Do You Believe?

If Sue is Scrooge this Christmas for not exchanging gifts with the adults in her family (and for the record, I don’t think she is a scrooge–I think she is sensible), then what I am about to say is probably going to make me look like the Grinch. Or something worse, if there is a worse Christmas-related villian out there.

Here’s my Christmas confession: I’m struggling with the idea of Santa Claus. More specifically, I’m struggling with the idea of my son believing in Santa Claus. Should I back away slowly from the computer right now? Forget I even started this post? Nah, because if there is on thing I am (other than possibly a Christmas-related villian), is a woman who says what she is thinking. And what I’m thinking is that this Santa stuff is a real struggle with me.


Well, I’m not sure exactly. I think it’s mostly because I’m lying to my son. I know, I know–“believe” and magic and Christmas spirit and all that. But I still struggle. Trust is big with me. I don’t like when people lie to me, and I don’t like getting lied to.

Right now I’m going with the whole Santa Claus thing. I didn’t really introduce him to the concept–his classmates, mainstream media, and the like were the ones who really talked up the big guy. I just went along. Last year it wasn’t such a big deal to me–O knew what was going on, but didn’t really “get” Santa all that much. This year, we’re going to different outings to check out the big guy, I’m setting up phone calls and video conferences (that video thing is cool–thanks to the girls at Momminitup for cluing me in), and the guilt is creeping up. I’m lying! Santa is not real! (But my O thinks he’s really, really cool. And it makes him happy–hence the struggle!)

My guilt and inner turmoil was racheted up a notch this past Friday when we went to O’s preschool to see Santa. O was afraid to approach Santa, so I let him hang back. But then when Santa was getting ready to leave, O became visibly upset and started shaking because he hadn’t been able to tell Santa that he wanted “a rocket and more Spidermans.” My heart just about broke into two.

It didn’t matter if he told Santa his wish. He didn’t need to get all upset and stressed out about it. He could’ve just told me, because you know, *I* am Santa! (By the by, I did get O up there to stand close to Santa, tell him his wish, and give the big guy a high-five.)

Maybe I’m taking it all too seriously (I do tend to overthink a little), but I wanted to put it out there anyway, and see if I’m the only Santa Grinch out there.

Do you tell your children about Santa? Do they believe? If so, when did they stop believing? Did they take it hard when you broke the news?

For the record, I’m gonna soldier on with the whole charade this year, but I have some serious thinking to do before next Christmas.

19 thoughts on “Do You Believe?

  1. Oh, you have opened a can of worms with this one! 🙂 People have some strong opinions about this very matter!

    I go with Santa because it's so much fun for Aidan, and even for me. When he starts to question Santa's logistics and all, I will explain what I believe. That Santa exists but not in the way we think, with the sleigh and everything. But Santa helps inspire people to be generous and giving and loving. That's what I love about the whole Santa thing. I don't use it to manipulate Aidan to behave (I have other ways of doing that *evil smirk*), but I play into it as part of the fun season.

    Aidan also knows that Mommy, Daddy, Adam, and Matt buy him gifts. He knows that he gets gifts from Grandma, Grandmommy, etc. So he's aware that not all presents come from Santa, and he plays a part in picking gifts out for people as well.

    In a way, I DO believe in Santa, because I believe in the goodness he helps to inspire. I don't think for a minute he's flying all over the world delivering presents, but I think his spirit lives on, so for me, he does exist in a way.

    I'm not sure what you should tell O. Each parent makes her choice in that regard. Sorry for the book!!

  2. Ha, as if my other post wasn't long enough. I don't introduce the Santa stuff to Aidan, but I go along with it when he talks about it. So it's not like I sat down and went "I'm gonna tell you about this man called Santa Claus!" It just kind of happened.

    1. This is way better than a brick & mortar estlabisehmnt.

  3. Jensational says:

    Belief in Santa is what I blogged about today. I believed and when I was little it was fun and I remember being so excited about it so I don't think it's a BAD lie that parent's tell. I think that the more dangerous lie that my parent's told me was when they encouraged me (at age 8) to wear bright red Sally Jesse Raphael glasses telling me that they looked cute. THAT was a bad lie.

    Kids find out eventually from friends or older siblings. I think 8 is probably a good cut-off age. But it differs for each kid.

  4. I always had this weird, hybrid believe in Santa, and that's what I'm finding is developing in my daughter. She *knows* that mommy and daddy buy her Christmas gifts. She knows because she is smart and observant and figures that when I'm buying gifts for everyone else in the family, I'm also buying for her – especially when we discuss in detail what she wants. But she still believes there's a Santa who maybe brings her stocking gifts or works with mom and dad to make sure kids get something if they're good. It's weird, but I remember knowing exactly where my gifts came from but also thinking Santa might be real, too.

    The thing to remember is that kids' minds can hold many contradictory things at once. They're wonderful that way. It's why they have such wonderful imaginations. Not to get all Joseph Campbell on you ('cause I've just had a couple glasses of red wine after wrapping all my kids' gifts and putting them under the tree early), but kids are way more in touch with the spirit of things than most of us are. They don't need it to be black and white, believe or don't. They'll create their own stories. It's just up to us to make the space for them to have a little magic. The fact that they have us to be their Santa is way more important than the details of what they believe.

