Saturday, December 15, 2007

Update on belief in Santa...

Last year I explained that I didn't think believing that Santa is real makes the Santa story any more fun, even for kids (see: I Believe in Santa Claus). So I decided I wouldn't tell my kids Santa is real.

How is this working out? You may be wondering...

Not quite as expected. Last year I asked Nicolas a few times whether he thinks Santa Claus is a real person or just a story. As I recall, I even stated directly a few times that Santa Clause is just a fun story we like to tell -- not a real person. Nico responded by insisting that Santa is indeed real. Of course last year I wasn't really sure whether Nico understood the difference between a real person and a fictional character.

Fast forward to this year. Nico spontaneously told me one day "Some people think Santa Claus is just a dream, but he's a real person." (I think he was influenced by the special The Year without a Santa Claus.)

I responded by asking him "Are you sure he's real and not just a story? In that Christmas movie he looks like a doll."

Nico thought about it, and said "No, he's real -- we saw him. You saw him too. At the place where we go see Santa." [At the mall or something, I assume...?]

Of course I could argue this point, but I figured I might as well let him think about it on his own for the time being. So I just said, "Oh, okay."

So the magic of Christmas defeats the atheist mom.... For this round!! ;^)


Anonymous said...

You know he'll catch on to the game eventually, when he starts questioning the logistics of the whole operation. In the meantime, there is something special about a child's belief in the magic of Christmas. Unfortunately, those special qualities - the innocence, the wonder, the willingness to believe in something extraordinary - are the same ones that religions exploit so successfully.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Chaplain!!!

So true....

B.G. Christensen said...

We really don't like the idea of lying to our kids so we have no intention of telling them Santa is real or even giving them presents "from Santa," but just like your son my daughter seems to be deciding he's real all on her own. I hope she's not too devastated when there are only presents from Mommy and Daddy under the tree, now that she's old enough to know she should be getting one from Santa...

Do you give your son presents from Santa or just avoid the whole thing altogether?

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Mr. FOB!!!

Kids are funny, aren't they? I think my husband is a little more willing to play along with the Santa thing, so we've kept it a little ambiguous whether the presents that appear on Christmas morning are from parents & grandparents or from Santa...

Anonymous said...

I think letting Nico believe in Santa isn't the end of the world or a ploy of deception that might undermine his ability to trust you down the road when he finds out the joy ol' elf is a character of imagination. (Although, there is the Catholic saint, Niklaus, but that's other deal entirely.)

I believed in Santa until I was nine or ten and then the neighbor across the street blew it for me by telling me Santa was Mom & Dad. I still resent that. I could have continued believing for a couple of years and I'm pretty confident I would have figured it out or my parents would have told me. But in the meantime, I enjoyed the mystery of the season.

If the concern is more the religious connotation or the idea that being good will garner one more presents and that somehow Santa is omnipotent and "knows if you've been bad or good" etc., then I can see trying to instill some reality into the... erm... reality of Santa.

If you really want to save Nico from disappointments down the road, start telling him how things are free and being an adult means paying bills and being responsible. Frankly, I'll take the delusion of Santa any day over the delusion society perpetuates that adulthood and "independence" are so fabulous and carefree. Talk about a load of tripe right there!

And now that I've written an inappropriately length epistle disguised as a comment, I'll go away.

Happy Secular Celebratory Festivizing!

Anonymous said...

Hm. So many typos. That should have said, among other gaffes, "Tell Nico how things are NOT free and being an adult means..."

Ugh. Sorry about that.

Anonymous said...

Concrete thinking of young children is amusing. Enjoy it while it lasts.

Many years ago my partner and I were living in Winnipeg. We had an aged white birch in our front yard that had three major trucks (about 7" thick) rising from the base near ground level. One branches off one of trunks started to show sign of age and decay two summers before.

As I was cutting the grass late June I looked at the branches above that contained a limited number of leaves. I kicked the bottom of the trunk and got the sound that I suspected. I turned off the engine and reached above my head to grasped the trunk. I pulled downward and the trunk broke off just below my knee level. I then hauled it off to cut it up for firewood for our next camping trip.

In the yard was our eight year old son with three friends. Witnessing the whole thing they cried out to my son "you have the strongest dad. He is stong he can break a tree with his hands." Was I going to tell my son radiating with pride about tree rote in white birches and the principles of leverage...not on your life. I was not going to destroy his moment of pride and fun. Today my son is 23 and from time to time we recall that afternoon with a laugh.

beatdad said...

We have not put presents under the tree from Santa or taken the kids to See Santa. They have not asked us about him, we also have not really thought about it much.

When they ask we will tell them some version of St. Nicholas or Father Christmas.

Happy Solstice.

Lynet said...

My mother never lied to us about Santa. Nevertheless, my youngest sister insists on believing anyway -- much like your Nico! I think it depends on the kid. The sort of child who might be traumatised by uncovering the lie is probably less likely to be the sort of child who will believe even if the parents explain it's just imaginary.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Mabel!!!

The funny thing is that my son is sort of named for Saint Nicholas -- the Christmas connection is one of the reasons why I liked the name. If you read the last paragraph of my Christmas carol list, you'll see that my husband and I both have kinds of Christmasey names, and with Nico, we had one of those Mormon-style naming-themes going until we messed it up with Leo. If I'd had twin girls instead, I would have named them Holly and Joy. ;^)

That's true that delusions of adult life being care-free are perhaps more worrisome than a childhood delusion about Santa...

