…the awful truth…
…you know, about Christmas? About Santa?
I’m not a parent, but as a teacher, I can identify with all the other teachers out there. It’s that time of year when kids restart the eternal debate. On the one side, the kids who still possess their childlike faith. On the other side, the kids who possess only worldly cynicism. Both sides will argue endlessly until a teacher threatens to cancel Christmas. Funny how both sides seem to believe a teacher can do that when presents are on the line.
Maybe the eternal Santa debate is good practice for the future when kids will feel the need to defend their faith from all perceived threats (or debunk someone else’s faith because anyone whose beliefs are contrary to their own is seen as a threat.)
As a non-parent, I fantasize now and again about some of the momentous days my children might one day have and how I might handle them. The day they learn the truth about Santa is not a day I dread but anticipate. Here’s why.
The Most Loving Thing
Some parents, who I have no doubt have great motivations and love for their kids, tell their toddlers up front the truth about Santa, for a myriad of reasons. I am doing nothing to second guess their parenting or circumstances.
But I would just like to consider the why of Santa verses no-Santa for a moment though, if you will indulge me.
Some people say the most loving thing you can do is tell someone the truth. In other words, if you love your kids, you’ll stop lying to them about Santa and tell them the truth immediately. I say that such reasoning sounds an awful lot like certain notorious preachers, justifying themselves right after they’ve just proclaimed that millions of charismatic Christians are going to hell.
No, my problem with the “tell the truth” reasoning is that no parent is entirely truthful with their kids. Kids all make liars out of us. Not only is not keeping secrets from kids not practical, it can be cruel. Corrie Ten Boom gives a great illustration in The Hiding Place of how her father protected her by not telling her the whole truth of the world. Her little child mind could not carry that burden, and he knew it. So he sheltered her from the truth until she was ready for it.
So if we are going to tell our kids the truth, we may need to either reevaluate our motivations or our consistency.
When I learned the truth about Santa, let’s say it was not pretty. I threw a bit of a tantrum. I felt a little traumatized.
Nevertheless, I don’t think the experience scarred me in any permanent way. I didn’t become a jaded, world-weary, cigarette smoking fourth grader. Life moved on. I did not become confused about the difference between Santa and Jesus. I did not suddenly mistrust every adult.
And I cannot imagine being a child without Santa. He only lasted a few short, happy years. We have far more Christmases without Santa than we had with him.
I don’t know how my future child will react to the news. They might quietly come to their own realization. Some other parent’s loudmouth kid might blow the lid on the school playground.
The parents who inspire me most don’t let Santa take over Christmas or overshadow Jesus. But they also don’t ignore Santa or pretend he doesn’t exist.
They use Santa.
Mom and Dad’s Little Helper
For a few years, Santa gets to stand in for Mom and Dad. He signs his name while two other people stand behind the curtain. And what I want my kids to understand is that the truth of Santa is not a betrayal. Santa is a testimonial of how much Mom and Dad love them. Kids will wonder how Mom and Dad are having a good time on Christmas when they don’t get nearly the number of presents that they do. And Mom and Dad will say, “You will understand when you have little kids of your own who you love.”
That is the real truth about Santa. And from the day my child is born, I will look forward to telling him or her these things, not because I want to get Santa over-with. But because every year that the illusion continues, the narrative of my love for my children will be written.
Parents can love their kids without Santa. But I want to show my kids what he’s really about.
He’s not about stuff. He’s about love.
What do you think? Are / were you a Santa or no-Santa family? What is the best way you’ve seen Santa used by parents in a meaningful way?