I usually steer clear of controversy. The last thing I want is to post something contentious and invite heated comments for people to debate angrily over the impersonal internet. However, I am diving into this pot of boiling water head on and ready to get burned by the mob. My daring confession: “Santa, I’m just not that into you.”
I love Christmas. I love Jesus. I love the advent season. I love singing carols. I love
making eating the cookies. I love decorating the house. I love sending receiving cards. I love so much about the holidays especially being with family and friends. However, I just do not get all giddy about Santa. In fact, I only started the Santa thing with my kids because I felt peer pressured into doing it when Ethan was finally old enough to consider a fabricated story as truth. A friend was shocked that I was not doing anything Santa-esque for the boys. I remember guiltily racing to Marshalls to pick up a couple of last minute toys to wrap. I dutifully lied to Ethan (Connor was still drooling and clueless), had him put cookies and carrots out, and set out the presents for discovery the next morning. I admit it was cute to see him race down and be amazed at the presents (all two of them). However, I never felt fully comfortable with the whole charade.
Since I had started it though I kept up with it. I even initiated attempts to get the boys to write Santa a list or letter this year. However, they never did; I was not going to force them. Maybe they are not that into him either? I read an article about why one family chooses not to do the whole Santa thing and my uneasiness resurfaced to question whether or not I had to go through with it again. I talked to Mike, and we were undecided. Indecision had us table the matter until the last possible second.
As usual, we were traveling over Christmas. We decided to open presents after dinner the night before we left for two full weeks. While we are cleaning up our dishes, I heard Mike ask Ethan, “Ethan, do you believe in Santa Claus?” My heart stopped. Even though I had struggled internally with keeping up with Santa, I was not ready to drop the bomb especially on the fly. Ethan answered tentatively, “Yes.” In true Mike Beckett form (which often leads me to exclaim OMB! Oh Mike Beckett!), my husband follows that explosive question with, “How would you feel if you found out he wasn’t real?” OMB!! Is this really how it’s going down? Ethan shrugged, “I guess I’d feel weird.” And like the ill-planned slacker parents we are, we just left it at that.
Later we read through the family Advent Book my brother and sister-in-law gave us. We talked about the meaning of the holiday and prayed together as a family. Afterwards, Ethan looked at me and said, “I know that Jesus is real.” Word. We went on to open presents, and they had a blast getting their gifts from us. They were truly excited and happy even with the clothes and books.
I thought we had successfully dodged the bullet this year. Then at one point during our travels, Connor wondered aloud about what presents would be waiting for him under the tree. Gulp. Last year we had them wait to open presents when we got back home. Of course, I had forgotten to leave the gifts out, and so it was a mad dash inside the house to prep while Mike delayed the boys a few minutes. This year I had nothing to hurriedly place from Santa.
For two weeks I wondered what to do. The day we traveled home, I asked Mike if we should buy the boys a couple Santa presents at the airport and somehow figure a way to wrap and put them under the tree. But in the end we did not. Our late night arrival and the next morning’s rush helped us out of our predicament until the boys found out I had already started putting away the Christmas decorations while they were at school. They asked if there was anything in their stockings (again) or anything under the tree. No. Your heartless, cruel parents dropped the ball. I do believe the root of their disappointment was because they did not have more presents to open and receive, not necessarily because they needed to have something from Santa himself.
The truth is that we never really need anything. Neither do our children. We are beyond blessed in every way. We do not think our kids need an explosion of toys from Santa to fully enjoy Christmas. They get gifts from family and friends. If anything, additional ones from Santa seem to feed their greed. Maybe being raised by immigrant parents or having third culture experiences makes me less of a diehard fan. I did not grow up with the Easter Bunny magically bringing me baskets of candy every Spring. I was happy with the new dresses my mom made for me to wear for Easter service. I do not think I even understood what the bunny thing was all about, and it certainly did not make me feel sad or deprived.
I do remember Santa visiting my kindergarten class and handing each of us a gift. My excitement turned to disappointment when I opened a book, The Little Drummer Boy. I noticed other girls getting dolls or lip gloss and wondered why Santa hated me so much. I remember trying to hide my confusion while flipping through the pages. Could he at least have given me a book about dolls or lip gloss? Maybe had I known the parents supplied the gifts I would have completely understood. Rather than feel unfairly targeted by someone who is supposed to be so jolly, I would have realized this was a lifetime of gifting that I would grow to love 30 years later. I am my mother. We don’t give Barbies; we give books. We also are scorned by little girls everywhere.
Sure, being good for Santa is a nice bribe for November and December. However, we bribing experts have enough incentives stocked up for our kids without having to have a fictional one. Sure, it is cute and fun to see the kids’ wonder and amazement at the magic of the fairytale. However, our kids’ fun is probably more based on receiving presents than who they are from. There is no doubt in my mind that my boys are highly creative and fantastically imaginative already. Those traits exist not because we told them to believe in Santa, but because they are children, they read voraciously, and they engage in hours of pretend free play.
Bah humbug? Do I now sound like someone who likes to torture small animals? I know it may seem downright WRONG. I admit I still do the tooth fairy thing even though I have managed to screw it up a couple times! I don’t know what the difference is between the tooth fairy and Santa, but I question the whole Santa thing every single year. Why do I need to do it? I think I can break up with him. We all do eventually. At least, I hope we all do. If you are a grown adult reading this and having your world completely rocked, I am not one bit sorry. Your parents might be the ones torturing small animals. My break up may come a little earlier than others. I am OK with that even if the rest of America thinks we ought to be locked up for such cold-hearted thoughts. My boys will move on as long as we keep those presents coming. And the one thing that will remain real to them about the season is definitely the most important Truth of all.