I never thought about whether it was okay to let a child believe in Santa Claus until I had children. On our oldest son’s first Christmas, I remember parenting websites being abuzz about Santa Claus – Would you let your child believe in Santa? Is lying to my child about Santa wrong? It had never occurred to me that encouraging belief in Santa was “lying.”
I responded that of course I would let my child believe in Santa! I still remember being too excited to sleep on Christmas Eve, thinking every sound outside signaled Santa’s arrival. I read a book that assured me Santa’s reindeer really could fly, and it was all because of the magic corn he fed them. I really wanted to get my hands on some of that corn!
Now that my oldest son is four, I am having to answer questions about Santa. Some of them are pretty easy to come up with an answer for, such as, “Are there bathrooms at the North Pole?” and “Does Santa get his own bathroom, or does he have to share a little bathroom with the elves?” I explained that Santa probably gets his own Santa-sized bathroom, and my son seemed satisfied with that.
As we were entering Wal-Mart this week, I gave my son some money for the Salvation Army and Toys for Tots buckets. I told him he was doing a good thing by donating money, and I explained what it would be used for. As we started discussing Toys for Tots, I told him the money would be used to buy toys for kids who may not get toys this Christmas. Of course, he asked why they wouldn’t have toys, and I told him their parents don’t have the money to buy them.
I held my breath, waiting for what I thought was the inevitable. “Why would their parents have to buy presents? Santa does that!” Luckily, he was already busy talking about the cool “Army” (Marine) guy, and I avoided the Santa conversation.
I may have avoided it for now, but I know it will happen.
At eight years old I remember opening my parent’s closet door for some reason. It was almost Easter, and the Easter Bunny always left my brother and me baskets of candy and toys to find when we woke up. As I peered into the closet, I saw two big Easter baskets full of goodies. I tried to figure out why the Easter Bunny would do such a silly thing – then it hit me. I ran to the kitchen and told my mom that I knew she was lying to me about the Easter Bunny. She reluctantly admitted the Easter Bunny was not real, but I wasn’t too disappointed knowing the truth – it was just the Easter Bunny after all.
As I stood there watching my mother cook dinner, another thought entered my mind. “If the Easter Bunny isn’t real, the Tooth Fairy probably isn’t either!” I asked my mom, and again, she admitted she was the one paying me for my baby teeth. Then, the most horrific of horrific thoughts entered my young mind – “If the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are not real, WHAT ABOUT SANTA?!”
When I finally got the question out, my mom answered, “I’m sorry, honey, but Santa’s just pretend too.”
I was naturally upset to find out the whole Santa thing was bogus. I mean, I had suspected it for a while, but every Christmas Eve the weatherman showed me where Santa was on the weather map. Why would the weatherman lie? “The news is for grown-ups,” I thought, “they aren’t gonna lie about something this serious!”
Though I was upset, I don’t remember feeling betrayed. Now that I am grown, I wouldn’t trade those first few magical Christmases of my life for anything. Children pretend about all sorts of things. I remember tearing pictures of vacuum cleaners out of magazines as a child and selling them for a quarter each. I was convinced that I had started my own business – offering pictures of vacuums – and my mom assured me that it was a great idea for a business. Was she lying? Uh, yeah – there’s not a big market for that. I wasn’t hurt by it though, it was just good childhood fun.
An article published by Live Science last year said it’s okay to let your children believe in Santa, according to psychologists. It’s no different than any other form of make believe, they say, and children can handle the letdown when they find out Santa is not real.
Some parents insist that Santa is real long after their children begin having serious doubts, and some admit the truth as soon as their child figures it out. Some parents go to great lengths to prove Santa’s existence to their children, and some take a more relaxed approach and never put a lot of pressure on their child to believe Santa is real. There are also those who refuse to tell the Santa lie altogether, and their children never believe in Santa.
As far as I’m concerned, there’s no one right way to handle the Santa situation. Personally, my kids will still sit on Santa’s lap, send their letters to the North Pole, and listen for footsteps on the rooftop for as long as they care to. When they finally bust me, whether it’s this year or five years from now, I will tell them the truth and hope that they take it well. I suspect that they’ll be just fine.