Before I was a mother I always knew that if I had children, I would never lie to them, which included Santa. I always figured that kids needed to know their parents told them the truth.
After Annika was born, it remained a no-brainer. I always planned to play down the Santa part of Christmas and just tell her that it was a story when she was old enough to start asking questions.
Last year, when Annika was an infant, I had this argument with a friend who couldn’t believe how heartless I would be to deny my daughter the fantasy of Santa.
This year Annika is still not old enough to talk about it but something has changed in my way of thinking. I am now pondering the possibility that maybe she would like that fantasy and if done right, it could really make for some wonderful childhood memories.
I was seven when I realized solidly that there was no Santa. I was floored. The way I found out was a pretty rude awakening.
There’s a back-story, so bear with me. My little brother was born at home by accident; my mother’s labor had progressed quickly while she slept under the effects of a sleeping pill. When the panicked emergency calls went out, the first responders were firefighters. So they attended Chuck’s birth, which was in May. Since he was her fourth child my mother didn’t need much help and spent her final moments of labor ordering several sweaty firemen into the bathroom to wash their hands.
That Christmas Eve those sweaty guys showed up with the fire chief dressed as Santa in order to give my little brother a Teddy Bear.
I snuck out of bed and crouched by the banister watching in awe as Santa held my baby brother in his arms. I was so excited! Santa was here and my older brother and sister were sleeping through it!
I could not wait to hold this one over their heads.
As I watched my parents wave goodbye to Santa I realized Santa and his elves were not getting into a sleigh at all, but a firetruck. Hmmm, I thought that Santa looked familiar.
I was confused. But I came to the awful conclusion that Santa wasn’t real when my mother confirmed that those men were from the fire department as I listened to her relay the visit to someone over the phone.
Maybe I had already suspected it. I’ve always been a logical person. I do remember questioning just how Santa could make all those visits in one night.
But when I think back on it, I loved the fantasy. I remember listening for the reindeer hooves on the roof and insisting that I HAD heard them. I remember wishing I could visit Santa’s toy factory. I wanted to be an elf.
Even though I eventually figured it out I am glad my parents promoted the story. If anything, I wish they had hyped it more, not less.
I’ve heard parents debate this topic, reasons that affect how new parents handle Santa almost always involve the way their parents handled it. It seems that the only angry memories involve parents who did not promote the Santa story. I have yet to hear any adult say, “Yeah, my parents LIED to me. Boy was I pissed when I found out there was no Santa Claus.”
I only hope that when Annika does figure out the truth it will come gently.
Martha is an attached mama in Austin, Tx. She blogs at www.momsoap.blogspot.com
Photo: Per Ola Wiberg (Powi)/Flickr
9 thoughts on “Yes Annika, there is a Santa Claus”
Thank you for this! This sounds like something I could write – well not the part about the firefighters delivering a baby:) For me, I was certain the first time she ever asked me I was going to tell her the truth and let her know this was the one game adults were good at playing along and it is fun for everyone. But, I was not prepared for her to ask me this year at 4 years old! She asked in the car on the way to a play date. I didn’t want to explain it all so quickly and then have her blurt it out to her friend so I told her we would talk about as soon as we got home. After the play date we ran into “Santa” at the grocery! Now, she isn’t asking questions. Perhaps I have bought some more time to figure out how I’m going to handle the NEXT time she asks.
I can’t agree with you on this one. I try very hard to live my life following principles, not follow the crowd. One of the principles I believe is true is – do not lie. My daughter is 2, and she LOVES to play make-believe. And I love to play with her. But we know we’re just playing. That teddy bear isn’t really eating her pretend cookie, etc. Santa is make-believe, and you can have fun with that without deception. Let her in on the fun! It is my choice to keep in line with the principle, not with the controversial tradition.
We’re telling our girls about Santa, but we’re also not telling it as the whole truth, more from a historical/traditional viewpoint.
my parents never taught us to believe in Santa, we knew it was a story. Thats what we’ll do with our kids. i dont see the point. i am not a fan of teaching them anything they have to “re-learn”. if it were something that naturally occurs in children and i was squashing it by telling them something different i might just not say anything and let there be a mystery. But Santa is a fabricated story that my child would not be likely to believe in unless adults blatantly lie to them and then go to great lengths to promote it and convince… to me thats a bit weird. but to each his own!
I read a great story about how a Dad handled his boy finding out the truth of Santa.
When his son asks the questions, the Dad responded with, “Does that sound right to you?” He was trying to foster critical thinking in his son. He allowed his son to participate in the Santa myth and find his own way out of it through skeptical inquiry. He saw it as an opportunity to see a mass cultural illusion first from the inside, then from the outside. It can teach kids how completely we all can snow ourselves if the enticements are attractive enough. That’s a lesson, for sure.
Count me as one of the people who felt lied to and was angry about it. I found out in first grade when some other children mocked me for not knowing the truth. I was terribly embarrassed in that moment and was angry at my parents for deceiving me.
I have told my children (7, 5, 1) that Santa was a real person long ago and now we continue the tradition in the spirit of giving. They enjoy being in on the secret and have not told any of their friends. Perhaps one day they will be sad that they did not get to experience the magic of Santa, but for now they seem to enjoy their gifts on Christmas morning just as much as I did as a child!
We also had no intentions of outright lying and trying to get our kids to believe wholeheartedly in something that is fantasy. When my daughter started pressing at age 3, asking whether Santa was real, we did the whole reading up on traditions of Father Christmas, Grandfather Frost, Saint Nicholas, etc. and I told her that the fat man in the red suit was a story, that people tell at Christmas. She seemed happy with that for a while, but the next year, at 4, was very into what is real and what is pretend, and again asked. We reiterated everything that had gone before about the stories and traditions and legends that formed the basis for the modern depiction, and then told her in summary, “He’s as real as you want him to be” and let her decide… well she decided to believe in Santa without any firm prompting from us. So we have respected that, given a choice and given the info that Santa is a myth based on old traditional stories, she WANTED to believe in Santa and have fun at it, so now we go ahead with it. Children go through a ‘magical thinking’ phase whether you encourage it or not, and it is a special and valid part of early childhood that is all too soon lost forever (in most people). Allowing or encouraging them to engage so fully in fantasy as only children are capable, isn’t harmful; it’s just supporting and acknowledging a healthy natural phase of development, and it’s fun for them and us. When they are ready to outgrow it, they let us know with the process of questioning and disbelief, which is also perfectly natural and an indication of changing maturity levels. And it’s ok to level with them at that point, I think. My daughter knew Santa was a story, and made it real because she really wants and needs there to be magic, awe, and mystery. I am beginning to think that it’s not a simple issue of lying to your kids. It’s an issue of the importance that awe and wonder, and a sense of the magical, hold in their lives at a certain age. Even if we did everything we could to prevent any real belief in the magical, they will still (if allowed) generate a belief in things magical all on their own, and they seem to take great joy in it. Why deprive them? In all cultures there is storytelling, particularly appealing to children, who believe literally in the fantastic events portrayed by the stories, that they later come to understand are in fact legends and probably not literally true. Since this seems to be a healthy human universal, I see no good in rejecting the process.
At four, my son has really been into Santa. Before that, I didn’t talk much about Santa but he came up once in awhile at the mall or by relatives. The truth is that my siblings and I pretend Santa comes, especially while pulling gifts out of our stockings
I told him this year that we pretend Santa is real and it’s really fun. From what he says, he seems to really believe in him. Or he’s really good at pretending.
I blogged about it recently. http://www.rachelsramblings.com/2009/12/santa-and-4-year-old.html