It’s one of those things that you don’t realize is a thing until you become a parent, like wipe warmers or cracked nipples or the skill involved in snapping dozens of tiny, tiny snaps at three am while barely conscious.
Wait, cracked what now?
The great Santa controversy is hotly debated on parenting websites and forums all across internet land. It’s lying to children! Says con (well...) It’s encouraging a child’s natural sense of wonder and whimsy! Says pro (one can always use more whimsy.) But for most of us who fall somewhere in the middle, it can feel like a lot of fuss over not much at all.
I do, of course, try to be honest with my children. We discuss things. I want them to feel like they can come to me for open, genuine conversation and support. But, sure, sometimes I do withhold certain truths. Like the five o’clock news or the details of our bank account or the existence of Barney the Dinosaur. The traumatic stuff.
But on the other hand, my daughter recently spent a solid month confident that “dragon” was a viable career option for the future. My almost twelve year old still keeps track of - and dutifully celebrates - all the birthdays of his approximately seven hundred stuffed animals. My nine year old can often be found in mix-and-match costume personas such as S.W.A.T Officer Mario or Ninja Wizard Knight. So I feel okay about their sense of whimsy, regardless of their belief in Santa Claus.
Our solution for Santa has been a sort of hands-off approach. We aren’t encouraging it, we don’t try to convince them of anything, but if they want to believe in the guy I’m not going to sit them down and give them a Why Santa Doesn’t Exist briefing. And if they ask questions, I employ the greatest parenting phrase of all parenting phrases: Well, what do you think?
A few Santa Claus factoids courtesy of what they think:
-Santa uses a time/space portal to get to all of the houses in one night.
-He can get down the chimney because he’s a ninja.
-He gets your list by email.
-However, the WiFi signal is very weak in the North Pole so lists often download incompletely.
-Elves make the toys. But sometimes they buy stuff at Target.
-Santa should probably upgrade the reindeer to something more high-tech. (A Prius, perhaps?)
Sounds pretty reasonable to me, actually.
But mostly we don’t push Santa because my husband works very hard to provide for us, and I spend a lot of time planning and budgeting and strategizing so we don’t get buried under an avalanche of festive Christmas debt. We want them to be grateful and to understand the value of hard work and sacrifice.
Of course, that can be taught with or without Santa. So fine, maybe I just don’t want to share all the glory. That look of unbridled glee and delight on Christmas morning? We put that there. I have to get my Christmas joy from somewhere, since Santa still hasn’t brought me the Dyson vacuum I keep asking for.
Must be that spotty WiFi.
Jill Vettel is writer and stay at home mom of three in Durham, NC and is the author of a brand new children's fantasy novel, The Curse of the Dragon Queen. She's not even going to touch the whole Elf on the Shelf controversy.