A Foundation of Trust

by Jasmine Carlson on December 8, 2009

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There are all new considerations and choices to make when you have a child during the Christmas season.  Like what kind of gifts to buy, should they be educational? Homemade? Eco friendly? Wood? Plastic? Should they make noise? How much should you spend? Should you give gifts at all? What kind of holiday foundation do you want to lay for your child? And not only holiday but what kind of foundation do you want to lay for gift giving? For being financially responsible? For being a giving person all year round?

And how about honesty? How about things like trust? This is what I ask myself around the holiday season, especially now that I have a child of my own because now, unlike when I was a child and my parents made these choice, these choices are my own and they will form the next years of my child’s life.

I choose honesty and trust because of the Santa Claus issue. Now I know that this is a very personal choice but I will give a swing at it from my perspective.

Every year thousands of children are told the story of Santa Claus though it isn’t told as a story, it is told as truth. There really was a “saint” Nicolas and he really did give children toys but as we all know he did not cover the globe, he surely did not have a pack of reindeer and there were/are no elves working in a shop of eternal Christmas at the North Pole. And yet thousands, millions of children are told this story each year, they are reminded that this is why they must be “good” so that they can receive presents.

Young children are so impressionable and with this “story” we (as Americans) indoctrinate very early. I was blessed as a child to not have this story told to me, I received presents from my loving parents whether I was  “good” or not, we didn’t have lots of money but I always received a few nice gifts, I never thought because I didn’t receive as many as some other children that I was not as “good,” I actually pitied children who believed in Santa Claus, I pitied them because their parents were lying to them and I knew it and they did not.

Why I ask myself when I have and am working so hard to build a relationship of trust, a foundation of truth in my child’s life would I, “just for fun” and not to “deprive” my child of a cultural norm, lie to my child, why would I after requesting that he obey me because he trusts me, because I provide consistent and loving care for him day in and day out while being consistently truthful and trustworthy would I destroy that with one little “white” lie?

I have heard parents tell stories of when they had to tell their children the truth, or worse yet when children were sneeringly informed by another child that there is no such thing as Santa Claus. How horrific. Children are then supposed to move on because they are now in on the adult secret that has been kept from them for years, they are now a part of the holiday lie, they are not even allowed to mourn the “death” of a man that they have cherished for years because then they would uncool or less grown up. And somewhere in a child’s heart a seed of doubt is sown. Why did my parents lie to me? Don’t they trust me? Do I trust them? Why should I trust them? What else do they lie to me about? And these doubts become buried in a child’s heart and mind never to be expressed for fear of not being “good” not measuring up to their new grown up status.

I am looking forward to this holiday season. I am looking forward to making cookies, candy and a gingerbread house with my son. I am looking forward to buying and wrapping him presents, of stuffing his stocking. I was thrilled to see his look of delight as we lit up our Christmas tree, it made me smile to hear him say “pretty.” And as I snuggle him as he falls to sleep tonight, his trusting arms wrapped around my neck I know that I could never betray his trust just over a little bit of fun that we won’t miss anyway.

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Jasmine Carlson (50 Posts)

Jasmine is a community living mama with a passion for fierce writing and fitness. She her way on Team USA by fitness coaching. Shaping Her. (www.shapingher.com) Join the conversation at (www.facebook.com/ShapingHer)


{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Amber N. Lewis-Schoenwald December 8, 2009 at 11:58 am

We get to have it both ways a bit. When my daughter was old enough to talk to about Santa Clause at all, we told her that it’s a big secret that he’s not real, told her about the real St. Nick from long ago, and that it’s a symbol of the giving spirit. I asked her if she still wants to play the Santa game and she decided it sounded fun. She’s five now. She loves hearing about Santa & the elves like any other story, but is aware that it’s not real. She’s never told another child cause I told her she has to respect that their parents will tell them when it’s time. She said she doesn’t want to hurt their feelings & that their parents are being bad by lying. I’ve gotten a lot of flack from extended family that I’m expecting too much of her & ruining her childhood memories of Christmas, but I really don’t see it. She seems happy & proud to be in the know while still getting to write a letter & set out milk and cookies.

