Sunday, October 2, 2011

Not sold on Santa

Here's something I didn't see coming: I think I'm going to have a hard time doing the Santa Claus thing with our kids.

Last Christmas Claire was 18 months old and it was a non-issue. This year she's going to be much more aware.

It started yesterday. We were reading a Clifford book and when we finished we flipped to the back cover, which pictured a bunch of other Clifford titles, one of which was "Clifford's Christmas."

Claire pointed to Santa and asked if he was a giant. (Maybe because that chimney looks like a tight squeeze? I have no idea how her brain operates.) I told her it was Santa Claus, and explained, "At Christmas he flies around the world delivering gifts." It sounded so silly that I instinctively almost added, "He's just pretend."

I know I'm the odd man out on this one (Matt's with me, by the way), but I'm so not motivated to contribute to the Santa ruse. It's not because I'm worried that she'll extrapolate and question everything we've ever told her when she learns Santa isn't real, or anything like that. I think Santa Claus in and of himself is a harmless tradition. (Although there's something wrong, on several levels, with parents using Santa and threats of his disapproval to keep their kids in line. But that's another post.)

Perpetuating the Santa story would -- will -- mean we have to pretend to be excited about something that's not real so that our kids will develop real excitement about something that's pretend. I guess I'm just not sold on the potential benefit.

But -- and this is big -- practically every kid in America grows up believing in Santa Claus. I did. You probably did, too. And I don't want our kids to be the ones to ruin it for everyone else.

For now, our plan is to play along. We'll do the Santa thing, but it's going to be low-key. He doesn't get equal play with Jesus. And when doubts about Santa emerge, there will be no elaborate staging of "reindeer on the rooftop" to rekindle belief. I just hope that by that time, they're old enough and mature enough not to blow it for their friends.


Amanda said...

Very interesting. I thought I was about the only person around who was questioning the whole Santa thing. I feel the same way as you - I don't think Santa is traumatizing or anything like that, but I'm also of the mindset that, well, they're going to get presents either way. Why not just tell them the presents are actually from their parents? The Rawlings from dad's church actually never did Santa with their kids and as far as I know, none of their children ever ruined it for anyone else. Also, all of their children are extraordinarily well-adjusted, talented, and independent. Not sure if that is based on their belief in Santa though. :)

Stephen is not in agreement with me and thinks I should be committed for even considering not playing Santa. If it were something major, I would stand my ground, but I prefer to pick my battles, so it looks like, for now, Santa's going to be in our household as well.

Kaitlin said...

I love Santa Claus. I am the oldest, so I guess I wondered about Santa first. One year "Santa" forgot a gift that I really wanted (my mother is notorious for leaving gifts in random places and forgetting until months later). My parents wrote a note from Santa explaining how the present dropped out of his sled, and they had my neighbor deliver it to the front door. I thought it was the greatest thing ever. I think I was 8 at the time.

A few years later, my mom let me play Santa with her while my younger sisters slept. When the youngest was questioning Santa we tried our hardest to get her to still believe because we all loved the fun and tradition of Santa.

Anyway, I can see both sides of the story. And I can understand how it gets complicated with Jesus' birthday and Santa Claus. But, to me there is just something so wonderful about little kids believing in Santa. Having the ability to pretend and believe is just such an amazing part of childhood. Thinking of it from an adult's POV is completely different that from a child's mind. I'm not saying kids get every single thing they want, to clarify. It's the anticipation that is the most fun for me. I guess maybe the question is: did you like believing in Santa as a kid or was it just so-so?

Sorry for the long comment! I am interested in how you go about it or not in future years. You and Matt are great parents, so I have no doubt that your kids will always be well adjusted and happy, no matter what. <3

Jennifer Kirby said...

I know I believed in Santa as a kid, but I don't actually remember believing. I do remember pretending to believe so I wouldn't spoil it for Amanda.

I think most people who feel strongly about Santa have really good memories of believing in him, like you do, Kate. Likewise, I think my ambivalence is mainly because I don't have them. And I totally get why someone with those memories would want to pass the tradition on to her kids, but for me, since that wasn't my experience, it feels kind of forced to go all-out on it.

And just to clarify, I did love Christmas as a child (still do) and have great memories of decorating trees, special Christmas breakfasts, making and opening Advent calendars, caroling, etc. Santa, though present, just didn't play that large a role.

Brooke and Johnathan said...

I agree. And, I'm not sure how long Johnathan and I will play pretend... we aren't very good liars, won't put ink on our dog's feet to stamp the list Anna Rae left for Santa (like my mom did to re-affirm my belief that reindeers were real), and quite honestly I don't see how any of us believed it... but remember, if we didn't believe he wouldn't come... so we didn't dare question it because we loved all the toys.

Jessica said...

Hi Jennifer!

I'm a local reader in the area that found you through Amanda's site.

I just wanted to pass a different perspective on growing up without Santa.

Growing up, there was no Santa in our house. no Santa decorations, no presents from Santa, we wouldn't even color a Santa picture or a have a book about him in our house.

In school if there was a Christmas party or a Christmas activity going on, we had made prior arrangements with the teacher to go to the library to do a different activity.

My mother felt so strongly about Santa and really the Christmas celebration as a whole that we had nothing to do with it growing up. Yes, we are Jehovah's Witnesses.

No, my reply is not some attempt at converting you. Only to show you that as an adult who grew up without such an American tradition and what some believe one of the staples of childhood, I can assure you that I have adjusted quite well. And I really appreciate my mom for telling me the truth. I didn't try to spoil it for other children, either (that I remember).

But whatever you choose to do with your own children is your choice of course.

Thanks for a great blog :)