In fact, the older I get– the more I believe.
True Story: Until the year my Dad died, I made certain to leave Santa milk and cookies next to the spot on the couch where he always sat. Sometimes, if I was feeling a little naughty– I left Santa a shot or two of Jack Daniels in a glass. (This treat was never a big hit with
Mrs. Claus Mom.) This ritual was never a joke. My Mom told me Dad would get up every Christmas morning and head straight for the treats… And he ate and drank every single thing I left out for him.
I’m not telling you this story because I feel the need to submit to the manufactured sappiness that invades our lives every Holiday Season. I’m writing to express how I feel about Santa Claus… That I believe in him and feel that he is very much alive.
This all came to mind when I read author Matt Duvall’s Really Cranky Dad Blog Post the other day– where he was wrestling with when to tell his son Wolfe the truth about Santa. Matt is a great writer– and he’s also a contributor to the Hazard Yet Forward Benefit Anthology – a book that we recently featured in a series of articles on Inveterate Media Junkies. (Coincidentally, HYT would make a FANTASTIC Holiday Gift for the cool, adventurous reader in your crew. So go BUY ONE already.)
My plan was to share the truth about Santa Claus with Wolfe this year and have done with it. Then I read about a man who was arrested in Canada for telling kids Santa isn’t real. Now I have to reconsider.
My wife, of course, thinks we need to lie to our son about this imaginary (and sort of creepy) character who sees him when he’s sleeping and knows when he’s awake (and yet, nobody’s arresting old Saint Nick).
I get it. I truly do. Parents don’t want to feel like they are lying to their children. And Matt brings up a very solid question:
Really, I guess as parents we will eventually lie to our kid, so in the grand scale of things wrapping a gift from Santa and leaving out a little snack isn’t a big deal. But when Wolfe finds out the truth, will he wonder what else we’ve lied to him about?
That is a very real fear and I can see how a caring, intelligent man like Matt would wonder what to do– and when to do it.
But I don’t see the whole Santa thing as that big of a dilemma… And I was hoodwinked about St Nick more than most kids. I actually believed in Mr. Claus until I was 11 years old… And no matter what people told me or what I saw on TV or what I read– nothing would shake my belief that the man existed.
And yes, I understand fully the “Santa Fib” parents tell their children is no “fib” at all. It is lying… And not “technically” lying either. If you look at a child and say, “Santa Claus brings you presents every Christmas Eve.” Or “Santa Claus brought you this bike,” you are flat-out lying… No two-ways about it. So I actually have mountains of respect for Matt for wondering what he should do about it… And I think it is every parent’s right to handle the admission of said lie as best they see fit. From what I’ve read about Matt and his wife on his Blog, I am sure they’ll do more than a fine job.
Conversely, about a year after I stopped believing in Santa, I had no problem in believing in him again… And I’ve never stopped since. Not once. If not in the Jolly Old Elf himself, Santa lives on as a concept in my mind. I loved my parents for caring enough about me to bring the mysterious and exciting Santa into the Holiday mix.
And the cool thing about Mr. Claus? Unlike so many other concepts prevalent in our various societies (religion pops immediately to mind) you can choose to believe if you want… And a refusal to believe in the concept of Santa carries few, if any, repercussions. No one over the age of 10 or 12 will look at you funny if you say you don’t believe in Santa. They may think you’re a little “Grinchy”, but if that’s the worst thing you ever do to them– most people will consider you a Saint. (And speaking of Saints, try walking around telling a large cross-section of people you’re agnostic and see where you land on their like/dislike lists.)
But I also seriously don’t believe Santa should be used a cudgel to keep kids in line. How they should be rewarded or scolded should never depend on a mythic character. That’s where I think many parents err. Santa– as a concept– works perfectly for me. To emphasize the naughty or nice aspect (especially at this time of year) is where you lose kids when they learn the truth. If parents use Santa as a threat— their children have every reason to doubt their Mom & Dad’s sanity or truthfulness moving forward.
I am so anti “Santa as Threat”, I went far enough to complain to the higher-ups at a certain department store last year when NBC caught the company’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Santa repeatedly laying his finger to the side of his nose and staring a little too intensely into the TV cameras. In Santa Speak, it all seemed far too threatening to me– like Robert DeNiro scowling at Ben Stiller and saying, “I’m watching you Focker!” over and over. I’d like to think my impassioned missives helped change things– because the same Santa never laid that stink-finger to his nose once this year. And believe me when I tell you this: I was watching.
My parents never used Santa Claus as a Sword of Damocles— hanging the Fat Man over my head every time I stepped out of line. There was no, “You do that one more time and I’m going to tell Santa not to bring you that Talking Robot you asked for!” Santa was just a man– albeit an extraordinarily good man– in my house. A happy guy who brought toys to good, needy children every year. And I have zero problems with good people being rewarded. There’s enough bad people making bank in this world… We can always use more rewards for the people who go out of their way to do stand up things.
So I believe in Santa Claus– truly and deeply. You? You can do as you like. Believe… Not believe. Decorate every inch of your house inside and out with every Santa totem you like… Or don’t.
Makes no difference to me.
But I will leave you with one last thought. After my Dad died, it was my job to organize his office and papers. In that morass of business files and paperwork there was a bulging Christmas Folder. Inside, there was receipt after receipt showing– no matter what kind of year he had financially– that Dad bought 20 bikes (with helmets, training wheels, etc) for underprivileged kids. To put this into some kind of financial perspective, the bikes usually priced out at $100 a piece… And I never knew a damn thing about it any of it until that moment.
Makes me happy I kept putting out the cookies and milk every December 24th.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa… or Happy Tuesday December 25th. It matters to me not. Wherever you are, I’m proud to have you as part of the IMJ Nation™. Peace and good health to you and yours– through the rest of this year and for many, many more to come.