Telling our children the truth about santa

For some reason, Christmas time seems to elicit controversial essays from me.  Take my one from a couple of years back, pitching Jesus against Santa – yikes!    I’m not one to deliberately stir things up but I’m also not the type to be insincere or to go along with things I don’t believe in.  So, before I proceed with this one, I just want to reiterate that my essays are personal and I endeavour only to offer a perspective on the topics I write about.   I don’t claim to know all that is right or true about parenting or life…or Santa.

Disclaimer made, I’ll admit right now that there is a lot about the way we celebrate Christmas in these current times that doesn’t sit right with me and Santa has always been one of them.  Here are just some of the reasons I’m not so fond of him from a soulful parenting perspective –

* When people talk about Christmas with children, it usually gets reduced to the question “what do you want Santa to bring you?”  Christmas can be so much more than that but it’s upto us adults to show the children in our lives where the meaning of the season lies.

* The comments children get from adults about Santa not coming if they don’t behave themselves.  I have intentionally avoided saying these things but other adults take the liberty of saying them to my boys.  Christmas is not a time for manipulating our kids into behaving in a way that suits us or causing them to question their worth and deserving.

* The older our children are when they realise Santa isn’t real, the more of a fool they will feel, the greater their sense of having been betrayed by us, their supposedly trustworthy parents.

* The potential for ridicule of believing children by peers who don’t believe.  At some point, our kids unfortunately become targets of those who are in-the-know if they believe in Santa.

My perspective is skewed by the fact that my parents never led me to believe that Santa was real.  Our family played the game enthusiastically, putting out milk, cookies & stockings on Christmas Eve and the story of it felt just as magical to me as it would have if I’d believed in it.  We let our imaginations go there.  My husband, on the other hand, remembers the wonder of having believed throughout childhood and didn’t want to rob our boys of that feeling.  So I have been going along with the whole Santa palaver while also working on changing my husband’s mind, trying to help (make) him see that Santa gets in the way of a more meaningful Christmas.  This year, I appreciate that he agreed to telling Jake (7 years old) the truth about Santa since it obviously meant so much to me.

Strangely enough, once he said that, I wasn’t so sure I wanted to tell Jake anymore.  What if I was robbing him of the excitement of Christmas?  Having been so certain for so long, I wavered.  But a moment came up this week when I was alone with Jake and I felt myself being pushed to fess up.  I even got nervous like I do when I have big news to deliver to someone, such as when I handed in my resignation from teaching.

I began by swearing Jake to secrecy before telling him – he couldn’t tell anyone, not even his brother, Thomas (4 years old), or his friends.  Which may have been pointless since, only a month ago, he shared the secret we had planned for my husband’s birthday with his whole class for morning news.

His first question on hearing the revelation was, “So it’s like a legend?”  I thought “legend” was a bit grandiose, but ok.  Then, predictably, “So where do the presents come from?”

I gave him an abbreviated history of Saint Nicholas.  I said that parents carry on the kindness of Saint Nick by filling stockings for their children.  I assured him we would still fill his stocking for him but I also offered him this – “Would you like to continue the kindness by helping Dad and I to choose presents for Thomas’ stocking, now that you know?”  Jake nodded enthusiastically and wanted to know when we could go shopping.  He had a new reason to look forward to Santa coming.

Something that didn’t occur to me before telling him the truth was that I would be roping Jake into lying for others.  “Remember, don’t tell Thomas.  Don’t tell your friends – it’s up to their parents to tell them when the time is right.  Just go along as if you believe”.  I hadn’t thought that the truth could turn out to be a burden of sorts for him.  The following day, we spoke about this further and I told him he didn’t have to lie when someone directly asked him if he believed in Santa but not to announce it to other kids.

After telling him the truth, I asked Jake, “So, how do you feel about the news?”  During our discussion, I thought I had detected some disappointment.  But his response surprised me.  He told me he was grateful that his Dad and I had filled his stocking up for “7 whole years” and thanked me very much.  I don’t think I’ve ever been thanked very much by him before.

Now that the “legend” of Santa has been corrected, my conscience is clear (at least in regards to Jake) and I’m relieved of having to come up with convincing explanations for the unexplainable (eg. “how does Santa get down the chimneys when he’s so fat?”).  And, most importantly, I have made room for more gratitude and generosity in Jake’s experience of Christmas.  I think it will be a little more soulful for him this year.


Much love to you and your little souls,


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