A parent’s philosophical dance with SantaMy son John has decided to test the Santa Claus legend.
By: S.E. Livingston, Duluth Budgeteer News
My son John has decided to test the Santa Claus legend. He wants it to be real, but standing on the edge of adolescence has brought him to the point where he is ready to wave goodbye to the mystery. He has written a letter to Santa Claus and mailed it off without me seeing it. It is the definitive test of Santa Claus.
Santa Claus has always been a sketchy proposition for our family. Before having children we decided that we weren’t going to feed the legend. But face it, some of those ideas we have before children and after children don’t jive in reality. During early parenthood I heard a noted Christian psychologist, Dr. James Dobson, say that children need the freedom to believe in things like Santa Claus. Dobson explained that part of childhood was allowing the imagination to soar into the “what if’s.” At that point we took a fence-sitting position. We never mentioned Santa Claus, but we didn’t try to stamp him out. Pretty soon I was allowing that Santa might be the one filling up the stockings at Christmastime.
This worked until my kids were old enough to notice what was happening at the Joneses on Christmas morning. Not only did they believe in Santa, their auntie lived near him in Alaska. Mrs. Jones gave my boys Santa’s mailing address. I could no longer say that I didn’t know where exactly he lived or whether he still did that toy delivery gig. The neighbor boys were getting five or six big gifts from Santa; my kids got a few trinkets in their stockings.
That’s when my children began to ask hard questions wondering exactly what kind of rules Santa plays by.
I had no clever retorts. Santa defies logic because I can’t lay out hundreds of dollars to make Santa-the-gift-granter real.
Does this tension exist at your house, too?
Belief in Santa Claus is sacred to us because we wish there were a Santa.
We all would like to believe that there is mystery and magic out there that is bigger than we are. When our children believe in Santa, they are suspended in that magical world of the impossible for a little while. As parents we look at that wistfully and try to preserve the innocence for as long as we possibly can. We instinctively know that a life lived with childlike wonder is the more beautiful life to live.
We went to Bentleyville this week. (What an incredible visit, truly! Thank you Nathan Bentley, City of Duluth leaders and volunteers for the beautiful Christmas present to our city!) The only thing missing is a stash of small children to lend out to every group of adults heading into the park. Walking through Bentleyville with a little kid is the best way to feel the thrill and joy of the display.
As we headed into the gate, my kids couldn’t speak fast enough to express their delight. Every display, the hot chocolate, the cookies, the popcorn...all was cause for cheers and exclamation. I freely used my children’s energy as a catalyst to jump-start my own excitement. This is the childlike wonder that makes everything taste, sound and smell better.
Annie had to see Santa although I explained to her that this guy wasn’t the real Santa, probably just a representative. Annie had a breathless two minutes to sit and chat with this very kind man. As we left she turned to me and said, "Mom, you’re wrong. That WAS the real Santa."
I’m having a difficult time blending my Biblical traditions, cultural traditions, Truth and love of fantasy into one clean statement that makes sense for my children. Does it hurt them to allow this fantasy until they are old enough to work through it? Does this disappointment in things wished for in the face of things gained create jaded adults? It must not because it is we adults who continue the story from generation to generation, not wanting to destroy that childlike wonder.
John was baiting me yesterday afternoon, "Do you want to know what
I asked Santa for?"
"Please," I responded..
"Ten pounds of Italian Sausage from the Italian Village," he said.
Now that’s a wish Santa can approve of and one that just might cause childlike wonder in all of us!
Monthly columnist S.E. Livingston is a wife, mother and teacher who writes for family and education newsletters in northern Minnesota (and lives in Duluth). E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.