What do you tell your media saturated kids when they ask you if Santa is real?
I tell them he is, describe how he can fold his body up to slide down our chimney. I tell them which reindeer are the oldest, fastest, strongest; what their favorite foods are (if you read my food post, you can guess which). There are girl reindeers, of course. Mrs. Claus is Sara, an artist who specializes in animal portraiture.
I feel guilty lying to my kids (though their faces are adorable sucking it all up.) I wonder how old they will be when they figure me out. Will they be mad, sad, disillusioned? Will they ever believe me or take me seriously again?
Probably, it’s no big deal. I don’t know, because I didn’t grow up believing any of this stuff. I thought, for the longest time– until I was way too old– that there was a clear line between truth and fiction, and I knew it absolutely. Not only did that conviction drive me to become a philosophy major (virtually unemployable) but I think it made some universal parts of growing up slower than they had to be (or this could be just my latest excuse for prolonged adolescence.) Anyway, now I believe that all these myths serve a brilliant purpose: a gentle way for kids to learn well-intended parents are not always reliable sources of truth.
My girls are 13 and 10. I know they know the truth but I love that they still pretend to believe. I know that they do it for me because I am a big Christmas geek. They are wonderful, generous, loving young ladies and they embody the spirit of Santa Claus. Believing in Santa and having parents who “lied” to them did not scar them for life!
I don’t feel guilty at all about perpetuating the Santa fantasy. I even insisted on his reality when my 4 year old pointed out some practical inconsistencies (like how did Santa get the tent and the art table down the chimney? I would love to hear your description of how Santa folds his body up, but I made up something about how Santa is magic and he can make things larger at smaller at whim, as it suits his objectives, including his own body. My daughter also noticed that she had seen one of her stocking presents– a ladybug magnet– in a store she’s been to with me. Well, Santa also has access to all retail stores, in both a supply and demand role). I don’t think you should stress about lying to your children. They will figure out Santa isn’t real on their own time, and not resent you for spinning a great story. I wish I’d believed in Santa as a kid, but (as you know!) I had a different kind of mother.
What confuses me more is what to do about heaven. For some reason I feel stranger about perpetuating that story than Santa’s– I wonder if it’s because I’m less 100% sure heaven is a fairytale. Or because the context of confronting mortality (“But I don’t want to die!” my daughter said– yikes, I was totally unprepared to deal with that from a four year old, though I should have been) is so much more serious. But after telling my kid in a kind of wobbly way “Well, many people believe that when you die you go to a place called Heaven, where you get to be with everyone you love,” I felt much more conflicted and unsure about how to handle the conversation or whether I was doing teh right thing than I ever have felt about leaving milk, cookies, and raisins for Santa. Go figure…
What can I say – “we” (by this I mean not only my own family with four kids but also my birth family with six siblings) all chose to believe in Santa. Growing up, I did believe and I loved it. I started to figure it out on my own somewhere between six and ten, but still chose to believe because it was fun.
With my own kids I just could not imagine not continuing the fantasy – we all enjoyed it: parents and kids. I think thee is plenty of time to start to let children see the mystery revealed and kids have a great way of letting you know when they are ready to hear a more realistic version of Santa. It just seems to unfold for them when they are ready.
I think the belief in Santa fades as we get older. Our son is still trying to convince us he’s real. He’s justifying and rationalizing it. This morning he said, “you and mom can’t afford a DS, so he’s real.” I don’t remember how old I was when I figured it out. Or did a friend break it to me?
I do not have children so I may not even be in a position to comment, but, from a philosophical standpoint, it seems that a Utilitarian would not tell their child/children that Santa is fictitious in an effort to maximize happiness, while Kant would advise the mother (or father) to explain the different beliefs regarding Santa so that the child/children would be able to make an informed decision.