Indy with Kids seeks to provide many perspectives. This is our first Opinion piece and it’s a point of view that can either be controversial or readers can choose to learn from the thoughts of others. This perspective might even put to words some feelings that you yourself have had. Enjoy!
Contributed by Christine Mcnelis, Noblesville
We have a pretty controversial view of Santa in my house. Before I explain I want to quell your fears and let you know that with every Santa discussion in our house, the first thing we tell our children is that other people believe and that my kids are not the ones to tell them the truth. This has worked for us for 9 years now, and my kiddo even defended the Big Guy in Red to her 1st grade class when another student announced that Santa was not real.
We don’t do Santa with our kiddos – we actively tell them Santa isn’t real, he’s made up – and our holiday season is no less magical. Presents still appear under the tree overnight on the 24th. We have way too many countdown calendars leading up to the Big Day. We still have a tree, lights, lots of food, and way too many toys.
Growing up, I was terrified of Santa. My parents were of the “if you don’t believe, you don’t receive” variety. As a kid, why wouldn’t I believe the things my parents told me with conviction? I made a point to interact as little as possible with Santa, only enough to ensure I did ‘receive.’
Beyond Christmas day? My parents, and many others, send conflicting messages. They told us about Stranger Danger, but please, sit on this stranger’s lap. They told us don’t take candy from strangers, but take candy and toys from this guy? They reassured me that they locked the doors nightly, but if Santa could get in then bad guys could, too? Let’s be honest, trying to explain it away with ‘magic’ didn’t convince me of anything, and it probably won’t for particularly precocious kids in your lives either.
As an adult, I realized that I had more issues with this Magic Toy Man and I don’t want him involved in our kids lives. In addition to ‘kid fears’, the image of Santa can create very real, and problematic lessons that our kids can carry through life.
For example, we talk freely and frequently about the topic of consent in our house. I never want to put my kids in the position that they are expected to give up their bodily autonomy to sit on someone’s lap to receive gifts. I’m also the ‘Debbie Downer’ who hates to see photos of crying kids on Santa’s Lap. Your children are telling you that they don’t want to be in this situation by their actions.
We love the idea of Santa bringing minimal gifts and wish this was a more common approach. Some friends do “Want, Need, Wear, Read” which is a wonderful approach. How you approach gift giving to your child is up to you, but be aware that in classrooms in January kids across the country will be talking about what Santa brought them. Consider how children in different economic situations are going to be hurt or confused when one child gets a new xBox, but another student receives things that are of less (monetary) value. I hope those kiddos don’t question their “goodness” because their parents aren’t able to afford the more expensive gifts. The holiday season is meant to make our families happy, and to spread joy and love across the land. One of the least things we can do is be more considerate of which items to give to your child from you, not Santa. Besides, don’t you, the parent, want credit for that thing your child absolutely craved and is excited about? Own that!
We also try really hard to avoid lying to our kids. I know there is a debate if telling your kids the story of Santa is considered lying to them, but at some point once your child knows the truth. Eventually it’s going to dawn on them that every adult in their life was in on this lie. Every adult conspired to deceive them because the adults thought “one little lie about this isn’t that bad.” Remember though, the lessons we teach our kids now, even small ones innocuous lies, can reverberate and inform the rest of their personality, growth, and world-view.
One thing I really, really hate is people who are just cruel to children about this in December. Children can feel the stress and pressure to BE GOOD in the month of December. They can feel your stress, too. It’s an exciting time of year – winter break from school, holiday lights wherever they go, loads of extra/special food and treats, but you still have to be on your best behavior because HE IS WATCHING 24/7. Step one toe over the line and Christmas is canceled! It’s not funny to throw fake presents into the trash or in the fireplace to teach your kids a lesson nor to have “Santa” as a phone contact to call to snitch on your kids.
We want to hear your comments and thoughts in the comments below. Respectful conversation only please.