Friday, December 10, 2010

Do I, or Don't I?

Ugh.  This is hard.  This is about ... fundamental beliefs.  Which are different for everyone.  Which ... I don't really even know what mine are, really.  Which ... this is going to make my mother pray for my soul more fervently than she already has to.

Do I teach my daughter to believe in Santa?

Of course a post like this has to start with me recounting how I found out there was no Santa.  I was in the backseat of a Gremlin with two other kids of close family friends, on our way home from Santa Claus Land (now Holiday World, still in Santa Claus, Indiana) in the middle of July.  It was hot as hell, the boys were terrorizing me with the little plastic snakes that look (and move) like they are real, and it was really freaking hot.  And I was stuck in the backseat.  With boys.

Who then thought it would be fun, since they were bored with the snakes, to terrorize me by telling me that Santa Claus doesn't even exist.  I looked to the front seat, to my mother, to correct them, and she gave some noncommittal bullshit answer that sealed the fate in my heart.

Santa Claus doesn't exist.  He's pretend, he's made up.

I always wondered why Santa didn't wrap the presents he left at my house, but he wrapped the presents he left at my grandparents house.  And why make two stops, anyway, why not just leave it all at my house to begin with?  And some of my friends had presents under their tree that said 'From Santa' weeks in advance - is that how he did it?  He spread it out over time instead of doing it all on one night?

I remember feeling devastated.  I remember wondering what else my parents were lying to me about.  I remember feeling ... sortof ... abandoned.  I was a pretty dramatic kid, after all.  (Was?)


I'm not sure at what point I started questioning if God exists.  It's not related to the Santa thing.  Except ... is it?

I believe that there is much in the universe that we don't understand, and we can call them miracles.

I believe in energies and synchronicities and love, and I believe these are all traits of God.

My heart wants to believe in God.  My brain?  Not so much. 

But yet, I pray.  Daily, nightly, please, thank you.


We don't go to church.  Mostly because I hold onto the past and get homesick and then nothing in the present is good enough.  I belonged to a church where I used to live, where my baby was baptised, that I loved.  But I moved.  Back home.  The church where I grew up ... is different now.  Different pastor, some different people, it feels different.

I want to take my daughter to church.  Not to someplace where she can play while I worship.  I want her to be "in church".  Which, given our nap schedule, means find a church with alternative worship schedules.  Which basically means ... outside my denomination.

So I basically get to decide what I want to be now.  Do I want to be Episcopalian?  Do I want to attend the Church of Christ?  Do I want to be unitarian?  I want to go someplace where they love gay people, and single mothers by choice, and everyone else who walks through the door.  I want to go someplace where there is love and laughter and open arms and stuff for kids and stuff for grownups.

But not too many expectations.  Because I have a full-time job, a household, and a toddler that I manage as a single mama, so I can't volunteer for too much or come to this-and-that right now.  If I get us dressed and to church on time a couple of Sundays a month that will be a good record for us.


By this time next year, I will have to make the Santa decision.  Am I teaching her that different families believe different things, and some families believe that a big fat man comes down the chimney in the middle of a certain night and eats their food and leaves presents and flies on a sleigh with reindeer?  And ours doesn't?

Because I'm not sure I can handle those big round eyes looking at me, saying 'Mama, please tell those boys they are wrong, please tell those boys there is a Santa?"

One morning at church I realized that God IS there.  God is in all those people loving and hugging and welcoming.  God is in the exchange of energy between those people.  Isn't that what Santa is too?  So if I teach her to believe in God, don't I have to teach her to believe in Santa?  But if Santa isn't real, then is God?


Last year I put out the key.  I bought a magic, golden key.  Because, you know, some people don't have chimneys.  They live in apartments, or houses without a chimney.  And how does Santa get in?  You leave him a key.  It came in a gold organza pouch, and it has a red satin ribbon and a bell.  And a poem, about how Santa will use the key to come in and leave your presents.


From the blogosphere: MyBrownBaby won't let my kid play at her house if I don't teach her to believe in Santa.  I haven't read DaMomma's post, because I know it will make me weepy. 

I can do "the magic of the season".  Once finals are over, that is.  I'm just not sure I can play along with Santa. 


Funky Mama Bird said...

My husband and I had a HUGE fight about what to do about Santa, so be grateful you're the only one involved in this decision! ;)

I had a WONDERFUL Santa experience growing up. Full of magic, and "being" santa for others once I found out for real. I believed until I was like 10. I want that for my son.

However. We are Objectivists. And while some can call that a religion, it is not and we don't believe in God. (there. I said it.) Therefore, my husband insists that we can't raise our son to believe in Santa. None of our friends (who are objectivists) raise their kids to believe in Santa, so Gunne would be the only one.

