I recently drank a heavy dose of Santa guilt. This was brought on by a woman in my ward telling me that she does not endorse Santa in her household because she does not want to be the kind of mother who lies to her children.
Ooh, where do I sign up? I definitely want to be the kind of mother who lies to her children. Big, fat, whopping lies that will make them distrust me and everyone they ever meet.
No. Of course not. I do not want to lie to my children, but Santa does visit our house. I love the magic of Santa and of Christmas, and I am not about to rob my children of that magic. I’m sure that woman is doing what she thinks is best for her family, and I will continue to do what is best for mine.
But our conversation has me thinking lately about how to participate in the Santa magic without lying to my children or giving them a reason to ever doubt the truth of their spiritual beliefs.
Here is what I’ve come up:
No Lies – I won’t lie to my children about Santa. This is harder than it sounds because 6-year-olds can be pretty insistent on getting a hard, factual answer to their toughest Big-Guy-in-a-Red-Suit questions. But I am working hard not to actually tell any whoppers. When she asks how he gets down the chimney, I ask her how she thinks he does it. When she asks how reindeer fly, I ask her to come up with the craziest answer to their own questions This has lead to some hilarious answers and keeps me lie free.
An Exit Strategy – At some point, the jig is up. So when this day comes, I plan to have a killer answer for my children on why I have let them believe in something so long that I knew did not exist. I think this explanation is key in not letting the no Santa disappointment run over into doubts about Jesus, deity or mom and dad’s ethics.
When it’s clear my daughter doesn’t believe in an actual Santa, I plan to tell her that Santa is not any one person. He is a feeling – an idea of goodness and generosity that parents continue to uphold by letting their children believe in Santa. I will tell her that the real St. Nick was a kind and giving man who embodied the teaching of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves. I will tell her that I still believe in Santa because I believe in that goodness and love. I will say how excited I am that she, too, now gets to be part of Santa’s army of helpers who get to spread love and kindness around the world to make one of the longest, darkest night of the year filled with the most joy and light.
A Christ-centered Christmas – Part of my exit strategy also has to come in the years leading up to that explanation. If our Christmases have all been about gifts and Santa, then knowing he is not real will be a devastating blow to the whole idea of Christmas. But if our holidays are filled more with Jesus and love and reflections on a small babe wrapped in a manger, then Christmas can go on without Santa.
In that way, I don’t worry that she will doubt her religious beliefs when she finds out there is no fat man at the North Pole doling out gifts. Instead, I hope to teach her that Santa is just one more symbol of the Christ child that we celebrate. Just like the evergreen tree represents eternal life and candy canes symbolize the shepherd’s crooks, Santa will is a symbol of the real reason for Christmas.
All those symbols and stories point to one thing – the very real love of a Heavenly Father who sent his Son to lead us home.
How do you handle Santa in your home?