Happy New Year! 2014 is definitely going to be a wonderful year for me, given that, this year, I will give birth to the little girl that will make me a mother! I can’t even fathom yet how much joy it will bring me for the rest of my life.
While I’d love to update on my holiday adventures, I have decided to, instead (or at least first), write about something that gets a lot of attention during the month of December: Santa Claus.
I think what really got me going this year was the discovery of the Elf on the Shelf. I suppose I may have seen it before this year, but the newfound “tradition” got my wheels turning. A long time ago, I decided that Santa (and, yes, other types of holiday myths, like the Elf on the Shelf) would not be believed under my roof. Why? Well, because he and the others are just not real.
But, I would like to expand on the question of “why?” I’m sure there are many people out there who have all kinds of good reasons to let their kids believe in Santa and the Easter Bunny and such, but I have good reasons not to, and in my opinion, they trump the former.
Good Reason #1: There is magic in believing
It is true. There is some unexplained magic in youth, something that makes the world so incredible to someone who is experiencing it for the first time. Children are born with something that adults can never have again. They can read the same books that have been read millions or billions of times, and not know how it ends. They can be surprised by music that’s existed for centuries, or be in awe of the majesty of the world. And many people feel there is something so wonderful about a fat, jolly man who climbs down a chimney and delivers gifts if you were just good enough to deserve them. Maybe there is, but I have another theory.
What happens when you grow up and realize that the world is not as incredible as you once thought? For many, myself included, there is a pang of disappointment. When you realize that someone has deceived you for a long time, often there is no greater pain. I’m not saying that the realization that Santa doesn’t exist is among the worst kind of emotional pain, but if there really is magic in youth, wouldn’t that make it sour? There might be magic in believing something that isn’t real, but I think there is much more magic in discovering something that is, in fact, real. The way I see it, my job as a mother will be to help my children realize the world, good and bad, so that the magical feeling can be capitalized on, and maybe it will stick around rather than be stripped away one disappointing day.
Good Reason #2: The naughty & nice list makes life easier
We all know that children are often motivated by their intense want of some material thing. A toy, perhaps, or maybe candy or even more time to play around. These things aren’t really in the “need” category, but loving parents want to give these things to their children. However, it is a good idea to refrain from indulging children when they do something bad, and to reward them when they do something worthy. Enter Santa’s List. If Santa is always watching, and his approval equals great presents at Christmastime, then life is much easier for parents when we say, “You don’t want to be on the naughty list, do you?” in order to make our children want the reward, and therefore stop bad behavior. It’s a very simple concept, but it has its flaws.
First of all, Santa’s List requires a very simple thing to be true: presents are super important. Presents have to be more important than, say, respect. Instead of teaching a child that they earn respect and support when they behave well, we end up teaching them that material things are the reward for good behavior. Now, of course, the lesson about respect can also exist with the lesson regarding the naughty/nice list, but a lot of time was wasted teaching them that good behavior produces gifts, when that is just not the truth. Good behavior may produce nothing, which is an awful truth, but I would rather my child focus on doing things because they should be done rather than because she gets something out of it. I’m sure there will be times that I will falter, but I would hope that, when my kids grow up, they’ve learned the truth.
Good Reason #3: Santa represents the good in Christmas
I’m not going to lie, I love almost all things Christmas. I am not anti-Santa, and I’ve always had a thing for Christmas movies and lights and songs, just everything! I do enjoy that little kids write letters to Santa and get their pictures taken with him. The spirit of giving is truly enhanced during Christmas, and the children’s story of Saint Nick is an inspiring one. Even Santa himself is a jolly figure, with loving tendencies and an all-around good-guy attitude. There is a lot more to Christmas, though.
While Santa, the elves, all the trees and lights do add something to the season, the true meaning of Christmas isn’t generosity or goodness. It’s Jesus. Now, roll your eyes if you want, but Jesus is the absolute best possible thing that could have ever happened to the world. He represents grace, love, salvation. He teaches that, although no one deserves anything but death, it is through grace and His sacrifice that we might champion it and live eternally in nothing but the greatness of God’s presence. Gift-giving is nice, but it is not even a speck of dust in comparison. We can use it to teach kids grace and love and generosity, but I would rather do that under the vision of Jesus being given to the world than a happy man in red.
Good Reason #4: Their faces on Christmas morning
Ah yes, the light in the eyes of children when they awaken and see the spread brought by Santa. There is much joy in the excitement of Christmas morning. I talked earlier about the magic in believing, but the manifestation of that happens when a kid walks over to the tree and is in total awe of what they see. I’ll admit, that awe is one of the most compelling reasons to ignite a belief in Mr. Claus.
In the end, though, it isn’t enough. Perhaps, by teaching my kids that Santa is just an imaginary character, they will lose some of that awe. But, maybe the memories of knowing that we, their parents, gave them Christmas presents and that one day they will do it for their children, will be enough to have lasting joy. Maybe their faces will light up when they realize that, no matter what they’ve done, we will always love them and that they have that same capacity to love. Maybe, by taking away a small part of childhood, I will give them something much bigger in return.
What do I want my kids to take away from Christmas? Not that it amounts to presents and a list of who is good and bad. Not even that being patient and good reaps rewards. I want my kids to know that Christmas is a time to remember that love, like that of our Savior for us, can cover all the bad in the world. That we give out of love and receive because of love. That God sees what we do, not Santa. That God gives blessings when we are obedient, and even if we do end up on the “naughty list,” that Jesus died so we don’t have to pay for our sins in death.
Why won’t I let my daughter believe in Santa?
Because the truth is just so much better.