Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, pro wrestling.
All of these things have something in common, and I think you know where I’m going with this. There is a certain imaginative quality about each. A figure of youthful, wishful innocence.
Some believe, some do not. I happen to fall into the latter category, and I always have. Before you start throwing silver bells and beating me with candy canes, let me explain.
When I was a young elf, my parents made the decision to be open and not to mislead their children about the existence of Kris Kringle. I grew up in a Christian household, but Christmas was not a religious holiday. It was, and continues to be, a time where we celebrate family and friends. We exchange gifts, eat special treats and just enjoy each other.
Christmas was flexible. We always visit my mother’s side of the family on Christmas Eve, but the rest is up in the air. Sometimes my immediate family would exchange one gift a day, from Christmas until New Year’s. Sometimes we would do everything on Christmas Eve. Trees were not always included. One year we made Thanksgiving our big holiday. Whatever we did, it was what WE wanted, to create a most joyful experience.
Our gifts came from our loved ones, and we knew that and were grateful. The man whose belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly was still included in the fun, but we knew a regular Joe was under the layers of red and white.
My boyfriend, my partner in this thing called parenthood, had the exact opposite Christmas experience. He is all about tradition and formality. He is also a believer, and wants our son to be. It’s part of Christmas, he says. I’m just not into it. I can play along with other children, but when it comes to my own I have trouble.
It’s not because I want my son to shower us with praise for the gifts which he received. A “thank you” is polite, but I could care less about that.
I was talking with a friend about this issue and she worried about fairness. How could Santa bring a NintendoDS-3D to one child, but not to another? Or, why does Santa not bring gifts to the children on the Angel Tree? We don’t really buy gifts for our son, because we have a very generous family, and we don’t need a lot of stuff. A couple necessities are wrapped for our gift time, but nothing big.
Is it a time for good behavior? I remember one year saying that I had to be good, because Christmas was near. My mom said, “No, you need to be good, because you should always be good.” Regardless of the time of year, or what holiday was approaching, good behavior was expected.
I don’t want to lie to my children. Not even a little white lie. Especially when caught off-guard by a sweet child with an investigative personality. I’m a horrible, horrible liar, and I know I’d end up getting something wrong which I believe would cause more harm than not believing.
More importantly, I want my children to trust me. If I say something as matter-of-factly as I say S.C. is real, then he turns out not to be, what else will they think I’ve lied about? I find no joy in misleading people. What if I tell them he does exist, and a bully on the playground tells them otherwise?
The flexibility is nice. At Thanksgiving dinner, we were talking about when my little family of 3 would celebrate our Christmas together. We are blessed with a big family, that is mostly spread between Cabell and Kanawha counties. Last year, we hit up Cabell families on Christmas Eve and Kanawha families on Christmas. It worked beautifully and was the best Christmas we’ve had together, yet.
I mentioned doing our Christmas on the 26th, or maybe the 23rd. My FSFIL (faux step-father-in-law) alluded to the fact that we wouldn’t be able to do that much longer, because we’ll have to start opening our gifts Christmas morning so the magic won’t be broken. That had never crossed my mind. I prefer taking the time that we want, when we want it.
I see no harm in letting my son believe, but I don’t feel the need to foster the belief. I plan on remaining honest and if he decides, as he gets older, that he wants Santa to be more than imaginative, well, we’ll see what happens.
In the end, I know it doesn’t really matter. It’s childhood fun and whether they believe or not, the holidays won’t be ruined. I guess. I’m new to this mothering thing, so what do I know?
Are you a believer? Are your children?