Happy festivizing to you too!!! :D

Hey Deacon!!!

What a cute story!!! Sounds like it was fun for both of you. Seeing the unexpected is a part of learning how the world works, even if your first impressions of what happened are wrong and you don't learn the right answer until later.

Hey Beat Dad!!!

Well, I think you've put your finger on what's going on here. The thing is that we have done Santa-related stuff with them, and essenitally suggested that the Christmas presents that appeared during the night are from Santa. So I'm not as much as a purist as I pretend, though the presents I got from my parents were "from Santa" too and I didn't really believe it. Also, I think my husband likes the whole Santa thing, so he may be undermining my skeptical efforts...

Happy Solstice to you and your family!!!

Hey Lynet!!!

I tend to agree. If he's decided on his own that Santa is real, then it stands to reason he'll figure out on his own that he's not, and I don't see why it should be too upsetting.

The Exterminator said...

I think belief in Santa is benign. The kid's not going around door-to-door to spread propaganda, is he? He's not threatening other kids with eternal punishment for not accepting his idea of the Claus, is he? He's not running for high political office, saying that Clausism is dependent on freedom and freedom is dependent on Clausism, is he?

It's fun that he believes in Santa Claus. Kids should be encouraged to indulge in whimsy, a category which certainly covers the Santa Claus myth -- but not the odious ones of religion. He may also believe that there are monsters hiding under his bed at night, and that if he can walk an entire city block without once stepping on a sidewalk crack, he'll have a wish granted. These kinds of beliefs are appropriate for little kids.

If he still believes in Santa when he turns 21, you can worry that you did something wrong. In the meantime, enjoy his childhood.

Efrique said...

I have one kid that figured out Santa wasn't real but now thinks God is (but angels apparently make no sense at all - I think he's leaning toward deism, actually). The younger one says she doesn't believe in God (I have not tried to influence her either direction)... but Santa is real. Makes sense - she's got plenty of evidence for Santa!

Eric said...

I have wonderful letters to "Santa" and his response written when my girls were younger. I don't remember insisting he was real, although we included the idea of him, and I don't remember telling them he was not really real. t just sort of happened.

Anonymous said...

I have encouraged my daughter to believe in Santa and the Tooth Fairy. Some would say that I shouldn't do this because it would encourage her to not trust things authority figures say. Interestingly, this is exactly why I do it.

- Jeff Vogel

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Exterminator!!!

It's true, he does believe a bunch of other things he's made up which are at once amusing and impossible. For example, he's decided that there will be a future epoch when humans and prehistoric animals (especially dinosaurs) will coexist...

Hey Efrique!!!

There's probably not too much cause for concern. It's good that he's trying out ideas that are different from what he's been taught, and it's good that you're encouraging him to think critically but to decide for himself. :D

Hey Eric!!!

Yeah, that's how it happens. Even if you don't actively try to teach them that Santa is real, they pick up the idea from the culture at large. Then as a parent, you end up playing along with the fun... ;^)

Hey Jeff!!!

lol, that's a good system. And the funny thing is that there's a good chance it will work... ;^)

Paul Sunstone said...

I believed in Santa until I was eight. The magic meant a lot to me, and I still recall how disappointed I was the year I snuck out of bed to hide myself where I could see what really went on. But that disillusionment was an invaluable lesson for at least two reasons.

First, because it gave me a sense of just how much we can desire something to be true even when it's not. I later recalled how much I'd wanted Santa to be true when trying to understand why people insisted God was true.

Second, it taught me adults will lie with devotion when they think their lie is good for you. That doesn't seem like much of a point now -- now that I know people lie for all sorts of reasons, and certainly not just because they think they're doing you a favor. But back then it was a revelation that made sense of a lot of things.

It's my hunch I was well off having once believed in Santa precisely because of the valuable lessons I learned upon being disillusioned.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Paul!!!

Thus we have further evidence in favor of Jeff's technique... ;^)

Unknown said...

I think you're approaching the idea of Santa Claus the right way. You're allowing your child to have the fun of imagination, but also planting the seeds of critical thinking by challenging him to think about it.

I guess the only thing I wouldn't want to do is insist that Santa is real even after my child is questioning the reality of the myth.

Thanks for posting this, it helped me think through my own ideas!

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Ordinary Girl!!! Glad to be of service! :D

I agree about not insisting Santa is real after the kids have figured it out. That's just silly, and annoys the kids. They can still have fun with Christmas and Santa even if they don't think he's real.

Hellmut said...

Well, there is Saint Nicholas and then there are the impostors. Half of them are Anglos.

Everyone knows that the real Santa comes on Saint Nicholas day, which is December 6th. So put your polished boots out the night before . . . and leave a carrot for his donkey.

If you believe that Santa brings the presents on Christmas day then you are up for a rude awakening should you ever surprise the Christchild who always appears as a girl, by the way.

It's a mystery but it's true.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Hellmut!!!

Yeah, living here in Europe we get a slightly different set of traditions. My kids' grandma on their dad's side is originally from the Netherlands, so some years we've celebrated Saint Nicholas' Day the way you describe it.