When my first son was born we made the decision that Santa wouldn’t come to our house. This was a difficult decision to explain to others. Family and friends just couldn’t believe we would do such a thing. I understand that it does sound rather Scrooge like, but I honestly don’t believe my boys suffered any lasting damage.
Naturally our decision didn’t have much of an impact until my son was about three. The first couple of years he didn’t really understand about Santa, so it wasn’t an issue.
Then on his third Christmas he began to notice the Santas at the mall and on Christmas paraphernalia. At that point he started to ask questions. I tried to distract him with stories about the original St. Nicholas, but my son could only be sidetracked for so long. Eventually the dreaded question was asked.
“Mom…. is Santa real?”
I took a deep breath and explained that the whole idea of Santa was a nice story, but no it wasn’t real.
There was a very long quiet pause while my son digested this information. I remained calm on the outside, but inside I was freaking out. Mother guilt kicked in big time.
- I had RUINED my son’s childhood. COMPLETELY RUINED IT!
- What kind of monster mother was I?
- How much therapy would it take to undo the damage?
Then my sweet, creative son looked at me and said, “But it makes a great pretend doesn’t it Mommy?
Phew SAVED! Saved by the wisdom of a child.
And pretend we did. We had lots of imaginary trips to the North Pole and my boys accompanied Santa on his trip around the world on several occasions. Still we did not try to hide the fact that Santa was just a story.
Through the years each one of my boys solemnly informed me that we were mistaken. That Santa was real and we had got it all wrong. Aren’t children great?
As with so many things there were advantages and disadvantages to our decision. I want to be clear that I am not opposed to the whole Santa thing. Every family needs to make the decision that is right for them. We decided to go the no Santa route.
- We found it helped manage expectations. As a family we did not have a lot of disposable income. Consequently we could not afford to buy large ticket items for our children. We set limits and talked about them openly to help keep expectations realistic. The trouble is that in a child’s mind Santa has unlimited resources. He can bring anything you want, as long as you are good enough. We didn’t want our children to be disappointed. We didn’t want to try and explain why Santa brought generous gifts to their cousins and not to them.
- It helped keep the focus on what is truly important. Although gifts were a part of our celebration we didn’t want them to be the focus. We wanted Christmas to be about love, kindness and time with family. That feeling does not revolve around a jolly man with a white beard and gifts.
- There is no need for the dreaded conversation. You know the one when your children realize that Santa isn’t real? You never have to worry about your children making that discovery. It is a non-issue.
1. It can get you into trouble with other parents. In fact they may get mad, because your child will probably be the one that tells everyone in their class that Santa isn’t real. If my child was the one that ruined the Christmas magic for your family I apologize. I did try to suggest to my boys that it wasn’t a good idea for them to tell everyone that Santa wasn’t real. The reality is that younger children tend to see things in black and white, so my suggestions led to dreadful questions like,
“But Mom, why would parents lie to their children?”
YEEK! Try and answer that one. I’d rather have a root canal!
2. You will miss out on the fun of creating the Santa magic for your children. We did engage in a lot of imaginary play, but it is not quite the same. I would hear other parents talk about the things they did to make it look as if Santa had visited and would feel a pang of envy. It all sounded, sounded so magical. There were times when I wished I could do that for my children.
Every parent has to make the decision about Santa for his or her own children. I don’t think there is a right or wrong decision. You know what is best for your family. Still if Santa does come to your house I would ask you to keep two things in mind.
1. Please don’t emphasize that horrible naughty or nice list. I know it’s tempting to use this threat as Christmas approaches, but I really don’t think it is a good idea. Giving gifts is a way for us to express our love for others. Your children don’t have to be good in order to earn your love. Neither should they have to behave in a certain way in order to be worthy of your love. Having to behave in order to be on the nice list can make some unhelpful associations between performance and worthiness.
2. Keep Santa’s gifts small. If you are going to give some big-ticket items this year please ensure your children understand they come from you. That way no other parents will have to explain to their child why Santa gave them something relatively small, while their classmates, neighbors or friends received far more generous gifts.
Even though Santa didn’t come to our house Christmas was still magical. The season was full of wondrous moments. We have fond memories of the excitement and laughter. The house always seemed to be overflowing with love. And in my mind that is what Christmas is really all about.
I’d love to hear from you. Does Santa come to your house? How did you come to that decision? Please share your comments below.