Thursday, December 6, 2012

On Saying No To Santa

I'm about to share something that will probably have people grabbing tinsel-covered pitch forks to come hunt me down (assuming anyone reads it.) Baby Darling will not believe in Santa Claus. We're not "doing" Santa. Baby D will get presents (so far for his first Christmas, we've gotten him a ton of books, a bead maze, one of those giant wooden puzzles with only three pieces, a ball pit, some pajamas, bath toys, a toy gingerbread man, a swing, and a giant stuffed hedgehog. Because nothing says Christmas like a stuffed hedgehog. Obviously.), but he will know that the presents are from us, not from Santa.

The one other time I dared to confess online that we aren't "doing" Santa, the automatic and overwhelming assumption was that I'm a Christmas-hating Scroogy Grinch with a heart two sizes too small, which could not be further from the truth. (Except maybe the heart thing. I couldn't say, having never measured it. But I assume it's the normal size.) I love Christmas. It is my favorite holiday by far. For the past four years, we have always had at least two full-sized Christmas trees in our house at Christmas, along with a few smaller ones. I once wrote on this very blog about how I managed to convince Dr. D to let me leave the Christmas tree up until June. (I chickened out in late February and finally took it down, but still.) At last count, our family of three owns at least ten Christmas stockings. Dr. D and I got married a few days before Christmas, and the church and reception venue were decorated for Christmas from top to bottom. But I'm just not into the whole Santa thing. Before I explain why, let me say this in huge, bold letters: I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST ANYONE WHO CHOOSES TO TELL THEIR KIDS THAT SANTA IS REAL. I DO NOT JUDGE YOUR PARENTING CHOICES OR YOU AS A PERSON. I DO NOT THINK THAT YOUR CHILDREN WILL BE SCREWED UP FOR LIFE WHEN THEY FIND OUT HE'S NOT REAL. I THINK THAT YOU ARE PROBABLY A VERY NICE, LOVING PERSON WHO JUST HAPPENS TO MAKE PARENTING CHOICES THAT ARE DIFFERENT THAN MY OWN, AND I HAVE NOTHING AGAINST THAT. This post is not about you and your parenting decisions, it's about me and mine. Many things have been written "in defense of" Santa that are much more eloquent and meaningful than anything I've ever written, and I think that's great. Like 90% of the population, I smile when I read "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." But I'm not "playing Santa" with my own child, and here's why.

For starters - and this is my main reason - I don't want to lie. I think this is the reason that gets people all up in arms, because it makes people mad to feel like they're being called liars. And I've heard all of the arguments that it's not lying, it's "pretending," or "make believe," or "tradition." But if I say to my child, "Santa is real. The gifts under the tree are from him. He came down our chimney and left them for you," that's a lie. To me, it's different than saying to my child, "let's play a game and pretend you're a puppy and I'm your owner," because my child knows that he is not a puppy (I mean, he doesn't know that YET,because he's only nine months old, but he'll know someday). I am not trying to convince him that he is, in fact, a puppy. We are playing a game, and he knows it's a game. But if we "play a game of pretend," and I never tell him that it's a game of pretend, and I do everything I can to convince him that it's NOT a game of pretend, and I create elaborate schemes to convince him that it's real, then he doesn't know that it's just a fun game of "make believe," and I honestly don't see how that's somehow different than an outright lie. And if I'm going to teach my child that he shouldn't lie, I don't know how I can blatantly lie to him. I understand that there may be times when I might end up lying to my child out of what seems like necessity. The only one I can think of off of the top of my head is if Baby D should ever knock on our bedroom door while we're having sex and want to know why we won't open up. But I'm sure that other situations will arise where I won't be quick enough on my feet and I'll end up lying to avoid telling Baby D something that he shouldn't know. I'm not saying that's right, but I'm saying it might happen. But I just can't justify intentionally, repeatedly lying to Baby D while telling him it's not ok for him to do it.

(I didn't make that, I've just seen it re-pinned nine million times on Pinterest, presumably by teens. 
So this idea has obviously occurred to people besides me.)

My second reason is that I don't like the "spin" it puts on getting presents. Santa keeps track of who is good and who is bad, and only children who are good get presents. So the gifts children get at Christmas are not expressions of love from parents who worked hard to earn the money so that they could give nice things to the children they adore, they are things that the children earned and are owed because of good behavior. It's not, "wow, Mom and Dad, thank you so much," it's, "I was good, so I deserve these gifts from Santa. If I'd been bad, I would have gotten coal." Which brings me to my next point:

The tradition of Santa is often used to teach children to behave well for the wrong reasons. I know that this isn't necessarily a huge part of the Santa tradition for all families, but with the increasing popularity of the "Elf on the Shelf," it seems to be becoming more and more of a focus. You shouldn't hit your sister. Not because it's unkind. Not because it hurts her and you wouldn't like it if she hit you. But because Santa will know, and he won't give you any presents. It shifts the focus from doing the right thing because it's the right thing to doing the right thing because you're going to get something out of it. Would it be easier to be able to spend the whole month of December and at least half of November getting my child to be good because he's afraid he'll end up with nothing but a lump of coal in his stocking? Probably. But in the long run, I don't think it will teach him the lessons I want him to learn.

I know that on the off-chance that anyone reads this, someone will inevitably respond with "if your child tells my child that Santa's not real, I will... (punch you in the nose, tell my child to punch your child in the nose, cry, never allow my child to play with yours again, call your child an ugly liar, etc), so my next post will address that. In the meantime, I'll be on the lookout for any angry elves that might be coming my way.
In my opinion, we don't devote nearly enough scientific research to finding a cure for jerks. ~ Calvin & Hobbes