  5. Ronni–I found out I might've opened a can of worms when I posted this post and saw a "I Still Believe" post under the BlogHer ads to the right of our page. Your version of Santa sounds like something my mom and I were talking about the other day (Of course I called her to talk through the mess!)

    Jen–I'll have to check out your post, and maybe the glasses WERE cute! A classmate broke the news to me, when I was in the second grade. Well, it was the Easter Bunny the classmate told me didn't exist, and the Bunny took down Santa and the Tooth Fairy with him.

    Sara–what you've written makes perfect sense. I sometimes forget how differently a child's mind is from my own. But at the same time, I was always a pretty practical, nonfantastical kind-of kid.

  6. We don't celebrate Santa. It's amazing how that sounds so terrible but my husband and I decided not to introduce Santa to our children even before I was pregnant. We are Christians and feel that celebrating Santa and gifts on the same days as celebrating Jesus didn't work. Jesus can't compete with Santa in the minds of young children. We thought of adding Jesus to Christmas but He seems to be overshadowed by exciting gifts,christmas trees,etc. Our boys are 9 & 7yrs. old and we have our tradition of reading the christmas story from the bible, watching "Veggie Tale Christmas", and drinking eggnog while decorating gingerbread houses. We don't feel like we are in bondage and have to buy presents even if we can't afford them. By not giving gifts, we have the freedom to make christmas whatever we want it to be and not have to do what everyone else does. The boys have never been bothered by no gifts. They get gifts on their birthdays and I buy them toys throught out the year. As for your situation, it would be hard to stop the "santa thing" because it's already been started but I feel the same way you do about the lieing. I didn't want to lie to them. Because your son seems to love Santa, you have to handle it carefully. I'm not sure when you should tell him or how. Just enjoy this special time with him and the details will work themselves out!

  7. We "played" Santa growing up. When we asked my mom about Santa, she told us that he wasn't real, but it was a fun game to play at Christmas. So we still talked about Santa, but we knew that my parents actually bought the gifts. I think I'm going to do the same with my daughter.

  8. Nelson: Party of Four says:

    Tela, my situation is kind of similar to gapeach's, and I've actually talked to several friends at church about it. As a Christian, the important thing for me is that my daughter understands that Jesus is the reason we celebrate, and not Santa Claus.

    I actually talked with a couple who have three teenagers now, who decided against ratting out the truth about Santa. They worked very hard to be simple and realistic – no over the top gifts, no big to do about Santa, and once their children were old enough they actually explained where the story of Santa came from. I've googled it, and you can find easy to read versions for children.

    I don't like lying to my children either, but their minds do work differently than ours. I agree with Ronni – Santa inspires us to be giving and loving, and that is important at Christmas.

    Whether or not you are a believer, it is my own humble opinion that you can have the best of both worlds. We just try, in our family, to remember that the birth of our Savior is the real reason we celebrate.

  9. Interesting, I finished reading your post in my bloglines this AM and the next item was this article from WSJ
    the encourages the idea of Santa as a mythical creature that stimulates a child's imagination.

    When my boys were little, we tooked them to see Santa, watched the Tv specials, etc. Iin my Extended family, Sant is a beg deal becaseu my Grandfather and Uncles were/are "Santa Helpers". The presents that Santa brought were separate, wrapped differently were small toys and only 3 in munber. Everything else was clearly from Mom and Dad. A couple of years ago my youngest declared his disbelief by exclaiming that "Santa was a fake" after a family party wheer SDanta came. I responded "well, yes, but isn;t it fun?". Good luck on this decision. I tried to simply subtly encourage Santa.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I understand your concerns. I think we (meaning me) tend to only think in black and white when life usually happens in shades of gray. I don't necessarily think the two (being a christian and celebrating the true meaning of Christmas and Santa) need to necessarily be at odds. I think your approach to each is the key to teaching our children the values we want to instill.

    For us, we have always bought no more than three gifts per child (to immitate the three gifts of the magi) They were wrapped up in different paper (santa paper) and then the kids got one homemade gift from mom and dad (a tie blanket or something).

    We are catholic so we have always celebrated St. Nick's day on Dec 6. We read the story of who St. Nick really was (you can google him) and have always said that gifts at Christmas are to immitating Gods gift to us of his son Jesus.

    When my boys figured it out this summer, (they are 6 adn 8 and a friend clued them in) I reminded them who St. Nicholas really was and explained historically how he morphed into modern day Santa Clause. I explained that St. Nicholas was generous and gave of himself and his posessions to help the needy. I said that God sent his son Jesus to the earth to teach us these lessons and that the lesson of giving of yourself and your posessions is the true meaning of Christmas (majorly simplifying here) I welcomed them to the "Santa club" and told them that now that they were in the know, they got to be in on the fun and see how much fun it is to give in secret to others who don't realize what is going on.

    I organize the giving tree at my church, so the boys get to play Santa every year and they get to experience what it feels like to give to someone with absolutly no thought of getting something in return.

