Saturday, December 18, 2010

This is NOT the Year We'll Be Revealing Santa Claus

Santa Claus is alive and well in our household.

Alive on DVD, in coloring books, and on Christmas ornaments.

But you won't find his name on any presents under the tree, you won't find any cookies next to the fireplace, or any "reindeer food" on our front yard. That's because our kids have always known that Santa is not real. So, we won't have to tell them the truth about Santa, because as long as they have gotten Christmas presents, they've known where they really came from - Mom and Dad.

(insert gasp)

Yes, according to my own mom, we are stealing all the magic away from Christmas by telling our kids the truth about Santa. We have never had Santa come visit our house, and yet I'm shocked that our kids can actually enjoy the Christmas season. (That's sarcasm, in case you couldn't tell).

Our children have been told, from day one, that Santa is a fun part of Christmas and it's okay to pretend about him, talk about him, watch movies about him, and even sing about him. We've explained that Santa is like Big Bird: a pretend character. Our children have never questioned us about how that works; they've never assumed we're fibbing about Santa (or Big Bird for that matter) and it hasn't damaged them, emotionally or otherwise, to know that their friends believe in Santa while we do not.

I would never, ever begrudge someone who loves to celebrate Santa in their home with their children. Maybe Santa has a really special meaning to them. Maybe some parents have warm fuzzy memories of Santa as a child and want to give that to their own children as well. I think that's completely fine and understandable. But on the flip side, I'd like to share with you some of the wonderful benefits of having a "Santa-free" Christmas:

1. Our kids can focus on the true meaning of Christmas without distraction. Every year as December 25th gets closer and closer, I feel like Jesus is getting upstaged by Santa. It doesn't matter how many people say that they know Jesus is the center of this holiday, Jesus always gets pushed out of the limelight by the fat guy. It's like a woman coming to a wedding, dressed in very provocative clothing and getting drunk on the dance floor... I mean, we know whose day it is supposed to be but who really stole the show?
2. Our kids have a solid understanding of the line between reality and fantasy. A child's imagination is developed through discovery and fantasy, but the lines often get blurred when they get conflicting messages from adults. How can they make decisions on their own about what is real and what is not, when one day there's a Santa Claus (or tooth fairy or Easter Bunny) and the next day there isn't? I had a friend share a story with me about a girl in her son's class who, upon learning the truth about Santa, said to her parents, "Well, how do I know what you say is true? Is God even real?" That's a conversation we won't be having in our house.
3. Our kids are normal, and they get excited about presents at Christmas time. But there just isn't as much materialism at Christmas as I've read about in some families. I think Santa naturally feeds into that materialism because kids think they're getting gifts from two separate sources: Mom and Dad, but then Santa too! So, that means twice the amount of presents, right? That might not have to do so much with Santa, but more to do with the individual family and how much money they are willing to spend to keep the Santa myth alive. But for us, we've enjoyed having a wonderful and budget-friendly Christmas every year.
4. Parents have a pretty short window of opportunity - getting shorter every day - with which to build a solid foundation with their kids. So, until their minds are taken over by raging hormones, I want to give our children as much honesty as possible and lay that foundation of trust between them and us. Telling our children the truth about Santa, and the tooth fairy, and where babies come from, etc., we are able to back up our statements with, "We always tell you the truth. ALWAYS. So you know that what we say is true." They know our home to be a place where they will be given honesty every day, and they know their parents to be people who keep their word.
5. My kids don't feel the need to blab about "THE TRUTH ABOUT SANTA!!!!!" because it's not a newly-revealed secret to them. They've known the truth about Santa all their lives so it's like yesterday's news. You don't have to worry about my kid in 2nd grade spilling the beans about Santa. They have a lot of practice saying, "Well, what do YOU believe?" or "Every family does Christmas a little different." or "Well, what do your Mom and Dad tell you?" They've also been fully versed in how to avoid the subject of Santa without lying, and without ruining the surprise for their friends, which also teaches them a lesson in tact.
6. Never having to worry about revealing Santa means never having to compare Christmas "BS" - "Before Santa" and Christmas "AS" - After Santa. I've heard some moms get hung up on Christmas not being as special or magical once the kids know the truth about Santa. I wonder, who was the magic for? Was it for the kids or was it for the parents?

We're not fanatics in our family. We aren't anti-Santa, we are just Pro-Jesus. Unfortunately, sometimes being Pro-Jesus means doing things that are counter-society. That is really hard, especially when most of the world wants to push Jesus aside in favor of things that are more FUN! and SHINIER! and FASTER! and BETTER! and EASIER!

