Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Santa Lie?

Warning! Hide this from your children if they’re still of a certain age!

When I was in my mid to late 20s, I knew or heard of quite a few people who said that they never intended to do the Santa thing with their kids, because they didn’t want to lie to them. These were generally the same people who held children’s picture books in disdain, and intended to start their kid of with King Lear; or who thought that baby talk was childish and degrading, and would only speak to them in full, adult, sentences.

Well, of course baby talk is childish…that’s why it’s called “baby talk.” And as for it being degrading, it may be so if you’re talking to a 35-year-old that way, but linguists have shown that that helps children acquire language faster. So nana-nana-boo-boo to those people.

But let’s get back to the anti-Santa people. A lot of them refused to do it on the premise of “Well, when they find out that we lied to them about this, then they won’t believe us about anything else.”

“Reindeer shit!” I say. My parents “lied” to me about Santa, and I’m none the worse for it.

It was easy to ignore these people as not having any bearing on my life…until I married someone who voiced misgivings about the whole Santa thing, and didn’t want to “lie” to any children we might have.

I quickly decided to nip that one in the bud by saying, “So…if we go to Walt Disney World someday, are you gonna be totally truthful to the kid and say ‘Look, there’s a person in a Mickey Mouse suit!” or are you gonna go with the Disney magic and say “Look! There’s Mickey!’?”

That pretty much ended that discussion, and a few years later, when we took our first daughter to Sesame Place, Cheryl insisted on getting her picture taken with her favorite character…Big Bird (or rather, some person in a Big Bird suit).

But I found out years later that the “lying” thing wasn’t really what it was all about. Especially since she could easily go with calling costumed people at theme parks by their character names. It was really about the surveillance and coercion thing. It was about the whole Big Brother aspect of Santa spying on the kid and using that as a carrot and stick to get the kid to behave. That’s what she didn’t want to lie about.

And I can agree with that.

For what it’s worth, we never told our kids one way or the other if Santa was real. If they wanted to sit on Santa’s lap at the mall, fine; if they didn’t, that was fine too. If they specifically asked Santa for something, and we knew what it was, it would arrive wrapped in Santa paper, but it would never specifically say that it was from Santa. But for those of you who are still hung up on the “lie”…even the implied lie…let me give you a still more excellent way of looking at it.

Many years ago, when the internet was young, I stumbled across a piece about why Santa was a kachina. To make a long story short, this woman, who was never into Santa in the first place, thought about the kachinas that protect and look after the Native children in villages in the Southwestern US. Every year the children watch the kachinas dance, and get dolls of the various kachinas. And then, when a boy reaches a certain age, he is taken to a ceremony where the kachinas unmask themselves, and he finds out that these are the men of his community. It’s also then that he becomes a kachina himself.

At that point she saw the whole Santa thing as less of a lie and more of a way of making magic for the community and a rite of passage. It’s not that there is no Santa, but that we’re all Santa. Not just for ourselves, but for others too.

In our house, Cheryl, Sofie, and I are all card-carrying members of what I call The League of Santas.

And that’s no lie.

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