I just reread this great blog post on Semiproper, and it got me thinking. I was an extremely literal child who did not comprehend things like “good” lies (I’m not sure why I put that in past tense). And when I learned the truth about Santa (and the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy, because I was also a pretty smart kid and knocked them out in one sweep of logic), I felt betrayed.
My parents, the people I trusted above all others, lied to me. Repeatedly. With malice aforethought. (I was wounded, I tell you. And I made sure they knew it.) Mom was crushed. She knew some day I would discover the truth, but she’d hoped for a few more years.
For my part, though the presents did help take the sting out of it, Christmas never quite recovered. (I didn’t quite mind the loss of the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy, but Santa was a blow.) And I never quite trusted what any adults said again. Not because I thought they meant to hurt me, but because deep down, I just really can’t understand why anyone would ever lie to someone, ever. I see no point in it. Either tell the truth or say nothing.
Yet I’ve told my kid about Santa. Hell, I’ve told her we’re in email contact. I take pictures of things she wants so I can send them to him. (I take pictures of present ideas for everyone, because I am forgetful when it comes to things like that, but she’s 3 and hasn’t caught on to that yet.) We’re also friends of the Bunny. We haven’t gotten to the Tooth Fairy yet, but I’m sure she’ll stop by our house, too.
I had never intended to perpetuate these stories, given my experience. And it’s not required, as Roo’s post shows. Plus, the ruse only lasts a few years; this is the first year she’s really old enough to understand what’s going on, and if she’s anything like me, she’s got about 3 years left before the jig is up. So why did I do it?
Not because I can’t have difficult conversations with my kid. I’m an atheist in the Bible Belt; we’ve already had the discussion of God and religion, and I imagine we’ll continue having that discussion for the rest of our lives. (Especially since her grandparents are decidedly not atheist; I expect some messy talks once she gets older.) We’ve had talks about who can and cannot touch her in certain places. We’ve talked about Stranger Danger. She knows where babies really come from. I pull no punches with this child.
After a lot of thought, I’ve come to the conclusion that, despite all evidence to the contrary, I still believe in Santa. Not in the sense of “fat guy doling out materialistic rewards for good behavior.” But in the sense that, at least sometimes, my fellow humans are capable of great magic and wonder and goodness. Especially around Christmas. And I want her to have that sense of magic and wonder and goodness from a young age.
I am not a big holiday celebrator. I don’t wear red, white, and blue for July 4. I don’t drink green beer on March 17. Until I had a kid, I hardly dressed up for Halloween. But even when I was single and hardly had anyone to buy for, I put up a Christmas tree. (Even the year I was living with a pagan so against Christmas that I had to sneak it in the house.) I baked for my coworkers, when I worked in an office, and my (then) husband’s employees. I may not be a Christian, but I love every part of Christmas — the music, the parties, the food, the lights, the TV specials, the presents, the cards, the charity, the extra thoughtfulness that abounds. Christmas has never been a holiday for me; it’s a season which lasts from Thanksgiving until January 6. And I have the shirts and jewelry to prove it.
I may lean towards the misanthropic side of things, but around Christmas I love my fellow humans. We all get a do-over, and we choose to do good. (Or maybe I just choose to see good, but the warm-and-fuzzy is the same.) Santa is real in the sense that love is real, and we see him when we express that love for each other.
I am Santa.
And once she’s old enough, my daughter will be, too.