Monday, May 19, 2008

Santa Claus and other lies we tell our kids

(No, no baby yet. I'm about to start doing jumping jacks to get this baby moving. And if one more person says to me "Oh, no baby yet, huh? What are you waiting for?" I'm going to bump them with my incredibly firm belly. Until then, I need something to take my mind off of my discomfort and pain so I'll write about other stuff. I do this for you, to save you from having to read my bitching. You can thank me later.)

There are plenty of things I have no problem telling Chicky.

Eat your vegetables. Brush your teeth. Don't hit the cat. I'll always love you. Things like that.

But there are other, more abstract concepts that I have an amazingly hard time talking with my child about.

Your grammy, my mom, is in heaven. Your grandma and grandpa go to church on Sundays to pray to God. God? He's up in heaven too. Uh, yeah. That's what we're supposed to believe, I guess.

Religion, in general, is difficult for a woman like myself who made a conscious break from it years ago to talk about with an impressionable three year old. But I believe that children need something to believe in, whether it be religion or fairy tales. Or religion based on fairy tales.

Immaculate conception? Really?

Children need something to hold on to in times of stress or turmoil. They need something to be happy about and to look forward to. That's childhood, for chrissake. So in the past year we've started using the concept of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. I'm not sure if my husband has a position on this because we've never really discussed it, at least not without much eye rolling on his part, but I made a conscious effort to incorporate these made up characters into Chicky's vernacular. It's not like I bring it up all the time. You know, it wasn't some random Thursday in February when I said, Have I told you the story of the big rabbit who leaves chocolate eggs for us to find? I think I waited until two days before Easter this past year to even bring it up. I could almost see the wheels turning in Chicky's head. Especially since the only thing she's ever seen a rabbit leave is little pellets of poop. And I've made it perfectly clear those are NOT edible.

But in much the way I have difficulties discussing a higher power with Chicky I find myself tripping over the words "Easter Bunny" and choking on the stories of the fat man in red coming down the chimney to bring good little boys and girls presents. It feels like I'm lying - hell, I am lying, let's be honest - but I will continue to keep up the charade even if it doesn't come naturally to me because my children deserve the wonderment that accompanies these deceptions. And I need an excuse to lord power over my children with a simple threat of "Santa won't come if you don't clean up your toys".

The way I see it, my kids will have less than a decade in their lives to believe that benevolent bearded men bring gifts just for eating a few more peas from their plate. That's pretty cool. I wish someone could make me believe that there was a spa fairy or that, maybe, there was a giant fuzzy beast who magically left bottles of wine at my doorstep.

I say less than a decade because most kids don't really grasp the idea of Santa, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy until they're over the age of three. After that there are few precious years before television or some bratty kid on the playground (or an older sister, maybe. Not that I'm pointing any fingers) teaches my kids their mother and father were responsible for taking baby teeth and leaving a buck under the pillow. And honestly when that happens, it was probably time anyway. At some point they need to know that life is kinda sucky and disappointment is something they need to learn to deal with.

Which leads me to the reason for this post. Finally.

Mr. C works with two people who have daughters who are well into puberty and, as far as their parents are concerned, the kids STILL BELIEVE IN SANTA. These people see no reason to start telling their eleven, twelve, fourteen year old kids (uh huh, fourteen years old) the truth about who was leaving presents under the tree. Call me cynical, but if you're old enough to have a menstrual cycle I think you're old enough to deal with this cold hard fact.

It makes me wonder who is worried about who would suffer more? Kids are resilient and they roll with changes, for the most part. But parents can live for the rest of their lives with the guilt of disappointing their kids just once. It makes me want to shake these people. Deal with it! I want to yell at them. It's just like ripping off a band-aid, we don't want to cause our kids pain but it needs to happen and sometimes the faster or sooner the better.

Is it just me? Is it my hang-ups stopping me from being happy for these kids who still get to live a bit of the fairy tale? Or is there a cut off point, an arbitrary age depending on the child, where they need to grow up a little? When do we as parents stop perpetrating the myth that magical beings exist and teach our kids that it's okay to start believing in what's real, even if what's real is kind of crummy sometimes?

And don't even get me started on the Holy Spirit. To me it's like ROUS's. I don't believe it exists.


Kizz said...

99 times out of 100 when kids that old are still playing that game they KNOW it's a game and they are keeping it up for their parents in much the same way their parents are keeping it up for them. I'll bet you a $1 all those kids know and they're just rolling along. My mom and I still pretend that way, along with wacky elaborations about how Santa forgot to drop X off while he was at your house so he left it with me and asked me to pass it on, the dude is busy, he can use all the help he can get. I don't see any harm in it, I'm as much of an axe murdering crazy as I'm ever going to be and I'm pretty sure the ridiculous Santa deceptions didn't tip the scales one way or the other.

Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah said...

I don't know. I seriously considered not telling my kid the holiday lies.

