Ho, Ho, Oh, No

My daughter Sweet Pea is 5 and a half. And she loves all holidays, but her absolute favorite is Christmas. I’d like to think it’s due to her inherent love of all personkind and her strong desire for peace on earth, but I’m pretty sure it’s really all about the presents.

While she gets most of her presents from actual people (her parents, her grandparents, etc.) she does get one present a year from, you guessed it, the ultimate imaginary being, Santa Claus.

Now I have nothing against Santa Claus, in theory. He’s a benevolent sort, and while the focus is usually about getting gifts from him, you can use him as an example of the importance of giving. If you stretch it a bit. But now that SP is a bit older, Santa is starting to stress me out.

I’m not going to claim that I’ve never lied to my child. I’ve told her that her favorite gaudy shirt was in the wash when I didn’t want her to wear it someplace nice. I’ve told her that a crappy Happy Meal toy must be lost when I’d actually thrown it away the day after we got it. And I’ve told her that she didn’t have time to watch the Wonder Pets when she really had more than a half an hour before bedtime.

I’m not proud of these lies, but I’m not losing sleep over them either. In the grand scheme of things, they’re pretty darn small. But Santa? That’s a big lie. That’s me telling her that something big and important and completely fabricated is, in fact, real. And that stresses me out.

Now the pro-Santa crowd usually talks about the magic and wonder of Christmas, and how great it is for kids to believe in the biggest symbol of that magic and wonder, etc. Since I’m not a big believer in magic and wonder, I guess I have to take their word for it.

But I just keep wondering what SP will think when she realizes that the man in the red suit is not really visiting her house each year. And that reindeer do not actually land on our roof. And that toys come from Target, not from the elves in Santa’s workshop.

Sure, she will probably be disappointed, and that’s ok. I’m not worried about that. It’s part of growing up, I suppose. What I’m dreading is her looking up at me with her cute little face and asking me why I never told her the truth. Because by letting her believe in Santa, I’m flat out lying to her. And that is definitely stressing me out.

What about you all? How do you feel about the cultural support of this falsehood? Does it bother you? And how do you plan to answer this question, because you know it’s going to come up sooner or later: “Mom, is Santa Claus real?”

– RBVH

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