When I got married, there were a few things my husband and I kind of put on shelves, to be talked about at a later date. One of them was…. Santa. It’s time this year!
As a kid, I grew up with Santa. The fat cheery guy who creepily came down our chimney (did we even have a chimney? I was a little kid in Southern California… but I digress…) and filled our stockings full of treats and brought us big, fabulous shiny gifts. There was the year Santa brought be the American Girl doll I really wanted. The year Santa inexplicably knew that we were visiting my Grandmother in Kansas City, and had left my brother’s Nintendo with our Grandma in LA instead because he knew it would be difficult to bring it on a plane. Everything was good. Everything was fun and whimsical.
>>>> this would be the time to have kids not leaning over your shoulder.
Ok. Kids gone?
My husband didn’t. No Santa. They got gifts under the tree, treats in their stockings, and St. Nick left them gold coins in their shoes when they were older (and already knew Saint Nicholas was a representation- they were older and had converted to Orthodoxy, so Santa was already out of the equation).
My hubby has budged on trick or treating (he never did and is adamantly against Halloween- while Halloween was always one of my favorites), and even let me put out easter baskets (another he didn’t have as a kid, and one most Orthodox Christians don’t do).
After getting over initial sour grapes, and my emotional twinge, I realized his view has some very real, very rational points that I agree with. By equating Santa and an Easter Bunny with holidays our church holds in high reverence, we’re turning it into a holiday about who gets what. We’re risking our kids asking if Jesus is real, too. And really… does becoming obsessed with getting presents equal childhood innocence?
I do believe gifts mean more if they are from someone cherished. Our kids are already pretty spoiled, but I’d like for them to know their prized possession is from their parent/grandparent/friend/uncle who cares for them and wants them to be happy. Just like they will be able to give gifts and learn how fabulous it feels to give and make people happy.
Now, my hubby- who didn’t have either of them- still has the sense of magic and wonder with the holidays as I do. Well, ok, maybe not as much but that’s because I am always waaaay over dramatic, and he’s not- but our enjoyment of holidays has nothing to do with a bunny or fat man. He was still plenty innocent (and really, continues to be even as an adult than I am). So I can’t say that not having Santa in his life took something away from him, or that it didn’t give him a sense of wonder and excitement and anticipation with Christmas.
So…. where do we go from here?
Little man is at an old enough age (3) that he realizes what’s going on. He talks about Santa, and I’m sure his fellow preschoolers do, too. That’s cool. He’s not quite at an age where he’d spill the beans (he’s still battling some communication issues and let’s just say there is ZERO risk of it and putting two and two together). But still… it’s time to figure out our plan one way or another.
I remember the day I put two and two together- and it was completely devastating for both me and my mother. My friend had excitedly shown me what the Easter bunny brought her. I don’t remember the details- but there were game systems, probably hundred dollar dolls and metric a** tons of candy involved. Which made my (generous) basket of candy and a stuffed animal seem completely meager. I came home crying and complaining to my mom and asking her why on earth the Easter Bunny didn’t like me as much as the girl up the street. I was devastated thinking I was a horrible child or that the Easter Bunny just didn’t like me.
My mom, rightfully heartbroken at her ingrate little child, angrily blurted out “because…… I AM THE EASTER BUNNY. A THANK YOU WOULD BE NICE”. I remember locking myself int he bathroom crying all day, and peeking out to shout “that means SANTA… oh and the TOOTH FAIRY….” in between dramatic sobs and grasps for breath. I’m sure she didn’t mean for it to happen that way, but knowing my mom, she went out of her way handpiping our names on See’s easter eggs and thoughtfully put together a nice basket, just for me to complain it wasn’t as good.
I got over it just fine, and was good at keeping the fun secret for my younger brother. And holidays were still just as magical to me.
So was it the mythical beings, or my parents making us feel special, loved, and joyous for holidays? And why is it “magic” and “believing” and having childhood innocence can only come from Santa??
Outside of all of the logical arguments, how do people keep kids from blurting out things? Our son is in preschool, and like I said, he has some communication delays- so we’re ok this year. But I don’t want to be the mom whose kid ruins everything for everyone.
And when Easter rolls around this year, thankfully our Easters are the same in 2014- but being Orthodox Christian means two out of every three years our Easters fall on different days. The Easter Bunny just isn’t gonna happen. I think saying he came a full two weeks or a month after other kids is a stretch even for a little kid’s rationing skills. (baskets and treats at Pascha still will.. don’t think my poor kids are going unspoiled)
So, how do you get smart kids, or kids who aren’t participating, to not ruin everything??
I’m a very festive person, and am sure the lights, the music, the joy, the nativity, the services are the highlight of the season. So I have no problem thinking they aren’t going to get some magical mystery of the season. And I love the childhood innocence of it, but I think there are plenty of other ways to keep children’s innocence in tact. Just like our elf on a shelf doesn’t actually hold any powers or report back to Santa, we have him and I do fun things with him because the kids think its entertaining.
But am I going to completely scar my kids for not having Santa? In talking with friends, their reactions are more like we are cutting off a limb. “But… the innocence! They will ruin it for everyone! I loved it as a kid and your kids will find joy in nothing, ever, without Santa!!!” (and it’s not like I don’t believe some of these things myself, or I wouldn’t be having this huge verbal-diarrhea think-through with you all). I can’t help but ask myself if Santa is more for me or for them. In thinking of my special times as a kid eagerly anticipating seeing what Santa brought me, I wasn’t any less excited knowing who presents actually came from.
I do love the sense of magic it brings to kids- that sometimes there are things we can’t explain that happen and are wonderful. But it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other ways we can convey this (I mean, if Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, it’s not like there isn’t a whole book full of miracles that are great examples of things that happen that we can’t explain that we can always hold in our hearts as magical, special and whose words we won’t ever outgrow…).
And does making them lust over fancy presents really make the season more magical? Or does it just make it about what you got and didn’t get?
I do think that knowing gifts are from someone they love helps kids be thankful for the gift and learn to show appreciation, and come on- there will be LOTS of gifts knowing me- so it’s not like we’re giving out lumps of coal or anything. There will still be plenty of excited screams at trains, planes, dolls and books they’ve been dreaming about. They will just know its from someone who wanted them to feel loved and special and celebrate the TRUE meanings of holidays, not get caught up in who got what or how many things they got or didn’t get. I think it’s easier to express disappointment with some character they will never meet versus learning to be happy with what they receive from people they know and love- and really, isn’t that just setting them up for managing expectations later in life, instead of just want-want-wanting?
In the end, I am probably going to have Santa bring small trinkets and candy in stockings just so our kids aren’t the blabbers that send other kids to therapy. But thinking I have to do something because other parents are makes me a little annoyed. I will try to find other ways to preserve their innocence, which I refuse to admit comes solely from believing in something completely fabricated- even though I enjoyed that myself. I will also try to find other ways to add intrigue and wonder to holidays. After all, none of my Jewish friends who grew up Santa and Easter Bunny less are any worse off for it.
Please note I don’t feel that doing Santa or not doing Santa makes anyone better. It is a deeply personal choice, and I am just thinking out loud on what **I** take from it, and what I’d like my kids to take from it. I want your honest thoughts and ideas! I don’t think how my parents did Santa with us was wrong- but I also don’t in my heart feel that it is authentic with the way I want my kids to see things, either. It’s not an easy issue to navigate!
All that rationing having been said, I’d love your thoughts and input- especially for those who have navigated these issues!
And please, let’s remember everyone does this differently and keep comments supportive and civil. I’d like to start an open and honest dialogue and get some ideas to help each other as we navigate this together!