Warning: This column contains sensitive information related to Santa. Keep out of reach of children.
Warning: This column contains sensitive information related to Santa. Keep out of reach of children. Although if your child is old enough to read this and would still be upset, it's probably time to let your child read this column.
Santa makes me uncomfortable. Part of it is the creep factor: A flushed, bearded old man with a huge gut watches your kids when they're sleeping and wants them to sit on his lap in the mall. The other part is that perpetuating the myth requires me to lie to my kids. Both aspects force moms and dads to parent hypocritically. We teach kids about stranger danger, yet we sit them on a stranger's lap while they bawl (oh, and take his candy, too). We tell our kids not to lie while going to absurd lengths to convince them of Santa's veracity.
The Santa story requires willful deception, which our culture overwhelmingly approves and even revels in. That inherent tension informs the Santa philosophy in our house. My wife and I don't dwell on Santa, nor do we visit him in the mall, but we do reluctantly leave him cookies on Christmas Eve. As a result, our kids like Santa, but they're more curious than fanatical. Liam, my 6-year-old, recently quizzed me about old St. Nick.
"Daddy, how could Santa fly? Reindeer don't really fly."
"And Santa can't fit down the chimney, right? How could he do that? That's not real is it?"
"What do you think, Liam?"
"I don't think he flies."
I felt a sense of relief. The jig is up, I thought. He figured it out. But then he continued.
"Santa must do it another way," he said. "He probably just comes through the door or window or something."
Aside from Santa, I'm anything but a humbug. I love Christmas. I love decorating our tree, then re-decorating it after the kids go to bed.
I also affirm the good things about Father Christmas - his generosity, the sense of wonder he inspires, the childlike faith his existence requires. But even those good traits get complicated for parents who teach their kids about the biblical Christmas story, as we do. We want them to know Jesus is real, yet we expect them to internalize the story of an infant savior and a yarn about a present-bearing man from the North Pole?
Maybe this will be the year we delicately break the news. My kids play with make-believe characters every day, and the pretend aspect doesn't detract from their enjoyment.
Or maybe we'll chicken out for fear of ruining another family's Christmas tradition. However, if your kid is a Santa truther, feel free to send him our way.
-Joel Oliphint is a freelance writer. His two kids refer to Bob Evans as Bob Dylan's and still don't know the purple dinosaur's name.