Should the "Santa" Story Come with a Warning?

by Jennifer Jerome

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Should we, as mothers, should encourage our children to believe in Santa Claus?

It's a hard question.

If we do, then someday we will have to tell the sad story of his non-existence while looking into the eyes of the child(ren) who fully believed every word that we spoke in regard to his reality.

Last night I took part in a discussion on this topic, and when it was first raised, I thought, "This is kind of silly." But then I gave it a bit more thought: Is it acceptable to not only lie to our child(ren), but to encourage the belief in a fictional character?

With Christmas right around the corner, I thought it was time to tackle this issue.

The first question - by telling our child that there is a man who wears a red and white suit, carrying a bag full of toys that he and his elves made back at the North Pole, flies them to your rooftop via a sleigh and reindeer, then drops down chimney's (whereas most of us do not have chimney's) and puts Christmas presents underneath a tree that is inside our home a bit too much to swallow?

That's a pretty elaborated story to say the least. 

Let's not leave out the fact that it truly makes one wonder who and why they invented this story line to begin with. We all know that Christmas is a Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Where, oh where, did Jolly ol' St. Nicholas come into play anyway? That's a blog for another day.

However, we have decades of the same fictious story being passed on from one generation to the next. Add in the elements of Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Reindeer and one really beings to wonder precisely what the point of all of this make-believe truly is and who decided to be the first to sit down with their child that instigated all of this.  

Then it occurred to me that we do this in everyday life simply by allowing our children to watch cartoon characters on television and in the movies. A child’s level of make-believe shelters their innocence from the harsh reality of adult life. Is there a possibility that if we didn't encourage such hefty imaginations children everywhere could take on a much more adult demeanor at earlier ages? If we told them the truth about Santa, and other make-believe characters, would it alter their life significantly?

Furthermore, if we decided to allow them the fantasy are we breaking the value of trust with our own children once they are older? Naturally I had to think back on when I learned the truth about Santa; it was a sad day for me.

I was at the mall with my mom and aunt. My mom told her that she was going into a toy store to look at something and to keep me outside with her. My aunt was preoccupied with something else because I could see my mom, through the glass, picking out a doll that I wanted very badly for Christmas. I decided not to mention that I saw it at all so she wouldn't take it back. Well, each Christmas Santa left one present for me, unwrapped, under the tree. Low and behold, during my 7th Christmas of life I woke up to find that same doll, unwrapped, under our tree. It was then that I discovered that Santa Claus either had me on his naughty list or I had been duped by the one person I trusted the most.

Did that discovery shred my innocence? No. Did it upset me? Yes. I'm still thinking about it at 36 years old after all. Albeit, I'm okay with it. And to top it off I've been telling my own daughter about Santa Claus in much the same ways that I was taught with no thoughts to the contrary.

So I put on my thinking cap when this discussion came to light and gave it some serious thought. I decided that it's definitely a personal choice. Each parent has to weigh the pros and cons because there many at play. Although, what I've come to realize is simply this...

Millions of parents have been doing this for 100's of years, around the world, with only slight variations. No one has ever committed a crime and faulted it on their parent(s) being dishonest about Santa Claus so it can't be all that bad. And what I feel is important at this point and time in my own daughter’s life is the magic in her eyes and her heart. She believes because her innocence is firmly in place. Life is meant to be happy, there are no worries, and she happily skips through every day with pure glee. Around the holidays that multiplies tenfold.

I often find myself jealous that she is capable of such emotional freedom and carelessness, but at the same time, it warms my heart. It tells me simply... my daughter is happy. Truly...happy. And I, for one, don't want to strip her of that before her time. Life is too short to complicate it more than it need be.

So, to sum it all up, I say let the magic of Christmas and all its traditional imagination surround her, warm her heart, lift her spirit and make those bright blue eyes shine even brighter. Someday when she asks me why I didn't tell her the truth sooner I'll merely tell her, "Because the greatest gift I was ever able to give you was your childhood and you deserved to enjoy it to the fullest extent"

Ten years later I'll still be marking her presents, "From Santa", much like my own mother still does for me till' this very day... and you know what? Sometimes... I still believe :)

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