Monday, December 20, 2010

Santa Baby: The Great (Santa) Debate

Dear Delilah,

As Christmas draws near, I'm reminded of the one parenting topic that your father and I don't quite see eye-to-eye on. Santa Claus. I know I run the risk of being labeled a scrooge here, but I'm not totally sold on 'doing the Santa thing' with you. You sure do look cute in a Santa hat, though.

There are number of reasons that Jolly Old St. Nick gives me pause.

First of all, the value of honesty is of utmost importance to me. I don't want to lie to you. I don't want to tell you that there is a magical man who brings presents to boys and girls all over the world, only to have to one day admit to you that those presents actually came from me and your daddy. I worry that the discovery that your parents lied to you about Santa for all those years might somehow damage your faith in us. I worry that it's hypocritical to instill the importance of honesty in you, while maintaining that reindeer really know how to fly. Bah Humbug. I know.

Your daddy sees Santa more as a fairy tale. A story. A representation of the spirit of the season. I get that, I do, but...

The second thing is, what does Santa represent? What is the spirit of the season? Just about anyone you ask will say that Santa is about giving, about generosity, about hope and love, and about good tidings to all. The problem is, when I look around me, that's not usually how I see Santa represented.

Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. I've all too often heard Santa used as a threat against children. "You better knock it off, or Santa won't come!" "If you don't clean your room right this instant, I'm telling Santa!" Is that the spirit of the season? That if you don't get anything from Santa, it means you weren't good enough? That you didn't deserve it? So, those kids whose parents can't afford to buy gifts from themselves, let alone from Santa, they must have just been too naughty?

What does Santa teach us to value? In theory, Santa teaches us to value those concepts previously mentioned. Giving. Generosity. Hope. Love. Good tidings to all. In practice, and if you watch the flood of commercials on TV this time of year, Santa is teaching us to value materialism. Consumerism. Plastic. Disposability. Big Box Retailers. Greed.

Bah Humbug.

So which is it? What is Santa about? What does he teach us? I've been stuck in a rut, surrounded by the circus of consumerism that the holiday season has turned into. Behave children, or the all-powerful white man will not you bring loads of gender-role instilling crap from the shelves of Wal-mart, made from toxic materials and wrapped in excessive packaging, only to be tossed aside when the next "must-have" toy makes its debut.

Bah Humbug.

Maybe I'm just not looking in the right places. So I opened my eyes a little more. Searching for that spirit. Searching for that generosity, that hope, that love. Amidst the materialistic spectacle this time of year, that spirit is there. It's found in the people who volunteer their time gathering donations for local foodbanks, homeless shelters, and women and children's centers. It's found in the people who fill the 'Toys for Tots' bins. It's found in neighbors helping each other dig their cars out after big blizzards. It's found in strangers smiling at one another.

My friend Alison said it better than I could:

"Santa isn't a magical man who comes down the chimney and leaves you toys. Santa is a spirit that we keep alive if we want it to be there; it compels us to give to those we love, and those who are less fortunate. It gives us hope that there is still kindness and joy and love in this world. I very firmly believe that Santa is real and anyone who wants to try and tell me otherwise can go pound sand."

I'm still on the fence about how we'll handle "the Santa thing" with you. Fortunately, you're too young to care this year, so we've got some time to work it out. Honestly, if the biggest parenting debate we face is whether and how to do Santa, I think your father and I are doing pretty well.



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  1. Joella - I love how you view life and I think you will choose wisely what is right for you, Ty and little Delilah.

  2. I was at an ICAN meeting and the leader's son told her that he didn't care if Santa was a real man or not, but that he believed in Santa because he was the spirit of Christmas and of giving of yourself. I though that was really cute, and a great way of enjoying Santa without having to lie to your child.

  3. I meant to say that he said this without prompting from the mother, and that he was only 5

  4. Next thing you will be saying you not going to tell Delilah about the tooth fairy or batman. I'm not a big Santa pusher but we are letting Victor to believe it as long a he wants. A little fantasy never hurts at that age. As far as what he represents and what you use it for - that is really up to you. Santa was around long before he was used for all that stuff - and you can pretty much control what he is used for with Delilah at least for a few years. I know we don't put too much meaning in Santa at all - he is just a nice story.

    Ultimately I don't think it really matters. She will not suffer by not having Santa - but believing in Santa is not going to be the thing that messes her up either.

    He can make for some good pictures and you have to let Ty have his way sometimes.

  5. I don't really see it as lying. I see it as make believe. Like pretending there are fairies in the yard and dinosaurs in the house :) It's fun! And it doesn't have to take over Christmas. I had planned on doing the whole Santa thing, but Don doesn't want to. We compromised by doing most of our gifts from us, and Santa does the stockings. If Elise asks questions about it, we'll answer honestly. Best of both worlds!

  6. A lot of parents feel the way that you do! Very well written- new follower and following you back from my blog! Aimee @ Classified: Mom


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