My good friend and fellow blogger, Code Name:Mama, has a post today entitled: We Don’t Do Santa. My initial reaction is “Oh no!” because I am just head over heels for anything Christmas and that includes Santa Claus! I even have an “elf on the shelf” type thing called Christopher Pop-in-kins. So, are Dionna and I completely on opposite sides of this issue?
On closer inspection – no. I’d like to take her post points in reverse order and discuss!
Her third point is “I don’t want to condition the amount or quality of gifts on Kieran’s behavior” and I agree vehemently! I think the concept of “naughty” and “nice” is a complete fallacy and not something I would ever label my kids with. I believe both praise and (of course) punishment are counter-productive. I’m shocked at how many parents “love” December because they have an extra threat to use against their kids – SANTA IS WATCHING! What a horrible connotation to put on a man (the real St. Nicolas) and a myth (a myth of a man that gives to children). This technique is all about controlling children which is, by default, conditional parenting.
For more information on parenting unconditionally, read this wonderful article by Scott Noelle, What is Unconditionality? And, of course, Alfie Kohn’s book Unconditional Parenting which is available in the BabyDust Library.
I actually own a book/doll Christmas tradition called Christopher Pop-in-kins [1. This is the original “elf on a shelf” and was created in 1975 by an Ohio mother.]. The tradition is you read the beautiful story book on Thanksgiving night and then each morning the pose-able doll is hidden somewhere in the house and your child has to find him. The story includes the line spoken by Santa, “If I know my boys and girls, and I think I do, they will try extra hard to be good when they discover you in their very own homes.” I don’t read this line and I don’t use the doll in that way at all. I enjoy the daily tradition of finding the elf.
Dionna’s second point is, “Too often Santa emphasizes the spirit of receiving more than he does the spirit of giving” and I agree with this as well but I don’t think it is inherent in the Santa myth or the reality of St. Nicolas but something that our consumer-driven culture adds to Christmas. Aellyn is still too young but I think there are many ways to incorporate the appropriate spirit of giving into the Santa tradition.
- Do your kids write letters to Santa with loooong lists of “wants”? Like prayer, which should also not be a list of wants, letters to Santa should include thanks, wishes for others, and then a single want. My letters as a child were never extensive lists. The excitement was in the writing and sending (Macy’s has a beautiful mailbox that makes a wonderful tradition).
- Does your Christmas include your children making and giving gifts to others? Do you regularly take old toys to charity? Do you have your child volunteer with you in age appropriate ways? For me, Christmas is a season of giving and I actively pursue events that make this possible.
- Go out to the stores with your child specifically to buy a toy for Toys for Tots.
- Keep a box near your front door and add to in with every grocery trip. When it is full take your kids with you to drop it off at the food bank.
- Make cookies and take them to your local Women’s shelter. (Remember we think of grown women when we think of Women’s shelters but they are full of displaced kids that sometimes had to leave everything they owned behind.)
- Hospitals and Retirement homes always include children in their holiday activities.
- Both you and your child go next door and help shovel the drive (if you live where there is no snow, then :P!)
- For our family, Christmas is not “about” Santa Claus. He is just a fun tradition of fantasy that adds to the season. By participating in religious activities we stress the “reason” for the season. Lighting advent candles, reading children’s books about Jesus’ birth and other church activities are an important and joyful, gift-free, part of Christmas for us.
Her first point is the one where I don’t agree with her: “I want Kieran to be able to trust us, and lying to him about Santa would be a breach of that trust in my eyes.” While I respect her position (and especially where her heart is on this) I don’t feel like weaving the fantasy of Santa for my toddler is lying any more than letting her watch Dora is lying to her about talking monkeys with red boots. I did really like Dionna’s post about the lies we tell our children (read it over at Grumbles and Grunts) but those lies are told for the purpose of manipulation (which is the heart of conditionality). Of course if Santa is all about manipulation of behavior then I would agree that it was a constructed falsehood.
I see Santa as fantasy and magic. No different than talking animals in books we read or stories of the stars and moon like my favorite fable (for more read Moon Gazing with your Toddler: Science, Nature, and a touch of Folklore):
|How The Moon Regained Her Shape
by Janet Ruth Heller
Another point about lying. When I was 8 and asked my mom “Mom, are you Santa?” she told me yes. To perpetuate at that point would have been lying. When I was 3 I didn’t need to differentiate between “pretend” and “real”. We don’t worry that our children will believe in talking monkeys when they are 20. But, while they do believe in make-believe it is pure magic and I want Aellyn to have that as long as she can. As logic becomes part of your child’s reasoning they will begin asking questions about the probability of the Santa Claus myth. I think it was valuable to figure it out and it sparked great coversations. I was never upset at my parents. I was ready to know the details of what Santa is. Even after I knew the “truth” about Santa Claus I still played the game each year because it was fun, tradition, and magical. Same with the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.
When my daughter is old enough to learn that mom and dad are Santa Claus she will already be on her way to learning that she is Santa Claus too. That, like Jesus, who was real and lived long ago, the spirit lives on when we give and love others.
That’s my take. Thanks for the thought provoking post Dionna. We are definitely on the same page on the things that matter most I think.
What is your take on Santa Claus with your kids?