â€œListen to the mustn'ts, child.
Listen to the don'ts.
Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me...
Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.â€
- Shel Silverstein
So, the Christmas season is upon us and being the mother of 3 young children leads me to the obvious question, "How to handle Santa Claus?" For some people it's cut and dried. Santa is a lie. For others, Santa is just a fun game. As usual, I fall somewhere in the middle of all this, over thinking as I go.
My parents took the approach that Santa Claus was a nice man who lived long ago and loved Jesus. This led to an unforeseen complication: I went to school and told the kids Santa Claus was dead. Later, I felt robbed because I wanted to believe in him but I had been denied the choice. My husband's family went whole hog with the mythology but he noticed at a young age that things just didn't add up. Being a logical child he didn't tell anyone because he thought that meant no more presents. He played along until he was about 8 years old.
I've been attempting to infuse these two styles into a perfect blending of truth and myth. My children love movies and books about Santa Claus. Every once in while I ask them if Santa Claus is a real person or a character like Buzz Lightyear. "He's BOTH" my four year old declares. He is concerned because our fireplace is closed up. I told him I'm sure that doesn't matter, which is true. So far my kids haven't really asked me too many questions about Santa so I can't trot out the line I've been practicing. "Mom, does Santa really have reindeer?" "That's what they say!" My other favorite line is "What do you think?"
Being who I am, I've been a little worried. And Hugh being who he is just isn't worried at all. He left the kids a note last year from Santa Claus, probably working on the assumption that some day the kids will notice a remarkable resemblance between Santa's writing and his own. So, if I worry about the implications why do it at all?
For me, fantasy is not simply a means for stretching a child's imagination. I feel it plays a crucial role in spiritual development. Recognizing otherness. The sense that the world stretches far beyond what we can see, smell, hear, taste or touch. That there are unproven, unfathomable things. For all we know, there is a Santa Claus. You certainly can't prove he doesn't exist.
Santa definitely exists as a Christ figure. For some Christians this a troubling, blasphemous notion. For me it's comforting. Santa in no way is a replacement for Christ, but I believe he can point the way to helping us understand Christ's qualities of love for children, his unequivocal charity, and his miraculous attributes. It's not a complete portrait, but it is a picture. Someday, if my kids have trouble loving Jesus, I can remind them of the excitement of Santa Claus. Christ is all that, and much more. Dying for the sins and cares of the world might be too heavy for some kids, but every kid can appreciate the concept of free toys with no qualifiers.
I am adamant that I never lie to my children. But to me, saying there is no Santa is as much a lie as saying there definitely is. I want to leave the question open ended. To give them a chance to think it through themselves. Last year "Santa" made an appearance at my niece's birthday party. "Mom, was that Uncle Ed?" Jarvis asked. "What do you think?" "I think it was Uncle Ed." Jarvis remembers all this, but he still chooses to believe. And I'm not going to take that away from him.