But I have to tell you, the absence of Santa Claus in our house has never meant the absence of the magic of Christmas. The magic comes from believing in something and then witnessing the incredible reality. How many kids have wished for Santa to bring them something special, only to be let down by what they actually received? Our own children have certainly been let down by us more than once, but they've never been let down waiting for the birth of Christ. Jesus comes, every year, in that manger. Jesus comes on Christmas morning and we sing hymns and we remember how, just the night before, we read the Christmas story together as a family, as the last thing we did before going to sleep. Jesus comes every year, whether my kids are 3 or 8 or 11, and he'll keep coming back long after other children have learned "not to believe".

And, I'm not going to lie... I do have a problem with Santa because he's pushed on us so much. We are told that we're ruining Christmas if we don't believe in him. That we're no fun. That we're robbing our children of this childhood rite of passage. HOOEY! Why do I have to conform to what society is pushing on me? What about the popular Bratz dolls, complete with their attitudes and inappropriate clothing - should I accept those for my child too? Or how about cable "kids" programs that show tweens being disrespectful to adults, sneaking around to get into trouble, then lying to get out of trouble? I am tired of people telling me to just "get used to it, it's in the world and your kids are going to see it eventually." Yes they will, but I am not going to give it to them. I'm not going to bring it into my house, giving implied acceptance of it all. The Santa thing can get out of hand VERY VERY quickly, teaching kids that they only get rewarded with presents when they are good and get nothing if they are bad. Our family's belief system is that we get God's Greatest gift in spite of the fact that we are inherently bad and unable to be perfect. They are exact opposite messages.

And by the way, how many parents use the threat, "If you misbehave, Santa won't bring you any presents!" Then the kid misbehaves. And do the parents actually have Christmas without presents for that child?

I'm not perfect - I mess up a lot of things and I make a zillion parenting mistakes every day. But this choice to keep Santa in his place during the month of December has been one of the best decisions we have ever made.

Texan Mama


Anonymous said...

I spent the first several Christmases in our daughter's life laying the groundwork for TRUTH in Santa disclosure from the start. Santa is the part of everyone that wants to share and give... which I do believe. Many different reasons than yours, but at heart, I didn't want to spend years lying to my child. When she was 3, if you asked her, she'd say "no - santa is just part of everyone and giving" Really. Then she was turning 4 and magically out of my husband's mouth came "You know I'm friends with Santa" WTF??? And thus, he ruined it all.

The Sierra Home Companion said...

Thank you, thank you for this post because I feel the same way, and its so good to know I am not alone. Christmas at our house means so much more even as the kids get older. They can imagine Santa just like dragons (like Toothless), but in the end he's just a great story. We focus our attention on Jesus and we've found it to be more exciting.
Many blessings this holiday season.

Miley said...

We pretend there is a Santa, but even early on, I told my (now ex) husband that Santa does NOT get to give all the big gifts and he can give three gifts... and those 3 are to represent the 3 gifts the wise men brought Jesus.
I also told him that Christmas is supposed to be about loving, giving, etc., NOT about gifts and the kids shouldn't be spoiled with "things".
When we were married, I could enforce that, even though he's a chronic spender.
Of course, now that we're divorced, he buys tons of huge gifts from "Santa" but I don't get to choose that :(

I told my son about Santa when he was 6 (See my blog for the story b/c he was PISSED that I lied). My daughter is 7 and still doesn't know and now I'm stuck with the "What/how am I going to bring this up?!"

I don't like the big guy that much. He gets all the credit - for what?? For greed?
I'm not a fan.

GunDiva said...

Well done! Your kids are lucky to have such a great mom. I don't remember how my kids found out about Santa, but it seems like they've always known that he was the fantasy part of Christmas. Santa, though, only got to bring one present each of the kids. Since Christmases were always really tight for us, he usually doubled the number of presents our kids got, but when things got less lean, they still only got one Santa gift.

Raising Madison said...

Ok, parent how you want but seriously on the lie thing? You're ALWAYS going to tell your children the truth? I wish you would have written that you "will always strive to tell your kids the truth." Because I honestly don't know how as a parent you can ALWAYS tell them the truth.