Then I rethought it and I decided we would roll with it for the sake of fun.

I'm guessing any 14 year old with one friend KNOWS that her parents are Santa. I'll tell my kids the first time they ask.

Some 4th grade kid will probably spill the beans the first day my kids get on the school bus anyway.

Tania said...

That's why Judaism is working well for me. No whimsical characters whatsoever. What fun!

3XMom said...

14 year olds don't believe in Santa. Not they way you mean anyway. My Dad still gives me presents from "santa". I mean, they told me and my brother the cold hard truth when I was about 7 or 8, but we still kept it all up.

Why not? Its fun.

Chickenbells said...

Wait...are you saying there's NO spa fairy? waaaahhhh...Because I've been very good this year and I totally deserve some sort of spa-like treatment!!

Chicky Chicky Baby said...

3xmom - I have no doubt the 14 yo knows there is no Santa Claus but her parents really, truly believe she does and WILL NOT tell her the truth. Total denial.

And I got Christmas stockings until I finally left home for the last time and I got at least one present from "Santa" every year. I even got Easter candy. But that was all for fun not because my parents were trying to prolong my childhood.

Anonymous said...

Well, I still believe in Santa. -snicker-

Anonymous said...

Our 13 year old never officially admitted she no longer believed in Santa Claus. Maybe she still does : )

Googling Goddess said...

Do the kids live in a cave? Because if not, I highly doubt they believe in Santa. And the fact that the parents are still denying it is disturbing. I am finding such bizarre parenting behavior on the internet today.

Heather said...

What? No baby yet?

Ha ha. I can say that because I'm in the same position.

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me that the parents of the 14 year old are the strange ones - I hate to think what they've told them about where babies come from!

moo said...

We've been pretty honest with our kid. No santa, but other kids believe in him and that's OK. No Easter Bunny. And so on.

And, ok yeah, he's only 2. But we're not going to pretend some hairy, fat man is watching him 364 days of the year. It won't be the end of the world and it won't "ruin" his innocence.

S~ said...

I doubt the kids believe in Santa, but it never hurts to be imaginative really. I still pretend Santa exists, particularly with my cousin's 4 yr old son.

kittenpie said...

You know, I'm with you. We haven't talked god and when we do, it will be in context of what some people believe. I'm going along with the bunny and Santa things for Misterpie's sake, though we didn't do them when I grew up.

I'd bet those older kids, though? Are going along with it at this point - either for the sake of their lame parents or for the gifties they're still getting. I bet they know and just haven't let on. Smart kids, really.

Christina said...

I realized there was no Santa somewhere around 7 years old, but I didn't let on to my mom for another year or two. After all, I got presents from mom and from Santa. Why not milk it for all it was worth, right? (kid logic)

And bonus points to you for using ROUS's in your argument. Bravo.

Kimberly said...

Without even knowing these people, I can pretty much guarantee you that the kids KNOW. There is actually no way in hell - unless they are never allowed out of the house - they they don't know. They KNOW. They're playing along to either 1. continue milking their parents for Christmas gifts and/or 2. they are afraid of hurting their parents' feelings by telling them they no longer believe.

I played that game too. I think I finally came clean to my mom in 7th grade. For me, it was #2. I honestly thought she'd be sad to know that I no longer believed. And now that I'm a mother, I think maybe I was onto something. I will be heartbroken the day my kids no longer believe. It means they're growing up out from under me.

Sarahviz said...

Wahhhh. There's no WHINE fairy?

Oh wait. You meant WINE fairy?

Pgoodness said...

well, i think that it's the SPIRIT of the whole santa claus thing that's the most important - and if you focus on the belief (Polar Express, anyone?) as opposed to the just gift giving guy in red, then it makes it a lot easier to transition from believing to not-believing. (did that make sense at all?)

i dread the day my boys have it ruined for them. i just knew one year, but it wasn't destroyed for me, i just knew and it was ok.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

There is no way a 14 year old can believe in Santa! At least I hope not. My guess is that she is playing along for the sake of her parents.

My oldest has given up the notion of the Easter Bunny---she loves Easter but think the idea of a bunny hiding eggs is ridiculous (the Tooth Fairy and Santa, though, seem totally logical to her).

We go to a UU church, so the kids are learning that there are many ways to believe and live a spiritual life. They know I don't have all the answers but also that I want to believe there is something beyond this life.

mo-wo said...

I surprised myself this year.

Since Easter I have answered the question about 40 times for my 3 year old. 'Tell me again about when Jesus got killed.'

Rising up. Living forever. Loving forever. That's the Coles notes version we run.

And, you are so right. I truly object to Manufacturing Childhood. I should make a movie. You and me, hey.. Manufacturing Childhood. Anyway. I am sure the kids are ready to move on. But it's like me and the sandman boob. I just WANT to pour sleep into them for ME. I love the bucolic image of the delicate baby. But that is a rip off for them. And, it is a continued slavery of family life to selling and marketing and packaging for the most part.