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Nutmeg December 8, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Wow.. i really enjoyed listening to this article. I loved how you caught the true essence of the holiday season. When i have more children, i will teach them this and not lie to them! Thanks~ ♥

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Liz December 8, 2009 at 3:31 pm

The story of Santa Claus is magical in the mind of a child. Instead of focusing on the “naughty or nice” elements, I choose to see the Santa “myth” as one of generosity and holiday tradition. It is possible to include Santa in your Christmas celebrations without endangering your child’s trust in you. My own parents responded to our questions about Santa with a tongue-in-cheek: “Santa only brings gifts if you believe in him.” My adult siblings and I still believe in Santa :). I can’t ever really remember believing in Santa, nor do I remember a moment of realizing he wasn’t real. Rather, traditions involving Santa (milk & cookies, stockings, etc) were part of the magic and fantasy of Christmas. I absolutely agree with avoiding threats or bribes related to Santa and being “good”.

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Norina December 9, 2009 at 12:11 am

hello! Was just looking around searching for interesting things to read when I came upon your blog. I wanted to thank you for writing such a thought provoking post. My husband and I were just discussing this issue over the weekend. We have a 19 month old son and we too are trying our best to bring him up with trust, honesty, integrity, security…many of the things unfortuantely that we did not have in our youth. That said the issue of “santa” and whether we should tell him this “lie” is one we have been struggling with. I am going to have him read your post as well because I think it really sums up what is in both our hearts. I am now more sure then before, that “lying” to our son is not the best option here. Thanks again! Look forward to reading more from you!!
Norina

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Tatiana Ernst December 9, 2009 at 5:34 am

Hm … don’t think making up a Santa story is actually lying. Just like any other fairy tale it is good for their imagination.
I remember when I was little having fun guessing with other friends how would Santa actually come inside the house :). I learned the “truth” when I was a little older and that’s fine.
I agree on not using “naughty or nice” concept to manipulate kids behavior before Christmas though.

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Dionna December 9, 2009 at 8:40 pm

We must have been sharing half a brain, because I wrote on this same topic today. We are choosing not to perpetuate the Santa myth in our household for essentially the same reasons – I don’t want to lie to our son, I want the holidays to be more about giving than receiving, and I don’t like the idea of basing gifts on a child’s behavior.
Thanks for the post!

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Angela December 10, 2009 at 10:47 am

I really enjoyed your post, it was something I’ve been thinking about too, I think you nailed it when you point out the nastiness of using Santa to enforce “good” behaviour. Telling children the tradition of St. Nick, as a symbol of generosity and sharing is a beautiful way to look at the tradition, and really, “believing” in Santa can be seen as much more than believing in a literal interpretation. It comes down to believing in the spirit of St. Nick and manifesting that by doing generous things.

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Becky December 14, 2009 at 8:26 pm

I was “surfing” & came across this topic… my Husband & I have decided to do the “Santa thing”, BUT we focus on the true meaning of Christmas… Jesus’ Birthday. We don’t tink that having our children believe in Santa while they are young is a bad thing. We even have the “Elf on the shelf” in our home. During the CHirstmas season we forcus on the birth of Christ, but we also enjoy Santa too. My girls know that Santa only brings one gift for each of them at Christmas. the rest are from Mommy & Daddy. Before we do anything on Christmas we sing happy Birthday to Jesus & share a small birthday cupcake while reading the Christmas story. We know there is a time when they won’t believe anymore & that is ok. Kids grow up so fast & we want them to enjoy every aspect of being a child & enjoying the imagination & excitement of the season.

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carolyn December 15, 2009 at 11:45 pm

The Santa Spirit

I totally agree that lying about Santa being an actual human in a body can create a very sad ending to a well meaning story. Here’s how we deal with it in our family: We told our son the story of St. Nicholas, and said that people were so moved by his spirit of generosity, that they continued the practice of anonymous gift giving in his memory. Because his memory has been so cherished, his spirit does live on, and continues to inspire people to give gifts. This inspired a wonderful conversation about spirits, lives without bodies, who certainly can “whisper” to us in the form of ideas and inspirations (see spirit in that word??) So, Santa does actually get around the globe as only a spirit can, and continues to give gifts to children via the adults who love them. All the reindeer, north pole, elf workshop stuff are just stories (albeit fun and entertaining) for folks who really can’t understand the way spirits work.

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sunnymama December 21, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Thanks for an interesting post.

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