Wednesday, December 29, 2010

On Santa Claus

Riley had a pretty unpleasant experience of being "told the truth" about Santa when he was fairly young. He was heartbroken. In addition to being disappointed, he felt lied to. Trust has always been hugely important to me, and I had thought of myself as a fairly authentic, honest, and trustworthy parent up until that point. We had never used Santa or his elves as a way to manipulate behavior: no elves peeking through windows, no naughty/nice lists, no threats of phone calls to Santa or lumps of coal. Still, it felt terrible to have, despite my intentions of playing and making magic at Christmas time, instead broken my child's trust. Over the weeks and months that followed, we talked a lot about what Santa means to people, the stories of Saint Nicholas, love, trust, and wonder.

Since then, even when Maya and Seth were still little, our approach to Santa has been more "Yes, Virginia There Is a Santa Claus" than a literal one. We treat Santa (and the tooth fairy and Easter bunny) as a story, a character we get into when we are gift giving, decorating, wrapping presents, and most especially when we're sneaking around plotting surprises for each other. When any of us shop for surprise Christmas gifts for each other, we don't call it "helping Santa," we call it, "being Santa." It's about making magic for each other, and it's something we all get to enjoy doing.

This year, Riley (12), Maya (9), and Seth(7) talked about maybe wanting us to put out presents on Christmas Eve before they went to bed. In the end, they decided it was more fun and exciting to go to bed with nothing under the tree and leave room for the magic of Santa.

Merry Christmas!

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