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

@RaisingMadison, Up till now we have ALWAYS told our kids the truth. And if something came up that we didn't want to discuss at the time (it has!) then we say, "This is something we don't want to talk about with you until you're a little older. We want you to be ready to hear it, but not yet." It may seem hard to always tell the truth and stick to it, but once we made the decision we HAVE stuck to it. It also helps us to tell our children "no" and not make excuses, like "There's not enough time" when there really is, or "The store is closed" when it's not, etc. It has also forced us to figure out ways to explain a confusing topic in a simpler way so a child can understand. There are some things that I always thought were too "grown up" for kids to hear but now I realize that kids are very smart and know that if parents are lying about something, then it's because it's naughty or it's secretive. The more we get out in the open for our kids, the more we encourage them to talk to us and, in turn, be honest with us as well.

Aubri said...

I've always found it hard to understand why some parents work so hard to make their children believe something that just isn't true. This Santa issue is a VERY sensitive topic with a lot of people. My husband and I will not be telling our children that Santa brings presents. This year we introduced St. Nicholas and will teach them about him and how Santa came about. It is not realistic to think you can be "santa free" and you don't have to be. But I think as you do that redirecting children's focus to Christ's birth and educating them about society's Santa is a great idea. Santa isn't bad, but the "theology" that comes with him can be. Without Santa there will still be a Christmas!

I did wonder how you handle questions from other adults directed at your children about "what Santa will bring them" etc. My oldest is only two but we have already encountered this more than I wish we did. I haven't come up with a great response that won't offend or embarrass the one asking. Do you have any suggestions?

Thanks for your post on this!

Texan Mama @ Who Put Me In Charge said...

@Aubri - I have had parents say, directly to my children, "What did Santa bring you?" or "Did Santa visit your house?" You can imagine the confused look when my kids say, "Nothing" or "No he didn't come." If adults are with other children, my kids always look at me and keep quiet. They know not to spoil it for other children. But if the adult is alone, they can - and DO - just say that we don't believe in Santa. The parents usually give me the look, the one that says, "Seriously?" to which I just respond, "We just really want to focus on Jesus and we feel like Santa is so commercialized and takes away from the holiday." Whether they agree or not they usually nod their heads, as if to say, "I understand."

If there are other kids around, my kids usually just step around the question like, "Well, we had a nice Christmas." or "My grandparents came to visit us!" They know not to lie, but to be sensitive to other kids who do believe in Santa.

I think that the longer we have practiced this, the easier it is. The first few years I worried what people would think and say to me. Nowadays I just shrug it off. Anyone who's going to get offended or click their tongue at me - let's face it, they're just LOOKING to get pissed at someone and it is probably just my lucky day to cross their path. LOL

Amy said...

Hear hear!

I've done more or less the same thing in my household sharing the story of Santa as a real character from traditions and history and how we honor the memory by being generous to others.

Most of our Christmases have been spent in service to others so it hasn't been all about the gifts although they have been important to the kids, of course.

The saddest thing though, was the year my five year old daughter cried because she was so sad "Santa was dead". Oh well, you win some, you lose some. LOL

Jennifer said...

Santa comes to our house. It is a tradition that David and I both enjoyed when we were kids and we wanted our kids to have the same experience. But if you ask Baby Girl what Christmas is about she will tell you, "that's when we celebrate Jesus' birthday." Our kids are taught the true meaning, but still get a little of the magic. And in the spirit of honesty, it is fun for us too.

I'm not sure how I will handle explaining the truth of Santa when the time comes. I don't remember my mom telling me anything. I kind of just grew out of it. We never had a big reveal or anything. Maybe that is why I was never bitter about it. My brother figured it out when he went looking for his presents and found them. So did David. But since they were looking I guess they kind of already knew.

I was reading a Facebook discussion about the "reveal" the other day and one of the moms told her kids that there was a big secret, mom and dad were Santa and that Santa is really a feeling that you carry inside you and now that they knew the secret they could be Santa too. I will probably try to do something like that.

Lue H said...

I grew up with Santa, but my Mom told us that there was NOT an Easter Bunny. We hid eggs for each other and understood that some kids believed in him. However, we knew that Easter was about Christ's resurrection for us. I brought my boys up knowing that Santa was the "spirit of giving to others". Merry Christmas to you and your family.

mama hall said...

i love this. thank you for doing the RIGHT thing. your kids will thank you some day too. i promise!
Santa is a lie and we teach our children that lying is bad. there's no middle ground. "little white lies" are not even ok. i love how you are confident in the way you teach, love, and build trust with your family.
i'm proud of you. Jesus must be beaming.