He tugged off his ski pants.
“I mean, think about it,” he continued, “can you fly around the world in just one day?” He didn’t even pause for a response. “No! No, you can’t. And the night is shorter than the day. So how is he supposed to go all the way around the world? You just can’t do it.” He pulled his toque off his head and tossed it in the basket and stooped to collect his mitts that I had pointed at. I couldn’t get a word in edge-wise if I tried.
“So you know what they should do, all those kids in my class? They should stay up ALL night long and watch and then they’ll see. They will see there is no Santa and it is just their moms and dad! Then all those moms will be in big trouble. Because they LIED!” He finished dramatically, mitts flying in two directions.
At this point, I explained calmly, once again, that just because he doesn’t believe in Santa doesn’t mean he needs to tell everyone else that Santa isn’t real.
“But Mom!” he exclaimed, “Why do parents want their children to believe in something that isn’t real? Why do they lie?”
I explained, or tried to, that some parents think that it is fun for their kids to believe in Santa. He wasn’t buying it.
“You know what the kids in my class say to me? They say, ‘how can they get presents from someone who isn’t real?’ Well, you know what? He doesn’t give them presents. The presents are from their moms and their dads and their uncles.”
He lowered his voice conspiratorially, “They just write from Santa on it!”
I nod. “You are right.”
“It is creepy to think of someone coming in your house. Besides, he lands on your roof and then what? We don’t have a chimney. He can’t come in the front door or he’ll set off the alarm. Who made up this idea of Santa anyways?”
He must not remember last year’s explanation. So I recounted the story of good old Saint Nicolas and the way he helped others and before I finished, Lucas ran off to play Lego. I’m surprised the flying reindeer didn’t fit into his dissertation on the implausibility of Santa.
This is what happens when you combine a very logically minded child with growing up in countries where neither Santa nor Christmas for that matter are the enormous deal that they are here. Without effort on our part, he doesn’t buy the whole Kris Kringle business. (Judging from the fact that my 2 year old refers to Santa as “A Christmas guy” I don’t think he does either). From Lucas’ perspective, Christmas is about family, presents and the simple story of a baby in a manger. And I don’t think he is any less excited than the other Grade 1s who are laying out plates of cookies and glasses of milk.
I am not criticizing those who believe in Santa nor their parents who teach them to believe. I am all for children being children and wonder and the spirit of the season, giving.
But you know what? I’d rather my children get presents from me, not from some remote fat man who somehow monitors their behaviour, and finding it meets standards, breaks into their house at night to leave gifts under a tree.
I’d rather teach my children how to give and care for others by my example. I’d rather him see a spirit of generosity modelled all year long, not just by a fictional character one day a year.
I’d much rather remind him that the most important gifts aren’t presents, given or received, but the way we love others.
You can argue with me, but I think in kids’ eyes, Santa=presents not Santa=love.
If I want him to learn wonder, I’d rather him see it in my eyes as we set up the nativity set; I’d rather him hear it in my voice as he asks for the Christmas story to be told him at bedtime. I’d rather the wonder be resplendent like that first Christmas star as we contemplate how the hands that hung the stars flailed wildly and small, like the infant brother waving snow angels on his lap by the light of the Christmas tree.
I will tell my children the story of Saint Nicholas, yes, the one of a man who selflessly cared for others. But I won’t change that into some man at the South Pole. And you know what? I don’t think they are missing one little thing.