Saturday, December 22, 2012

Yes, Levi there is a Santa Claus - and he's you

English: Santa Claus with a little girl Espera...
English: Santa Claus with a little girl Esperanto: Patro Kristnasko kaj malgranda knabino Suomi: Joulupukki ja pieni tyttö (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In the days leading up to Christmas I have found myself in 4 separate conversations about how to tell children about Santa Claus. One friend shared with a touch of shock that another friend continued to tell her 11yr old that Santa was real.  The woman insisted that her child told her everything and that if he had stopped believing, she would know. "We have a very good relationship.", was the closing remark.

At a neighborhood holiday party, a couple of new parents with a babe in arms struggled with whether or not to start the Santa story with their child. The question came immediately, "How do you stop the lie once you start?

And there it is. Creating a magical, childhood fantasy feels like a parental dream, until the day that the question comes. "Is Santa Claus real?" or "Which one is the real Santa?"  The dream really collapses when the child skips the question and moves straight to the assertion, "I know you're the one who gives the Santa presents." Do you counter?  Do you create an elaborate description about why they are wrong or do you enlist them in the conspiracy to protect the secret from their younger siblings?

These were the stories that I kept hearing this week.  The tales of the big reveal.  Grown adults still clearly remembering the night they saw their mom stuffing the stocking, sans beard and reindeer.  Some of the stories were more about the icky feelings that came from being privy to elaborate charades. Like the time when they heard their neighbors' plans to throw dog poop on the porch roof and chastise "Santa's reindeers" for the indiscretion.

In the same month that our children our hearing about kindergartners being slaughtered, it makes sense that we would want to create some type of figurehead for goodness, generosity, and selflessness.  What has never made sense to me is why we would create that figurehead as a stranger outside of our own homes, cities, and outside of our own selves.  We never wrote "Santa" on a gift tag.  When my 4 or 5 year old hit school and asked about Santa, I told the truth - as I understood it and as I wanted it to be for our family.  Santa was a real person. People call him different things depending on where they live but for us he's based on the man, St. Nicholas.  He gave gifts in secret, without any acknowledgement.  He was kind and wanted to make people feel special.  People liked what he did so much that even after he died they wanted to keep that special feeling alive.  Now, lots of people try to be like St. Nicholas.  They give gifts in secret, not using their real name, so that the attention is not on them and the person doesn't feel like they have to give a gift back.

I wasn't sure how my little speech was going to go over. The next year I got my answer on St. Nicholas day. I saw the traditional chocolate candy, orange and small gift(from my husband) and next to that, another piece of candy -not given by my husband but by "St. Nicholas".  That year good ol' St. Nick came in the form of a very small kindergartner. It felt special indeed, mysterious, and magical.  In the midst of all my concerns about how fragile my son's childhood would be, I had instead created a way for him to hang on to innocence, magic, and wonder.  It isn't outside of him or something that I need to wrap him in like a blanket of protection.  All of that goodness is inside him waiting to be offered up to the world. Yes, Levi, there is a Santa Claus - and he's you.
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  1. Oh my gosh - I LOVE this! my kids are beyond santa (12 and 15), but if i'd read this when they were babies, i would have followed suit. I played the Santa charade because i felt pressured into it--so pressured that I called it "the cult of santa" in a post last year. This is a beautiful way to deal with that pressure and keep the magic alive. I enjoy Santa now that the kids are over the shock of our "lie." We still do stockings and have presents under the tree from Santa. Now that they know, it's more in the spirit of what you're describing here. Just wish i had your great idea from the beginning!

    1. Thanks Deb. I was worried about stealing their fun but they seem to have plenty of fun being the secretive Santa themselves.

  2. You're gonna make me cry! Again!
    - Esai

  3. I love your explanation of Santa. As the mom of an almost 10-year old, I have been struggling with this very issue a lot this year. My son still seems to believe. And I am keeping the lie going. But when do I fess up? I just don't know. I am hoping it will just hit me when the time is right.

    1. There are so many beautiful stories of Santa and the special memories of childhood. I only wish that we could discover as many ways to help our children feel as special being the givers.