I'm OK with that. I even know how I'm going to break it to him and everything.

I like the idea of creating a little holiday magic for my son, and teaching him to create a little holiday magic for others in the process, no matter what everyone else believes.

Jenny said...

Santa was awesome when I was a kid but DH and I just can't jive with the idea. Combine that with the questions I hear from other parents about how to explain this and how to justify that, all in the name of keeping alive the magic of Santa just makes me feel uncomfortable.

When E was about the Wee One's age we resolved to not do Santa. Over the next two years, we have discovered that EVERYONE a kid encounters at Christmas time asks questions about Santa. It is just assumed that kids believe. That puts us as non-Santa parents in the position Chief Buzzkiller because 1) We are clearly so lame that our kids are never allowed to have fun 2) People assume we are judging them for doing what they do and therefore get defensive.

So to tiptoe around that conflict, as the parent of an almost 4-year-old who LOVES the idea of Santa and the Christmas Spirit of Giving and, of course, getting presents, here is my advice:

1) Don't shy away from Santa any more than you shy away from other characters. Dora, Elmo, Scooby Doo and Santa are equals in our house and we read stories and watch videos about Santa, but when he asks specific questions we make it clear that he is pretend (but still fun!)

2) Smile sweetly and nod when people ask your kid about Santa. If they ask her "What is Santa bringing you", echo them and say "Sweetie, what do you want for Christmas?" I figure our nontraditional choice is our business.

3) Make lots of traditions to keep the holiday special and fun. We do an Advent calendar, drive around to look at lights, bake like crazy and plan lots of fun activities. Keep it fun because it keeps the magic alive, fat man or not. ♥

Serifm said...

The Santa thing doesn't have to be a big deal. She will know all about Santa from popular culture, so you don't have to explain who he is. My parents never sat me down and said "Santa isn't real," they just never talked about him or put his name on any presents, etc. My grandparents did put "from Santa" on things, but always with a wink and a nudge, so we knew it was really from them. And we told them thank you, etc. If you go this route, however, remember to tell Caitlin that NOT EVERYONE KNOWS HE'S IMAGINARY. So you know, she doesn't get suspended from day care. Like me.

MommieV said...

I thought about trying to work that into the post, but it didn't work. I'll try not to get her kicked out of preschool over Santa.

Molly (First the Egg) said...

I just found your blog via your comment at Spilt Milk and am delighted; I'm a feminist PhD (in career transition, no longer faculty-track) parent and find what I've read here so far very interesting.

So I don't know a lot about your context yet. But for the record, we've never done Santa beyond acknowledging that he's a super-popular character that some families pretend are real (such that their children actually believe and enjoy it). He thinks that's sort of bizarre, because one of our big things as a family is never lying to each other (I understand that most parents do lie to their children in many ways with genuinely good reasons/intentions; it's just not how we go about it, and he knows it). He's also informed me that he doesn't think the Santa story is especially interesting, as a story. But Christmas, and the holiday season? Magical. Full of wonder and excitement. Just fabulous.

He did tell some kid at preschool that Santa isn't real, for the first time, last week. We've talked with him (repeatedly) about allowing other families their traditions, but he's four and impulsive. The good news is that the child simply confirmed the reality of Santa with a nearby friend. Noah left believing what he already believed, and the other child left believing what he already believed. No big deal for anyone.

Plus, you know what? Other families have to parent in a world where not everyone does Santa (or for that matter Christmas/Jesus, or Hanukkah, or God, or whatever--rather bigger issues). And we have to parent in a world where other families tell their kids there's really truly this big dude who breaks into everybody's homes to leave gifts and travels via flying reindeer. And it's sort of a pain either way, but we just all have to suck it up and try to play nice, whatever we decide to do re: the Santa myth in our own homes.

Whoa long comment sorry :)

Laraf123 said...

Before I had kids, I thought it was simple: don't teach your kids about Santa and then they won't be disillusioned later. Uh, huh, simple. We are fully immersed in Santa much for that plan. I found an open minded, liberal church (United Church of Christ) after decades of searching. So far H is really happy and growing there...that's all this mom wants.

MommieV said...

My cousin is an openly gay minister for a UCC congregation near where I used to live; I went to one that I liked, but it was more of a drive than I'd like for church to be. I'm also looking into the Episcopal church. A good friend who grew up in the same church as me goes to one that she really likes.

I figure the Santa thing will just evolve. We did get "is Santa coming to your house this year?" from an old lady in the grocery, and I replied with "we just had our picture taken with Santa". I won't chant "he's not real" all the time, I'll just answer questions as they come.

Besides, I'll still teach her about Jesus, and isn't that what the whole thing is supposed to be about anyway?