The Santa Situation

I’m at odds about this whole Santa situation.

On the one hand, Santa is pretty much inescapable. Even at not quite two and not quite three, my girls are already being asked about Santa by family, friends and even strangers. We’ve even taken pictures with Santa at the mall the past three years. Santa is a tradition. The above picture is last years’ as this years’ picture was terrible.

But the other side of me wholeheartedly believes that Santa is just another pointless lie people tell their kids.

So let me explain. I was very very young when my mother pulled my siblings (both older) and I into her bedroom to tell us that Santa wasn’t real. I don’t know why she chose to tell us at that time – she’s passed so I can’t ask her now. I am guessing that she told all three of us at once to prevent my older siblings from telling me themselves. That part is understandable. Maybe one of my siblings questioned her, or maybe one had been told by a peer. Who knows. All I know, and all that sticks with me even as a 34-year old adult, is that I was absolutely devastated. I cried and cried and probably broke my mom’s heart. It is one of those ridiculous moments that I never really got over.

I cannot do this to my daughters. Just the thought of breaking their hearts the way mine was hurt makes me feel like a terrible parent.

My husband, while he empathizes, had a much different experience. He is an only child and his parents never spoke to him about Santa not being real. He just aged out of it, figuring it out on his own.

Am I overreacting? Maybe. Maybe my experience was a unique one. But to intentionally lie to my children and risk hurting them the way that I was hurt? I don’t know if I can do that.

There are certain things that stick with you forever. Mistakes you’ve made that hurt the ones you love, regrets that just linger on those nights your brain just won’t let you sleep. Just as an example, there are a few teachers that always stick out in my mind, and not for good reason. I have always wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was little. It wasn’t due to being inspired by one that I had; I had some good teachers, and I had some not so good teachers. But I never had that close life-altering experience with a favorite teacher. The ones I remember are the ones who embarrassed me in front of my peers. The one that is most vivid is my fourth grade Social Studies teacher. We were presenting our state projects (I had Kansas because that’s where Dorothy came from) and my teacher called me out because the nifty Lisa Frank folder I was showing off was actually made in Kansas City, Missouri, not Kansas City, Kansas, as I had assumed. Silly, right? In a strange, life is kind of funny moment, this teacher turned principal turned school administrator later hired me for my first teaching assignment. She didn’t remember me. I, of course, remembered her.

I know how to navigate the lie – it’s easy, because Santa is everywhere. But I don’t want to do it. On the other hand, I don’t know how in the world I could get around not telling this lie about Santa. Would I have to make an announcement to friends and family (and even strangers) that we don’t do Santa? And then, explain why I made this decision? Would I have to worry that my girls would say something to a peer once they’re older, essentially ruining Santa for someone else? This isn’t as bad as lying to my children, but I wouldn’t want to be responsible for someone else’s child’s devastation. That’s a whole different burden to carry. Do I choose a middle ground and try to come up with some kind of explanation about Santa being in charge of the toys and moms and dads being Santa’s helpers?

I have no clue.

We may have visited Santa this year but we’ve never mentioned it in the context of getting presents or them being good. By the way, bribing children to be good in return for presents, in my unasked for opinion, is a ridiculous reason for parents to perpetuate Santa. The girls’ small presents have been wrapped for a month and a half and are sitting on top of their toy fridge in the playroom. Our oldest knows that they are presents an she knows she will get them on Christmas. The dollhouse that we are building as their big present is scattered in pieces all over the bedroom she naps in. She reminds me every time I put her down that ‘mommy needs to build dollhouse.’ Working on it, kid.

So at this point, presents aren’t secrets. Santa doesn’t bring them. And being good doesn’t have any effect on what they are getting. But next year, we may have to figure something else out. At this point, I don’t really know what we will do. While my husband and I have discussed it casually, we still haven’t come to a final decision on what we will do.

To lie, or not to lie. That’s the question I am just not ready to answer yet.


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