with author Jackie Morgan MacDougall
santa and his elves: harmless lie or future therapy?
The song says it’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I have to agree. But along with jingle bells and partridges in pear trees, am I crazy to suggest that somewhere among the sugar plums, someone recognize how difficult parenting can become the moment the twinkling lawn ornaments appear?
Forget visions of sugar plums, Christmas gives me visions of future therapy sessions dancing in my head. Someday is the not-so-distant future... I’m going to have to admit that Santa is a big, fat lie.
All year long, I try to answer my kid’s questions honestly (yet age-appropriately). Then the holidays arrive and I’m singing songs of a strange man who can see my children while they’re sleeping. That’s just creepy. And this year, the lie added another layer when my son, who had heard of The Elf on the Shelf, asked Santa for one of our own to come watch over us.
Do you feel guilty about lying?
Renee says, “Yep, we do Santa big time and yeah, I do feel guilty. We do the whole reindeer tracks, Santa's bells outside the window and everything... but my kids will one day "know" (pretty sure they are on their last year) and will hopefully appreciate our efforts like I appreciated what my parents did for me. My husband and I both had families that went all out for Christmas and we love doing it for our kids. Some people might turn their noses up at that, but really, life is hard enough. They're gonna get their share of reality when they're grownups. I wanted my kids to have a magical childhood, and they do."
Melissa couldn’t agree more. “Bottom line, let your kids believe in Santa for as long as possible. Once they lose that innocence, a part of them (and you) disappears forever. You can never get that back and someday you will want it. Believe me.”
But what happens, when the plot thickens?
“Mommy, when we put toys in the box for kids who don’t have them, is it because they were bad?” Some of you may have gotten this question. It only makes sense, we tell our children that Santa comes to good little boys and girls. But in the next breath, we teach them the lesson of giving to those less fortunate. It doesn’t take a rocket toy scientist to wonder why Santa skips out on these kids year after year. It’s either got to be that they’re misbehavin’ little rugrats or that the man in red is just mean.
How do you answer that?
And what about Santa taking credit for all your hard work? I am in awe when I think of my parents and how they were able to provide all thirteen kids with a magical Christmas, always somehow finding the top toys on our list. I know I must’ve put them through the ringer with requests like that ugly little Cabbage Patch doll who served as the must-have, hard-to-get toy one year. Now it’s my turn in the trenches, on the hunt for that impossible-to-find prize possession. A couple of years ago, I swear I saw two moms go to blows over a Zhu Zhu Pet. And don’t tell anyone, but I once spent $120 on a Tickle Me Elmo for my one-year-old (as if he would have ever known the difference).
Finding those top-of-the-list toys is not for the weak, and I think it’s perfectly normal for us to want our kids to know how hard we worked to make it happen. For example, two years ago, my 6-year-old son asked Santa for a banana costume. I really don’t understand why my little guy wanted to wake up Christmas morning and don a giant yellow outfit that makes him look like a human tropical fruit, but I did some digging and made it happen. (I was terrified it wouldn't arrive on time. You know how strict they are with fruit shipments to California.) Now, my little man won’t know that it was Mom and Dad who actually went bananas, but I’m okay with that. I just feel lucky he asked for something I could provide and didn’t request a little sister, like my friend Jade’s daughter.
But I can also understand moms like Brenda and Cassandra who don’t let the strange seasonal friend get credit for the blood, sweat and tears it takes to pull off Christmas. “[Our kids] know it's a fun pretend thing and that they aren't to spoil it for anyone else,” Brenda says. “Although I think our youngest (4) is still a little confused.” Cassandra avoids the Santa trap by letting her military man take the credit for the gifts he provides. “If kids ask [my daughter] why Santa doesn't bring her gifts, she'll know that her daddy works very hard for all of us to be safe and take care of mommy, which is the greatest gift of all.
So what say you... Do you tell the Santa lie? Do you feel guilty about it?