I’ve read at least three blogs today about telling kids the truth about Santa. Apparently one of the latest parenting trends is to boycott Santa and his elves in favor of a dose of truth, reality, and the hope of a deeper trust between parents and children. I have to say, I’m all for honesty, to an almost annoying extent–I have plenty of friends that could tell you that I am too honest with my son, or that I put our ‘trust’ way ahead of his actual behavior (which I do, I don’t judge his whole day based on a single behavior)–so you think I’d be on board with the Santa Sucks Because He Isn’t Real campaign, but I’m not. I’m absolutely opposed to offing Mr. Claus.
We aren’t very traditional or religious, which I suppose could play a factor in my decision, but the truth is, I loved Santa as a child, as most children do. My husband loved Santa as a child. And we both grew up to be educated, centered humans, unscathed by the heartbreak of the Santa-Isn’t-Real Crisis hitting nine-year-olds across the globe. Most older children actually can handle the truth at an older age, while still maintaining the magic and fun at a younger age. Santa Claus has a story that children are naturally drawn to, and that very same curiosity allows their brains to eventually accept that Santa isn’t actually a real possibility. So I see no harm in allowing them to relish in the magic of childhood as long as they see fit.
Kids aren’t dumb. And that is the main reason I allow Santa to exist at my house. My son isn’t stupid, at all. He’s very grounded in reality and he also has a vivid imagination to play with. But he’s not easy to fool and his memory is sometimes so good it’s scary. So if he has sang the songs of Santa and read the books and watched a winter movie or two and he’s buying what Christmas is selling, I’m going to meet him where he’s at. I’m not worried about five years from now, I’m worried about today. And for today, at five years old, he loves Santa Claus and all things North Pole. Why on earth would I tear that away from him? He’s a smart cookie who chooses to believe in Santa. He’s making that choice based on magic, bewilderment, and absolute faith that world is an amazing place to be. He chooses to be happy, he chooses to be kind, and he chooses to believe that the wrapping paper he doesn’t recognize on Christmas morning came from the North Pole, and not Target.
It’s also not my lie. I didn’t write the songs or the movies or the books. My son found Santa all on his own and I’ve only ever supported his excitement. I never told him Santa was real. Yes, we write letters and make a Christmas list. We do sing Christmas Carols and decorate our tree. But kids do these same things well after finding out that Santa isn’t real. Santa is a small part of Christmas for most people, but we aren’t those people. We don’t overplay religion, even at Christmas, and Santa is a nice distraction from the mundane ritual of daily life. We enjoy Christmas as a family, and Santa is a part of that equation. I do believe that parents should be honest with their children, but this topic plays out a little differently for me. As of right now, my son has never asked me if Santa is real. The day he does, I will meet him with an honest ‘What do you think?’ Having that conversation when he’s ready can be just as trust-building as brutal honesty from the get-go. Both ways allow for conversation to take place and lines of communication to open–one being a blunt force and the other a softer approach. No, not everything can be discussed this way, but the truth is that many things can.
I support magic. Children have so few things that truly belong to them. For us, Santa is one of those things. All of us adults know that no reindeer driven sleigh is going to bring gifts to our children, but we see their excitement over it. The idea alone is enough for them. They never get to see Santa in real life, delivering toys. They meet the fake ones at the mall and they see pictures in books and accept that Santa is a busy guy you just can’t seem to pin down. They believe in the magic of Christmas and I just can’t wrap my head around why we would ever want to kill that. There are few things in adult life that bring joy to us the way so many things in childhood do. It’s almost selfish, in my opinion, to decide for your kids that the notion of Santa is a fat lie that needs to be uncovered before it’s ever any fun. Yes, you’re right, some day they’ll find out. But there are worse things in this life than finding out Santa isn’t real, and they need to be prepared to handle that kind of information, regardless.
Maybe it’s just me, but I say #santastays.
Side note, I do not believe that Santa or his elves should ever be used as behavior modification tools or any sort of scare. Kids misbehave, and it’s a parents job to correct that without the emotional ouch of using a childhood icon.