Why do we lie to our children about Santa Claus?
When my older daughter was born I intended to celebrate Christmas without including a “real” Santa. Under pressure I conceded to perpetuating the Santa lie. Fast-forward 10 years, she accepts Santa’s new status as a fairytale character; however, many children are not fine with the idea that Santa Claus isn’t real.
The other day my 6-year-old daughter told me she wanted Santa Claus to bring her a violin. Currently, we are unable to afford one. Here is the ensuing conversation:
“Well, I don’t think Santa is going to bring you a violin.”
“I don’t think he makes them.”
“The elves actually make them, Mama.”
“Oh, well I don’t think Santa can bring you a violin.”
“Yes, he can…he’s magic!”
“Hmm, well I don’t think you’re going to get one this year.”
“I got an electric guitar at my Dad’s last year because I was good!”
[Alarmed] “Who told you that you had to be good to get presents…you are always good!”
“Santa doesn’t bring presents to bad kids.”
Do you understand my dilemma? I either need to tell my daughter Santa Claus isn’t real, which will make her unhappy, or she will believe that she has been “bad” and that’s why she didn’t receive a violin. Of course, it would be far worse for me to allow my child to believe she is bad than to tell her a truth she may not want to hear.
We convince our children to believe in Santa and encourage them to believe in faeries, but then at a certain age they are suddenly supposed to know the “truth.” Not only that, they learn that the parents they trust have lied to them. Whenever my daughters have asked if Santa is real I’ve responded, “What do you think?” But still, I don’t deny his existence to my six-year-old.
Perhaps we should re-think the way we portray Santa Claus and Christmas. We can still celebrate with gifts (hopefully not too many) and family. We can still have stockings and a tree with pretty lights. We can also allow our children to believe in the spirit of Santa, or faeries or anything else. We don’t need to lie or lead our children to believe their behavior is responsible for the amount or kinds of gifts they receive. We can promote the spirit of the holiday without telling our children that a man in a red suit will bring them presents if they behave.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!