Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Can Your Children Trust You?

When I was 9 I got one of these for Christmas and it made me really angry.

It wasn't because of the gift, in fact, it still stands near the top of my best Christmas gifts ever list (usurped only by the electric typewriter I got a few years later). What upset me was the fact the I got it from "Santa".

I knew Santa wasn't real but my parents, my stepdad in particular, insisted on perpetuating the Santa myth. I was mad because when I tried to thank my parents (because holy crap, BEST GIFT EVER!!!), my stepdad kept saying, "Don't thank me, it's not from me, it's from Santa." I appreciated this gift so much and I was mad because I couldn't properly thank them for it.

The next year the same thing happened when I got this.
insert fan-girl squeal here
I knew by the time I was 12 that when I had kids, I wasn't going to do the Santa thing.

The first few years after we had the boys was easy, they were too young for Santa anyway. Two years ago, I decided to tell the kids the truth, that Santa isn't real. At first my reasoning had to do with greed and debt and shopping stampedes and giving credit for the best gift ever to some fictional fat guy. And as I did this I realized that I didn't want to lie to my kids.

I don't want to bribe my kids to be well behaved by telling them that someone is watching them while they're sleeping and awake. Santa withholds gifts from naughty children and gives to the "good" ones. But tell me, if your kids really are naughty, will you be withholding their gifts? I want my children to trust me and to know that I'm always doing the best I can for them and lying to them just doesn't fit.

 So I told my boys that Santa isn't a real guy that flies around the world with reindeer pulling his sleigh, creeping into your house in the middle of the night leaving presents. We spoke of how Santa is a representation of the season of giving, how we all have a little Santa in us that we can share with other people. And a funny thing happened... they survived.

We had a few scary patches last year when they decided they wanted to share their knowledge with their friends but we've since fine-tuned our tradition.

Now, our Christmas season has become magically wonderful. The boys know that Santa isn't "real" but they also know that Santa is the spirit of the season. They enjoy watching Christmas specials with Santa in them, they run around the house pretending to be Santa and his reindeer and when I took them to see Santa at a local event, they looked at me with such knowing little looks, going along with the fun and thinking it was hilarious that other people *actually* believe this stuff.

They've also taken the story of Santa being the spirit of giving to heart. They've both been playing Santa at school, leaving little treats for their friends in coat pockets and on desks. They've both gone shopping with their own money to buy a gift for a child they don't know and even as we were driving to look for random driveways to shovel on Sunday, they were excited to "play" Santa for someone we didn't know.

Instead of bracing yourself for the day when your kids realize that Santa isn't real, and dealing with the heartbreak, loneliness and mistrust that follows, why not tell them the truth from the get-go? We've had a lot of Santa fun in our house without once having to worry about what will happen down the road when they find out the truth.

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