Ker said...

I grew up clinging to the notion of Santa --- and while I am a more practical adult now, I still hope that he exists for those that need him the most.
I grew up in a home longing for a family that celebrated the normal American traditions (specifically Christmas) but as luck would have it, I was brought up in an extremely poor household with two parents who didn't care to celebrate much of anything.
Even when I was a kid, I rationalized that there was a Santa, but that I just didn't need him as much as some other little girl might. But, I still snuck out every Christmas eve to look at the sky and strain my eyes to try and catch a glimpse.
I think Santa is an ok dude that gets a bad rap from the ACLU. *shrug*

Jonathon Morgan said...

We went back and forth on Santa, but Edan is now a firm believer. Which is odd, because she finds the idea of a tooth fairy to be very suspect. Because THAT is ridiculous. Evles, fat men delivering presents, totally normal.

Anonymous said...

When my son started school we had to select a religion, we chose one rather than time spent drawing as he needs to be aware of different religions. On his first religious lesson his father told him to remember that they are all stories.
We have let him believe in Santa as it is only a story. We soon learn that stories aren't real.

Avalon said...

I raised the Princess much the same way. We did do Santa , the Easter Bunny and the like. I judged when i thought she was old enough to understand the truth and discussed it with her. I did not tie them in with any particular religious beliefs. I simply felt that they were enjoyable family traditions to pass on to her.

As for needing something to believe in during difficult times.......I have never felt that religion played a significant part in that.

Namito said...

Your right. It is lying. If it don't feel good to say it, DON'T. (Pardon my bad grammar). And punctuation. And sentence un-structure.


What we tell the Impling is "Santa is like a character in your books. People like to pretend they are real, because it's fun and it makes you feel good. Like you pretend with your little friends" (all those stuffed animals we have carpeting the floor). The Impling has not lost any of her wonder at the world as a result, and her imagination is no less a wonder. And lets face it, three year olds don't quite get the concept of what is real and what is fantasy anyhow. As far as they are concerned, it's all a magic carpet ride.

As for religion...I'll burn that bridge when I get to it, but I suspect the explanation will have a similar tone. And I'll be sure to include the wine fairy.

Amanda said...

I hate the crap a pregnant belly compels people to say. Yuck. Good luck, I say go ahead and slap the next,"What're ya waiting for?"

Ali said...

what? santa's not real?

justmylife said...

My bet is the kids know the truth and are playing mom and dad for all its worth. My kids knew for a while before they admitted it to me, I had figured it out before I was told. But Christmas loses some of the "magic" when Santa leaves the picture. It is still a hloy day but the "surprise" is gone.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry - the 14-year-old knows. Her siblings probably do, too. There's no way on earth she goes to middle school and doesn't know.

When I was twelve my mom told me very gently that Santa wasn't real, and I responded just as gently, "I know, Mom." She was shocked. But I had assumed (correctly) that as soon as I stopped "believing", the whole stocking charade would end, and there went all the cool little presents and the fun of jumping out of bed on Christmas morning. I didn't want to lose the magic or the extra presents, so I pretended to believe for as long as they'd let me.

Rusti said...

I don't recall how old I was when I "found out" the truth... and even after that my mom always said Santa was real... not the Santa that drove a magic sleigh with flying reindeer, but the Santa that lives in all of us - the one who helps others and gives, not only during the holidays, but then too... we always did the "secret family/Angel Tree" Santa program with the local churches and we still get PJ's on the end of our bed every Christmas morning from "santa"... it's fun to believe in the goodness of people.

As far as the Easter bunny though... heck, it's been quite a few years since I've colored eggs or gotten a basket full of candy and goodies :)

Anonymous said...

I was brought up religious, and enlightenment at age 20 was really hard. So I don't tell the kids any mythologies: no Santa Claus, no God. I think it's good for them to have something to believe in---but not something that's going to get yanked out from under them later. It's so hard to find your footing, then. And I sure resent my parents for it---except of course, they actually believe in Santa Claus, so it's hard to blame them for teaching it to me as if it were fact.

Moments Of Mom said...

Yeah, the 14 year and probably the 11 year old too, are just faking it for the presents... truly, I remember my brothers telling me to fake it, because you get more presents when you believe in Santa. And while I'd like to think that is not true, its seems likely that it is... said...

I like to get Socratic about it.

"Mommy, is Santa real?"

"What do you think people mean by 'real'?"

"You know...does he really exist?"

"Well, by exist do you mean physically or spiritually or ..."

"*sigh* Mommy, can I just have a grilled cheese?"



And yes, I'm guessing that the older kids are on to it. They are just keeping the magic alive for themselves.

Whit said...

I never even considered not doing Santa and the like. I just look back on it too fondly not to let my kids enjoy the kind of fun that illusion brings.