    I think the main key is to live your values daily. I don't think a little fairy tale and magic hurts kids. We all need to believe in miracles, especially as we get older and life gets harder. Jesus was certainly a miracle and I think we can all agree to believe in that 🙂

    Christmas blessings to you all!

  11. I'm all about Santa. Childhood is magical. I loved Santa. Cassie loves Santa. It's all good. Not gonna sweat it.

    FYI, check out this article on Huffington Post about this very topic!

  12. geesh! I wish this topic had come up oh about thanksgiving time. having a single three year old, I wasnt sure how to approach the season differently. Thank you to all of you for being honest and giving me something more to think about.

  13. tragicoptimist says:

    I've been struggling with this myself. My parents never made a huge deal out of Santa, but they never specifically said he didn't exist – I think it was similar to Sara's hybrid belief. I do remember one Christmas Eve just before bedtime, we heard noises on the roof, and I hauled butt into bed as fast as I could worried that Santa was coming and wouldn't give me gifts if I was awake. But I was never told "be good or Santa won't bring gifts" and never actually got any gifts "from Santa."

    My daughter is 3, and she's asked me a few times about Santa. I've told her that he's a man who brought gifts to people who didn't need enough, and that he's a story character that we all love to tell stories about. I guess I want her to feel like Santa is similar to Mickey Mouse – she met Mickey at Disney World and loved it, but she knows – or will figure out soon enough – that he's not really real.

  14. Hey Tela,
    I'm with you. Ever since K was born, I've been conflicted on how to approach Santa. I feel guilty that I've never taken her to sit on Santa's lap. (I'm sorry, it's a possible weirdo in a red suit.) I want her to believe in the magic, but I don't want to lie to her about it. Instead I try to keep Santa as only a small part of Christmas, instead of the only thing. It seems to help keep the focus off the issue for now. He feels more like a fun character that's part of the whole package, no different than Frosty or Rudolph.

  15. just4ofus says:

    I think you wouldn't be a good parent if you didn't think and second guess if your parenting decisions were what was best for your child. He won't ever think you were lying to him. I had cousins who were home schooled and raised in a very strict religious household and were not taught about Santa.. they are now adults and feel that they missed out.
    I believe that you can believe in Jesus and the holiday and that can coexist with mainstream holiday stuff.
    I could go on and on and on..
    you wlll figure out what is right.. : )

  16. Sara Cart says:

    It is ironic that you made this post. I just recently posted my thoughts on the whole Santa thing on my blog too. It actually caused so many strong feelings in my family that my husband decided to disown his brother. (Granted other things happened…blah, blah, blah…)

    Anywho, here is how I feel about it; it is not lying to your child for them to enjoy the fantasy of Santa. Actually Santa originates from an actual living person. A bishop of the early church made monetary donations to a parishioner in his parish. He was later made a saint-St. Nicholas.
    Over time a form of the "telephone game" (oral history) turned St. Nicholas into the fanciful character that we know today. If your child indulges in the fantasy of Santa now it will help you teach him the ethics from his character later. Things like giving freely of one’s self, rewarding the good, showing kindness through actions, etc…

    Also, from a teacher’s point-of-view, having a child indulge in fantasy games and concepts help lead to abstract thinking, which is a higher form of thought then concrete. Abstract thinking can also help lead to enhanced problem solving skills.

    Finally, if he is having fun now it is okay. When he’s ready to hear that Santa is not a real person he won’t find you to be a liar. I grew up with Santa in my house. When I found out he wasn’t real I was okay with it. Same with my husband, brother and sister; all of which believed in Santa.
    I know that this is long-winded, but I pray that you don’t feel bad or guilty about letting your son play with the idea of Santa.

    In the end the question comes if your child had an imaginary friend would you point out that this person wasn’t real? Same rule applies. Santa (the big guy in the red suit) is the “imaginary friend.” Christ is the reason we have CHRISTmas. Santa is the reason that it is fun for little children.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I didn't get to read this post until after Christmas since I took some time off during the holidays and included the computer in the "off" area.

    My daughter is 8 and figured out the Santa thing after a friend at school spilled the beans about the tooth fairy. When she first found out she did ask me why we had lied to her. I told her that it wasn't lying, it was like when they play a pretend game and it's just for fun. There were tears, but she seems good with it now and to her credit she is helping to keep Santa alive for her 5-year old brother.

    I didn't plan out how we were going to deal with Santa either, it all just happened, from the introduction to the discovery, and like many other areas in parenting, I just did the best I could (since my husband was in the shower that morning and thus not able to help!) I think as long as we're honest with our kids about the important things, they'll understand that Santa was a fun fantasy and not a "lie".

  18. Just now reading this…so my advice is probably too late. Santa is fun, just like Chuck E Cheese is fun. Neither is real, and most kids know that very early. Both are fun, and you won't mess your kids up by taking them to visit either or if you let them believe in either one. On the flip side, I doubt your kids will be messed up if you choose to NOT introduce Santa…just like they won't be messed up if they never visit Chuck E Cheese.

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