced to our entire neighborhood, over the CB radio, that Santa was a fake. (Yes, really. I'm that old that I remember the CB radio fad.) While I don't actually remember that, I do remember always being skeptical about the very large man who could fit through a very tiny chimney.

In fact, my poor mother had to answer questions from a 5 year old such as, "How can Santa be at two malls at one time?" and "If Santa brings presents on Christmas eve, why can't we look under that blanket covering that pile of boxes in your room?" Even at five, I thought her "They are Santa's Helpers" and "Santa sent me the money to buy your presents" answers were lame. None of it made any sense. It was clear that I was being lied too.

And that's the root of my Santa problem. It's a lie. I personally don't like lying. At all. In fact, I probably take the no lying thing a little far based on the responses I've gotten from answering "how do I look" questions. I'm working on it. I now realize there are times people don't want or need to hear the truth, and I try to come up with the most polite and least dishonest response I can in those situations. Still, it doesn't make sense to me that people ask me how I'm doing when they don't really care.

Anyway, now that I'm a parent and it's Christmas, I find myself faced with the whole Santa thing. Michael has grown up with the belief in Santa, and I've been OK with it so far. We leave cookies and milk out and pretend that Santa comes on Christmas eve. Last year, Michael did ask me once if Santa was real. I deflected the issue by asking him what he thought. He said he thought Santa was real, so I just sort of let it go.

But I'm not sure I'll be able to lie to him if he asks again. It just seems wrong to me. If I'm trying to raise him to be an honest person, how can I lie to him? But, maybe this is different somehow? Maybe the magic of Santa is so awesome that it's worth the fib? Maybe I'm underestimating how sharp kids are and that they pick up on the whole nudge, nudge, wink, wink aspect of the whole thing? Maybe that's even part of the fun?

So, what do you all think? Is it OK to lie about Santa? Is it actually bad to not lie about Santa? Is my insanely annoying practicality ruining Christmas for Michael? Should I just lighten up and go for it, dusty boot print in the fireplace and all? Is this all a waste of my mental energy because Michael's going to figure it out by the end of the holiday season no matter what I do? Please, provide me with guidance oh wonderful blogsphere!


Jen said...

Here's a good article about believing in Santa that my MIL sent me the other day: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/Santa-Claus--Making-the-Invisible-Visible.html?soid=1102658088044&aid=96XhNEkyfYY

Joanna said...

Jen, very thought provoking article. There is a lot in there to think about.

I do really wish I could mention where I work though, because the analogy of the stories location in VERY ironic.

Andy said...

Wow! You never told me you were this opposed to Santa. Santa isn't a true lie, it's an exaggeration of a real person. There once was a man who tried to make poor kids lives better by giving gifts around Xmas. That mans story became mythical over time and people added magic and other pieces of the legend. Truth is that we can all be Santa as long as we get into the spirit of making others feel joy by sharing in giving either of ourselves or of gifts that express appreciation to those that we care about or who need it most. He spread joy by giving those who needed most were remembered. If we choose to extend the same giving feelings at this season, then we all are being a small part of the Santa mythos, and therefore it isn't so much as a lie, but extending a tradition. Excuse the runons and misspellings, I'm replying on an iPhone.

LauraC said...

So... have I told you the story about how they had to go up the chain four people above my Catholic priest to help them answer my 6 year old questions such as "Why did God kill all the people in the flood if he was a forgiving god?"

I get it,I really do. And having two kids,I can tell you that Alex believes everything we tell him about Santa. Nate is skeptical and wants to know WHY and HOW.

I have a brother who is 9 years younger than me. My mom told us flat out, "If you believe in Santa, then Santa will continue to make your Christmas morning magical. If you do not believe in Santa OR if you make anyone else not believe in Santa, then Santa doesn't bring anything for you."

The rest you don't have to lie about. You can say you don't know how it works or ask them what they think.But it's just a few years they will get to wake up and come running downstairs to see presents under the tree, so I am fine with keeping the tradition alive.

The tooth fairy is just weird. Who pays for baby teeth???

Beth said...

I feel weird, too, about the lying, and the lies upon lies. William asks very detailed and deep questions. I remember believing in Santa when I was a kid and I remember loving it. But I also remember figuring out that truth, and having that confirmed by my parents. I wasn't upset and I didn't feel like I had been deceived or betrayed. The story is all in good spirit, for a good cause, and I understood that. If I told William the "truth," I know he would tell all his friends. And I want to avoid that, even more than I want to instill in him the magic of Christmas. So for now, Santa lives, and we're trying to emphasize the joy of giving. You just need to do what you think is right in your heart. There's no right or wrong answer!

Lindsay said...

Add to that dilemma the situation that we want Christmas to be more about it being Jesus' birthday, and my head might explode. I'm going with what Laura said. =)

Stacey said...

I loved Santa as a kid and believed in him for a long, long time. In general I'm an extremely skeptical, inquisitive person, but I bought it all when it came to Santa. I actually remember being annoyed by books that talked about Santa being fake. I loved the magic it added to Christmas in my secular family. I was not sad at all when I found out the truth. I was old enough that it seemed okay and I still found some magic in someone doing all that work to make the myth feel real.

