Back when Manchild was a wee thing, or possibly before he was even born, Micah and I decided that we wouldn’t really do the Santa thing. He wasn’t a big part of Micah’s childhood, and though he was a part of mine, I thought it might be a good thing to see if we could focus more on the reason for the season, the giving, the birth of the Savior, etc. by cutting out the middle man. We have nothing against Santa — the title of this post reflects, not my feelings on the man, but is a quote from Manchild regarding his take on Santa’s appearance — and we embrace the part of him that is the spirit of giving, but we hesitate to embrace the whole personage because of how tangled he has become in consumerism.
However, we realize that not everyone feels the same way we do. And far be it from us to be the reason your kindergartener comes home in tears because our child spilled the beans. We’ve also had the heads up from several friends that sometimes, kids just want to believe. You can tell them the truth, but they’ll still choose the magic. Also, I don’t particularly like the idea of having strangers berate me when they ask my kids if Santa is coming to visit them and they say, “Santa isn’t really real, he’s just for pretend.” So, we’re still working out how to put our theoretical idea into practice.
Our current strategy consists of not promoting Santa. This means that we haven’t told Manchild straight out that Santa is just pretend. It also means we haven’t told him that Santa comes on Christmas Eve to bring gifts, either. We try to answer his questions and address his comments as they come up, in a vague but sensitive way (and ignore the subject altogether when we can). Last Christmas there was an image of Santa hanging on the door of our apartment building and several people asked if Santa was coming to his house, but it wasn’t until the season was over that Manchild was starting to put the pieces together. We managed to avoid any tough questions or awkward encounters.
Last Friday, as we were getting ready to go get our Christmas tree, Manchild asked about “that clown that comes at Christmas time named Santa Claus.” And does he really bring people presents?
“What do you think?” I asked.
“Well, I don’t really think he brings people presents,” Manchild said, and looked at us expectantly.
“The nice thing about Santa,” Micah said, “is that he’s as real as you want him to be. If you want him to be real, he is, but if you don’t want him to be, then you don’t have to think he is.” And then we held our breath. Did he want to believe? Or was he just testing us? The jury is still out. There have been other brief exchanges regarding Santa, but none of them have been definitive on the subject of whether he believes, or wants to believe, or knows that it’s pretend — and, despite Manchild having told us before that it is pretend, there still seems to be a door open there.
For the first time in my life as a mother, I’m feeling ambivalent about how I am communicating with my child. It’s always been really easy for me to be straightforward and honest with him, and that has been my goal. But not this time. This time I’m dancing around multiple sensitivities, and I am, perhaps, somewhat undecided about what I want him to believe. Or how I want to handle the Santa situation at all.