The red hat, the beard, the boots – all of it. It is true and it is real. When parents re-tell the Santa Claus story – however they re-tell the Santa Claus story – they are not duping their children and setting them up for a cultural fall from grace. No, the Santa Claus story is a gift – a story that has deep, nourishing value to your children who benefit from its re-telling every year.
Santa Claus is not real.
The Santa Claus myth is perpetuated by consumerism and is a lie we tell our children every year because we don’t want to disappoint them. And truthfully, we like the Santa Claus myth and want to feel the innocent faith in Christmas magic and mystery of our youth – but we know deep down that it is not true and only a matter of time before our children are “initiated” into the truth: there is no jolly old man that slips down the chimney. It is only Mom and Dad.
So how do you feel right now?
How did it feel to read the first version and then how did it feel to read the second version? I say feel because our children are much more interested in and attracted to how we feel than what we think. If we soaked up the first version and relaxed into the knowledge that Santa Claus is real, that is worth noting. If we sat up a little taller and nodded our heads to the second version, that is important too — because whatever is living inside us as adults and parents also lives also in our children.
I subscribe to the idea that children are sponges. I believe that they not only notice what we are doing and saying, but they also take in our feelings, our dreams, and our imaginations. They may not be able to articulate this, but I believe it is all there, ready to be communicated once they have a few tools in their toolbox.
So what does this mean – and what should we do?
First of all, spend a little time observing your own feelings about Santa Claus. Personally, I believe in Santa Claus. I also believe in fairies — but that is a different conversation. I believe that Santa Claus lives in me and my wife and even in my children when they wish to give a special gift that they made themselves. It is the delight, the wonder, the anticipation, and the time and energy given to creating something special. That is Santa Claus – and even though I haven’t seen a fat guy dressed in red in my living room laying a finger aside of his nose – I FEEL him every year on Christmas Eve. I FEEL his presence when I place gifts under the tree and munch on the cookies we left out for him. And I find myself listening for the sled on my roof – even though I live in Austin, Texas and it’s 70 degrees outside. I wonder … is that him?
Since my imagination has room for the story of Santa Claus, the story is true. Even though I know that the second version in which Santa Claus is not real may be factually correct, this version doesn’t make me feel delight, wonder, and possibility. And since delight, wonder, and possibility are all real currency in my parenting … I go with version one.
My two teenage boys know that I believe Santa Claus is real – and ever since we had the talk about Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, they like to roll their eyes a little bit and say “Dad, there is no Santa.” But I notice that they smile after saying it. That smile is confirmation to me. That is delight. And that means that the magic — and the truth — is still there.
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