My husband and I grew up believing in Santa. In my home, my parents let us believe until about 3rd grade or so. I remember the excitement of Santa; writing a letter to ask for the toys I wanted (knowing that I’d get some things but not all and being ok with that), baking cookies for him, and seeing his bite marks the next morning along with the gifts he left for my brother and I. How’d he do it? What time did he come? Were there really reindeer on my roof?!?!Letting our imaginations run wild with happy thoughts was part of the fun. My parents never seemed to take issue with Santa “getting the credit,” and as a parent neither do I. It’s all very, very temporary, and they’re only young for a short while, right?
Everyone has a Merry Christmas, right?
This morning I ran into a crossroads between believing and cold hard truth. My 4 year old was pouting on the way to school because he didn’t get to play with his race track before we left for preschool. I tried to redirect him by telling him that instead of being sad that he can’t play now, he should be excited that he will have the opportunity to play with the track later.
Then we had the gratefulness talk.
I reminded him that there are kids who don’t have any toys at all because their parents can’t afford to buy them, that there are kids who don’t have food to eat or a home to live in, and that we have so much to be thankful for.
Then he said this:
“But they will have toys on Christmas!”
Enter serious dilemma. How do I allow my kids to believe in this particular part of the magic of Christmas and still help them be realistic about their blessings, grateful for what they have, and humble as they grow?
I’m not exactly sure how to move forward at this point. I don’t know if I can allow my kids to enjoy the fun of believing in Santa when it directly conflicts with the existence of poverty, hunger and homelessness, all ongoing societal issues that I want my kids to understand and work to help solve.
My brother and I were not oblivious to these issues as kids even though we believed in Santa, so perhaps it’s possible to allow my kids to continue believing. We learned from our parents, in church and at school that it was better to give and that there are so many who live without the basic necessities we take for granted. I’m just not sure how to make Santa realistic, because I’m not going to lie about the fact that some kids do not have toys on Christmas.
I have nothing but good memories of Christmas and most of them include spending time with loved ones, so it’s not like Santa was the entire focus. We went to church, we spent tons of time with extended family and friends, and the holidays were full of love. Still, Santa was fun for us so I want my kids to have that experience as well– in addition, of course, to the experience of other far more important elements of of the holiday season like giving, loving and quality time.
So here’s where I am now. For starters I make sure that only a couple of toys under the tree come from Santa. Their expectations need to be tempered by knowing that Santa isn’t giving them everything they have and that their loved ones are to be thanked and appreciated. I’m also going to start doing a better job of ensuring they do they following:
- participate in volunteer activities with their dad and I
- actively participate in donating their gently used toys and clothing regularly
- continue to promote their interaction with children and families from all walks of life.
I want my children to appreciate their blessings and know that there are thoughtful things they can and should do to help people who are suffering and in need.
But what about Santa?
What do I tell them? Do I let them keep believing for these few short years? Or do I go ahead and break it to them that we live in an incredibly imperfect, Santa-less world?
There’s one thing I know for sure: life is a balancing act. In order to become independent, functional and emotionally sound adults, my kids have to learn to balance joy and disappointment. They will come to the realization that Santa does not exist, and poverty does. Fairytales aren’t real, but homelessness is. I plan to help them understand that they have so much to be grateful for and so many people to love, and that they are capable of making a positive impact on our world. With or without Santa, I plan to make the holidays special and filled with great memories with our family.