I won't lie though that as an adult I feel a little weird about it. If I'm being totally honest I think part of that is because it's the first time I really accepted Santa isn't real (rate that a 1000 on the dork-o-meter). I also do feel uncomfortable with the lying itself even though I think it's more like experiential storytelling in a way. Overall, I do not think it's harmful. My child is a lot like me. He asks a million questions about everything, but accepts anything when it comes to Santa. Then again, he also seems to think "the force" is real too.

What I think is wrong is for a child who doesn't believe to blab to other kids about it. A surprising number of my fourth graders seem to believe in Santa and the few who don't seem determined to ruin it for them. I actually asked a student today how she'd feel if her friends mocked her for believing in god. Thankfully, I don't think she got how far my analogy extended. She did agree to just listen to their Santa talk without any comments. We'll see.

claudia said...

Even though I have been up until 3 filling the stockings and wrapping the gifts when the little ones run to show me what Santa brought and the tree lights are shimmering in the still dark morning I am sure that Santa must have done it all. I still believe and you can't tell me any different.

JenFen said...

Okay, I am not going to even try and say anything thought provoking on the subject. I am just going to tell you that I cannot read or watch the end of Polar Express without balling my eyes out (and I am not an overly emotional person). I love the idea of believing in the magic and the spirit and the goodness of the season. And to me that is what Santa represents (from a secular perspective because I totally respect where Lindsay is coming from). I loved it as a child. I was not harmed in any way when I found out the truth and I have no problem carrying on the tradition with my kids. I don't and won't go crazy out of my way to keep up the charade but I would be sad if the kids figured it out or stopped believing when they were super young too.

And funny you mention the tooth fairy because Jake is about to get his first visit from her (him?) very soon.

JenFen said...

Okay I loved that article that Jen just wrote. Much more eloquent than I worded it but that is exactly how I feel about it.

JenFen said...

That Jen posted the link to, not wrote. Gosh its late!

Maria said...

Santa is magical. That's it. I believe in something bigger out there, there is a spirit which is Christmas, and we all know what it feels like. People smile more, hold more doors, are more forgiving at this time of year. I don't think there needs to be anymore explaination than that. I know that I am the one who shops and puts the gifts under the tree and who hears the bells of the sleigh on Christmas eve, but for the kids, it is something so amazing, so it makes it that way for me, too. I say keep Santa alive as long as possible. Lilly still believes at eight (she also thinks that Will works for Santa as an undercover agent/ lookout) but that's a story for another time.

Deanna said...

Maria, you have to expound more on the "Santa Agent" thing!

We're doing the whole Santa thing at our house, with a nativity scene underneath the tree and an advent calendar in K's room. I feel weird talking about how Christmas is "Jesus' birthday" and then telling him he better ask Santa for that airplane he wants. But I think it's only weird because I'm an adult. For him, as a child, it all makes sense...they can accept without judgement (notice I didn't say "without question")...they can truly believe in all of the Santa magic and take it in stride with everything else that Christmas can and does represent. A child can wonderfully give a gift to another in self-less-ness and turn around and totally be enveloped in self-delight at a gift for themself.

Geez, I feel like I'm not conveying what I'm trying to say.

Although I feel weird, too, talking about Santa and weaving this web for K-man, I don't feel guilty about it. It's creating a magic for him that he'll remember forever (just like we remember). And one day when he learns the truth, I hope it's when he's old enough to realize that even if Santa isn't a flesh and blood person who cleans our chimney once a year, the magic and goodness that he represents really is real - and should be carried on.

DesiDVM said...

I want my kids to believe in Santa for awhile. I remember really, truly, believing in Santa and those are some of my fondest memories. I remember one year in particular when we were maybe 7 that we were POSITIVE we heard Santa on the roof. My parents must have gone to pretty good lengths to hide the gifts too because we never found them - even the year that we all got bikes, to this day we still don't know how they hid those.

Now that J has made his Santa letter and "sent" it, I told him I don't want to hear anymore about what he wants for Christmas -- at this point "it's up to Santa." Surprisingly, he's agreeable to that and isn't obsessing over it anymore (I threw away his "Christmas File" once the letter was sent). We explained that Christmas is about being good in general, not about getting presents. We also believe in the religious meaning and he knows that explanation as well. When I was a kid that's kind of how it was, I understood that there were 2 sides to Christmas, we went to church and also had Santa - and somehow I wasn't confused by it.

Actually church helps alot this time of year because at Sunday school they reinforce the religious aspects of the holiday, so when I ask J what Christmas is for he says "to celebrate when Jesus came down from Heaven" which is what I want him to take away from the story rather than it being Jesus' "birthday."

As for the lying? I don't feel bad about it at all. I put a listing in my cell phone for "Santa Claus" and when J starts acting up I pretend to call Santa and give him a "report." I love that part of it LOL. I don't think of it as lying so much as creating a magical idea for my kids during the only period in their life where they really believe in magical things. When J asks me the details of how Santa works I just tell him I don't know, it's Santa's deal not mine.