Alert: Major Santa Claus spoilers below.
The big guy with the twinkle in his eye is making his annual appearance just about everywhere these days. He’s at the mall. He’s bringing up the rear in parades. And he is once again making fibbers of otherwise honest parents.
I’m fully onboard with Santa Claus, but this year I paused a moment when my daughter asked me a direct question about the existence of the jolly guy. We were donating shoeboxes full of toys to children, and I explained to my 5-year-old daughter that some children don’t get any gifts for Christmas. Several hours later, she slyly asked, “Mom, does Santa visit every child in the world?”
I knew where her line of logic was going. I fumbled my way through an answer about how the kids we had sent gifts to would also get a gift from Santa, but their parents couldn’t afford to buy them presents.
I didn’t like the idea of spinning a tale to convince my daughter of Santa’s existence. But I do love the idea of Santa Claus. As a child, I loved the magic of Christmas Eve. Even now I still harbor that magical feeling. I want my daughter to feel that way, also.
But how does telling the tale of Santa Claus really affect children? It’s the same question that could be asked about the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy: Does a little white lie to promote fantasy and magic hurt children?
I’ve heard from some people who worry believing in Santa will make their children someday doubt whether similar faith-based stories like Jesus and God are true. If mom and dad lied about one generous man who sees every child’s deeds, then couldn’t God be a myth, too?
It’s a tough question. But honestly, I land on the side of thinking it’s just not that big of a deal. I never doubted the existence of God once I knew about Santa Claus. I also didn’t distrust my parents. If anything, I’m grateful to them for letting me fully enjoy the wonder of the Christmas season.
For parents that are concerned they may be doing lasting harm to their children by pushing Santa, WebMD has some helpful tips. One pediatrician says parents can stay vague. Rather than discuss Santa as a real person, talk about him more symbolically as a representation of peace, love and generosity. Or, turn the tables on your kids when they ask probing Santa questions. Ask them how they think reindeer can fly or how one man can visit every child in one night. Let their imaginations run wild.
One day, my daughter will find out the truth about Santa. She’ll find out the world isn’t a place where reindeer fly with a kind, generous man to bring joy and gifts to impoverished children. Until that day, I don’t mind her believing that such a world — and such magical goodness — exists.
How do you approach Santa in your house? Do you think it’s just childhood fantasy or a recipe for lasting harm?