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Monday, December 5, 2011

You better watch out

I recently read a post on Babble.com about a mother who chooses not to tell her kids about Santa.  I think the older I have become, the less judgmental I am;  and while I don't judge this mother for her choice, I'm not sure I agree with her reasoning.


Lottie and Dallas both know about and believe in Santa; I suppose that was a conscious choice that Trevor and I made, to teach them about Santa.  Then again, the whole Santa thing is also difficult to get around.  There are books, TV shows, dolls, inflatables, and songs about Santa starting as early as Halloween anymore.  Even if I wanted to avoid Santa, I'm not sure I could.  The Big Guy is everywhere. And I don't necessarily think that Santa is a terrible idea: he's a guy who brings gifts to kids once a year.  I don't see a lot of harm in that.  He's not stalking them on the playground, after all, or asking them to help him find a lost puppy.  We have had the talk about not taking anything from strangers and not ever, EVER going anywhere with a stranger, but Santa isn't the same thing.  Look, childhood nowadays seems to be getting shorter and shorter with less and less fun involved.  Toys have to be educational, and books have to teach morals.  Kids are expected to read and write before they get to Kindergarten, they're expected to be computer whizzes by first grade, and they're expected to grow up WAY too fast.  What's wrong with giving them a little magic in their lives?  I was a late-believer in Santa.  As a matter of fact, my family had to tell my younger cousin not to tell me about Santa because I still believed when he didn't.  There's something to be said for childhood innocence.  (And, by the way, I'm a fully functional adult even after finding out the truth.  There's no emotional scarring here...at least, not from that.)

A lot of people squawk that telling kids about Santa is lying to them, and these parents claim to never lie to their kids.  I call shenanigans on that.  We all lie to our kids from time to time; let's not pretend we're perfect.  When the time comes, I'll perpetuate the tooth fairy myth with no moral issues.  Sometimes I'll claim that we're out of ice cream when the kids beg for a treat simply because I don't want them to have it and I'm sick of saying no.  I have oohed and aahed over various art projects that look more like pieces of paper that have just been spit out of a trash compactor.  Will this harm my children?  Nope.  Will it tear down their sense of self?  Doubt it.  My kids are both deep into the world of fantasy, as well they should be at the ages of 4 and 3.  They love to dress up and play weird games like "Fire Baby" (don't ask) and "Apron Bachoodie." Why would I want to discourage their rich and imaginative fantasy worlds now?  Discouraging them from playing and pretending and believing would take away the very essence of who they are now and who they may become later.

Occasionally, around the holidays, I'll pull out the old "Santa is watching" threat just to get everyone back on track, but it's not a line I trot out every day.  As with other admonishments, it gets stale if used too often.  In reality, I spend every single day trying to teach my kids to be good all the time, not just at Christmas.  I try to teach them the importance of kindness and giving back in their everyday lives just for the sake of being kind and appreciating all they have.  I don't feel that teaching my kids about Santa and teaching them how to be generous people are mutually exclusive: can't I do both?  Can't I give them magic while teaching them important lessons about life?  I think I can, and I will.

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