Will killing off Santa put me on the naughty list? Welcome in to ParentalGrit, where today we’re plunging headfirst into the philosophical debate of the holiday season: should we play along with the Santa Claus experience or banish him from our Winter Wonderland? As I have experienced on social media for the last few days, people are rather…passionate about their side. As parents, it seems like we’re either murdering our kids’ childhoods and sense of whimsy (no Santa) or raising entitled brats and reinforcing inequality bullying (pro Santa). In the ParentalGrit household, our oldest daughter recently turned three years old, which means we’re just now reaching the stage where we need to gameplan how Christmas will operate in our household? So, once more, do we allow Santa to be Rockin’ Around our Christmas Tree? Or do we roast his chestnuts on an open fire and find other Christmas traditions to embrace?
When I first broached this subject on Twitter, I made the fatal error of projecting some sarcasm into this contemplation:
If you have been reading or following ParentalGrit for more than 3 minutes, you know that I tend to…ummm…saturate my writings and beliefs with heavy doses of sarcasm and hyperbole. This approach, baffling as it may be, does not always play well with other parents, particularly when a subject is viewed as even moderately contentious. Regardless, returning to the tweet itself: pettiness may be a bit too self-deprecating, but I confess to having legitimate concerns about deflecting the praise to the mystical annual trespasser called Santa Claus.
Independent of the season and occasion itself, my wife and I have worked and do work incredibly hard to provide for our little girls. While it is incredibly difficult to impress the everyday blessings of food, shelter, and essentials to a young child, presents and gift-giving provide a more transparent and clear-cut forum to teach kids that consumption is always the fruit of labor and that abundance can only manifest after diligence. Ignoring my plea for proper attribution, should we be capitalizing on Christmas as an opportunity to teach our girls where gifts truly come from by bypassing the chance for a little Christmas magic?
Furthermore in the case against Santa is the worry of entitlement. This is certainly not a standard occurrence (of course “Santa-raised” kids can be appreciative), but occasionally the Santa ruse can generate a sense of greed in the little ones. Many people have shared with me a moment where a kid said something along the lines of “Santa didn’t get me everything I wanted” or “Santa went cheap this year”; again, this doesn’t have to be a part of the Santa experience, but it is still worth some consideration. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Christmas has exploded over the past few decades and 1-2 presents has become 27 presents, a bulging stocking, a pony, and a fully staffed private 747. I can see why some parents exclude Santa in an attempt to rein in the excess.
Finally, in our case against Santa, several parents have reached out to me to discuss how inequality potentially enters the situation. For example, one kid at school might return from Christmas break in January and tell tales of Christmas triumph as Santa came through with a new iPad and Playstation 14 (or whatever is the newest system); meanwhile, his best buddy received a hand-me-down sweater and a special collection of Flintstones VHS tapes found in an unknown corner of the Goodwill store. How different families approach the Santa conundrum may leave some kids feeling left out or feeling like they behaved too poorly to receive the gifts their parents just couldn’t afford. I can certainly sympathize with this sentiment, although I can’t say I’ve actually seen it in practice.
Now enough with the Santa hate…allow me to flip to the other side and petition strongly for the plump old recluse. Christmas. Is. FREAKING. MAGIC. There, I said it. I may not have made up my mind on how to approach Santa, but I absolutely cannot ignore the whimsical majesty of the holiday which inevitably includes Mr. Claus. I can’t remember a ton about my Santa thoughts growing up, but I certainly recall writing letters to the North Pole with fervor and waking up the entire household at 5 am to attack the Christmas tree. There is just an intangible, wonderful beauty to watching a kid immersed in the Santa myth. Whether it’s setting out cookies and milk (or samosas and beer, as one Twitterer shared), throwing some carrots on the front lawn (for the reindeer, of course), writing the gift request, or basking in the glow of Christmas morning, there is a special experience there that can rarely be duplicated. As a parent, is it worth forfeiting these traditions to teach kids a lesson?
As several pro-Santa parents who contacted me stated, let kids be kids. There is a small window where this gullibility or wonder or whatever you want to call it exists; why not enjoy the ride while you still can? Let them have their experience while the world is new and magic still abounds; there’s plenty of time left in life for grounding in reality and disappointment ( 🙂 ).
I have to admit, I’m a total sucker for Christmas and all it entails (as is my wife). I’m already counting the years before I can watch Home Alone with my toddler and my wife and I are still developing our own family traditions. I love the music. I love the giving. I love the movies. And I even love Santa. We are, however, still debating how large a role that Jolly Old Nutcase will play in our own Christmas experience.