Thursday, November 29, 2012

Santa Claus Conundrum

It's Christmas time!  Yay!!!!!!  I love, love, love Christmas!!!  Yes, there is the stress of gift buying, planning, cooking, baking and generally getting everything done without forgetting something, or someone, but even though it can be stressful, I just love Christmas!!!  Around my house, Christmas is made more delightful as we anticipate the arrival of the large bearded one, yes...Santa Claus! 

One of my Facebook friends, recently said something about feeling like she is lying to her kids about Santa and asked if that is normal. There were lots of responses and I penned a lengthy reply.  But I wanted to write more.

Parents fall on both sides of the issue of, what I will call, the Santa Secret.  Some parents feel that telling your children Santa is real is deceitful and sows seeds of mistrust between parent and child.  Some parents feel it is a harmless deception, and others fall somewhere in the middle.  Let me say outright that I feel that parents should do what they feel is best for their children in this regard.  I do not judge anyone's decision on what they feel is best for their children.  I just want to share my perspective.

I was in forth grade when I learned the Santa Secret.  I was one of the few children in my class who still believed in Santa.  And I really, really believed in him.  But some of the things the children in my class were saying made sense to me.  I wasn't sure what to do.  I didn't think my parents would lie to me.  So, one day when I was alone with my mom in the car, I asked her some questions about Santa.  I asked her if she would ever lie to me.  And she said that she would not.  I asked her if Santa was real and she said yes, but I wanted to make sure.  I asked her if she or my dad were Santa.  She said no and asked me if she looked like Santa.  I asked a few other questions and finally asked the right question, "Are you and Dad the ones who bring presents on Christmas Eve?"  She said, very gently, "Yes, we are."  I felt a little twinge of sadness.  Something I had believed in so strongly wasn't really real!  I asked her if she had been lying to me.  She explained how she had never lied, but answered all of my questions honestly, even if she had not fully explained everything when she answered my questions.  But that she had waited for me to ask the right questions so that she could answer them the right way.  Then my mom talked to me a lot about the tradition of Santa and the new responsibility I had to keep the Santa Secret and why that was important.  She also talked to me about what it means to believe in Santa and how that relates to believing in the Savior.  It made me feel important.  This all happened right before Christmas and it all finally made sense.  I knew now why my parents had to spend so much time shopping at Christmas time.  I knew why they were so exhausted on Christmas morning (there were six kids in my family).  I knew why they were so anxious for us to go to bed.  It all made sense and I knew I wanted to help!  I wondered if Christmas morning would be less special for me that Christmas morning knowing what I now knew.  Amazingly, I think that Christmas was even more special for me.  I knew how much love and thought and time and effort went into each one of those special Santa presents.  My dad and mom loved giving us gifts and making Christmas special for us and I really felt quite overwhelmed.  I remember after opening my Santa presents going over quietly to give my mom and dad a hug and whisper thank you so that my younger siblings wouldn't hear. 

Fast forward a "few" years...Now I am a mom.  I have two beautiful children.  Last year Spudette was in 3rd grade.  As Christmas neared, she would come home with tales from school of how this person or that didn't believe in Santa, but that she didn't believe them.  I have tried to be very much like my own parents by answering the questions my kids ask about Santa (or any of the other magical creatures we talk about) with truth, but not full blown explanations.  One day my daughter came home from school saying that one boy in her class told her that he knew Santa wasn't real, that he caught his dad putting presents out the year before on Christmas Eve and that Dr. Spud and I were just lying her about Santa.  I asked her what she thought about that and she said that she thought he was totally wrong.  Maybe Santa didn't bring presents for him because he had been naughty but his parents just didn't want him to feel bad.  The boy was relentless over the next few weeks trying to get his classmates to understand that Santa was not real.  Spudette continued to defend Santa and to believe in him.  She wasn't really asking any questions.  I knew she was trying to hang on to Santa. And I was happy to let her do so.

At Easter time, Spud Jr. announced that he did not believe in the Easter Bunny.  I asked him what he thought.  He said he just couldn't see how a bunny would hop all over the place hiding Easter baskets.  I asked him who he thought hid his basket.  He told me he though it was his Daddy and me.  I told him he was right and asked him why he thought we did that.  He said that he thought it was because we loved him and wanted him to have a fun treat.  But he also said that he didn't think Easter was about bunnies and chocolate, but that it was about Jesus.  I was totally amazed at his maturity.  At this point, he isn't questioning Santa or the tooth fairy, but he just couldn't see how the Easter Bunny made any sense. 

Maybe the kids had talked about the Easter Bunny a little bit, but within a week Spudette began asking good questions about the Easter Bunny too.  However, for her, this began to make her question not only the Easter Bunny, but the existence of Santa Claus as well.  And she did ask the right questions. We then had one of the most precious discussions I have ever had with one of my children.  Dr. Spud and I sat with her on her bed and talked.  We explained that Saint Nicholas was a real person who had lived a long time ago.  We talked about why there was a tradition of Santa Claus that had grown up around him.  We have always tried to teach our children that Santa is a symbol of the Savior.  So, we discussed that in greater detail with her.  We told her that Santa is all about love and that when we think of Santa we think of the love of the Savior and the love that we have for each other.  We talked about how as her parents, we give her gifts from Santa because of our deep love for her.  We told her that because we believe in the Savior, Jesus Christ, we can also say we believe in Santa because of what Santa symbolizes.  She asked questions, we answered them.  During our entire conversation she smiled and beamed at us. At one point I asked her if she felt like we had been lying to her.  She said no, but that she felt so special that we loved her so much.  I like to think that she knew we had been teaching her the Santa Secret all along the way by how we talked about Santa and the true meaning of Christmas.  We talked to her about the responsibility she now had to keep the Santa Secret, just like my mom had done with me.  She said she felt important to have such a cool responsibility.  At the end of our conversation she gave each of us a big hug and told us how much she loved us.

When I wrote my response to my Facebook friend I told her, that I felt like when children are little the magic of Santa is in the fantasy of it all, but when they get a little bit older the magic is in the love.  I always loved the magic of Santa as a child, even when I knew the Santa Secret.  I still love the magic of Santa.  Do I feel like I have lied to my children about Santa?  No.  I do believe in Santa because for me Santa is another word for Savior.  Jesus brings us every good gift and makes good gifts possible.  Am I Santa, no, but I would like to think that I am trying to become like Him and I want to be one of His helpers for sure!!! 

Image from - click here to find the book for sale
Image from - click here to find the book for sale
As a side note...two of my favorite picture books about Santa are:  Santa's Favorite Story: Santa Tells the Story of the First Christmas by Hisako Aoki and The Bearer of Gifts by Kenneth Steven.  If you are looking for stories that tie Santa to Jesus, these are wonderful! 


Julie Davidse said...

Thanks, Les! This was a very tender story and I love the way you handled it. You are a great mom!

Heidi and Ben Daniel said...

Thank you for this post! It was JUST what I needed :).

Traci said...

I referenced this as we talked with my Lainy about the Santa Secret tonight. Thanks again for sharing how to handle this sensitive topic with such grace and love.