|Image credit: LadyDragonflyCC on Flickr|
We strive to raise our children in an environment where they learn to think critically, trust their parents, and be honest. Telling a story about a imaginary man who flies all the way around the world on his sleigh (with flying reindeer nonetheless), scoots his way down chimneys and rewards children who have been good (more on that in a minute) does not bode itself to critical thinking. The other day we were driving home from visiting our friend's new baby; Beanie was excited to see the sun, saying hello to it and waving. She commented that the sun wasn't waving back, to which I asked her if the sun had arms. "No!" she replied, laughing at my silliness. I then asked how the sun would wave if it didn't have arms and she replied, "Well, it doesn't!" It's with that same questioning spirit that we will approach the story of Santa.
Santa forces the good-bad dichotomy, of which I am not a fan. Much as I don't wish Beanie to be "good" at the grocery store to get a cookie when we're done, I don't want her to be "good" to get presents from Santa. I've never actually heard of a child getting coal from Santa, but we want to instill in Beanie the idea that we are "good" (I use that term begrudgingly) because those are the morals, values and standards we live by.
For us, Santa is just another story to tell in December. We aren't religious, so there are many holiday stories for us to tell. As I stated in an earlier post, we plan to teach the kids about multiple cultural and religious celebrations during the Winter. The history of Saint Nicholas is one we will be teaching and, from that, we can tell her how the story of Santa Claus came about. Santa is a character, much the same as Curious George, Clifford the Big Red Dog, or Frog and Toad.
To us, the idea of Santa puts more emphasis on getting than giving. For our family, the holidays are about being with family, enjoying good food, and giving gifts. Sure, Santa is big on giving but, for children, the big takeaway from the story is all about receiving. We really want to focus on the giving aspect of the holidays and feel that there are other ways, such as the compassion kit playdate we just attended, that more accurately describe the spirit of the holidays for us.
We plan to keep everything age appropriate. This year we are reading stories about Hanukkah, the Solstice, St. Nicholas and Christmas. She's three-and-a-half so we are following her lead and answering questions. We've told the grandparents that we aren't doing Santa; I'm not sure they understand, but maybe this post will help.
Glenn and I were both raised in families that "did Santa." Our traditions were quite different. In my family, Santa brought just a few small things for our stocking. The rest of the presents were from my parents and extended family. We did do the whole oh-look-at-that-light-it's-Santa-and-his-reindeer, the half-eaten cookies and on and on. I believed until I was nine when my mom mistook my smug grin and comment about the tooth fairy to mean that I knew she wasn't real. That wasn't the case and I was crushed when my mom said, "I guess you know we're the tooth fairy." Then it dawned on me that the Easter Bunny was also fake. And (oh my god!) Santa, too. I don't remember any of this really; my faulty memory instead had me thinking I believed until my sister's third grade teacher announced to the class that Santa was a fraud. Apparently, my sister finding out was more of a traumatic experience, even for me. In Glenn's family, Santa was a bigger deal; he brought the bulk of the presents to place under the tree. He found out when his parents asked him to take out the trash after Easter brunch and he found the milk jug bunny he had made. The realization quickly hit that Santa was fake, too.
I tell you all this because one reason that doesn't factor at all into our decision is the idea that our kids would be traumatized or distraught at the impending realization that Santa was a big charade. I'm sure that some children are traumatized at the realization that Santa was for not; apparently my sister, myself and Glenn all were, but none of us carry that trauma into adulthood. It's more so a decision based on the values and morals we want to teach our children and how we choose to parent.
I've read a few other great posts on Santa, so read up if you wish:
- The Santa Dilemma at Kelly Naturally
- We Don't Do Santa at Code Name: Mama
- I do, I do, I do believe in Santa Claus at Baby Dust Diaries
Anyone else not "do Santa?" I know a few friends that don't, but I'm sure we're in the minority. I'd love to hear others' thoughts on the topic.