Monday, January 21, 2013

the secret about santa

For the record, I want to start off by saying that this post is by no means meant to pass judgement on those who make a different decision than we do in regards to the Santa issue. I have several close friends and family members who participate and I do not think you are bad parents if you do the Santa thing in your house. I do not think you are teaching your kids to be dishonest and I do not think that you are keeping the real meaning of Christmas from them.

That being said, as I've mentioned on this blog here before, we do not do the Santa thing in our house.

But this post is not about the reasons for or against the decision each household makes about this controversial subject.  This is about the result of those decisions and how they seem to be affecting my youngest daughter. What you choose to do as a family in your home is totally up to you...but when it starts leaking out to my home and having a negative affect on my daughter is when I need to try to at least get my feelings out and my opinion stated.

I feel that every year it's everyone's concern about keeping the magic of Santa alive for their young children, so DON'T YOU DARE let it slip that he's not real. If you don't do Santa in your house, you better be sure that you stress that to your kids so they don't spill the beans. The pressure that our non-believing children get put under to keep this fact a secret feels unfair to me. So I suppose I'm being the advocate for the other side of the spectrum for a change.

It has seemed particularly difficult for Malia to understand just what she is and is not allowed to say in this regard. She knows she's not supposed to just blurt it out to someone that Santa isn't real. But there were several times this Christmas (as well as last Christmas) where she would come home from school or a friend's house asking about what she should've said to such-and-such a question about Mr. Clause. Always concerned that she would accidentally say the wrong thing. Or not knowing what to say when asked directly, "Do you believe in Santa?"

We would try to explain to her that if she was asked outright she was certainly allowed to say what she believed but she would still come home from such experiences saying that she just said "I'm not allowed to say." 

I could tell that this always bothered her - the stress of trying to make sure she doesn't say something she shouldn't as well as not feeling free to express her own beliefs.

You might be wondering why I'm bringing this up now, as we are nearing the end of January and Christmas is long over. The reason is because of something that happened at school last week.

Malia came home from school one day last week saying that she was asked - along with a group of peers - if she believed in God.

Her response? "I'm not allowed to say."

I'll be honest...this broke my heart. My 7 year old daughter is getting so confused and I believe that because of the Santa thing, she is thinking that she needs to keep her belief in God a secret too. Of course I made sure to immediately explain to her the difference and that our belief in God is just the opposite - that we are SUPPOSED to tell people that we believe in Him. But I totally get where her confusion lies.

And therein is my problem with the secret about Santa (and the tooth fairy...we let the girls have fun with putting their teeth under their pillow and getting money but they know it's from us). I normally stay away from controversial subjects and I am not one to normally start - or join - a debate on something that is sure to have strong opposing sides. I get anxious about getting ripped to shreds or about stepping on someone else's toes. So remember that this is not something that was easy for me to post. But as anxious as I am about getting any negative feedback from this post, I am more concerned about my child and what this is doing to her belief system.

So to those of you who are always so concerned about kids letting it slip and asking that we keep this a secret...I am asking you to remember that my child is under a lot of stress and confusion about this subject and that there is another side to consider.


pam said...

We also don't "do" Santa in our house. This year when Annika was asked if Santa came to her house, she said (without any prompting from us), "no, we don't have a chimney." I had to laugh at that. So far we haven't had a lot of issues about not telling others, but it will probably come up in the future.

I think for next year, you should just encourage Malia to tell the truth about Santa - screw everyone else. By this age kids should be figuring it out anyways, right? ;)

Seriously though, I appreciated this post and I glad that you had the courage to share the "other side" of the story. I hope you can help Malia get things all figured out.

LaughingLady said...

That IS heart-breaking.

Our girls' friends and their parents were always a little shocked when the girls would boldly state, "Santa doesn't come to our house." :)

We've always encouraged our girls to not be shy about saying what they believe (or have been taught) about Santa, should the subject come up. If they happen to throw some child into a state of confusion because of it, we figured that was that kid's parents' problem. THEY'RE the ones deceiving their own children.

You're right, there IS another side to the Santa secret-keeping.

The Brandt Family said...

We don't "do" the Santa thing either. My kids know the real story of St. Nick and what he stands for. They still see Santa at the mall and think it is fun to tell him what they want for Christmas, but don't actually believe that he flies around the world delivering gifts.

It's kind of like the tooth fairy.
I had 2 kids come up to me the other day when I was volunteering in my girl's grade 1 class. They asked me if I thought the Tooth Fairy was real.
I asked them what they thought. One child said yes and the other said no.
I wasn't sure where to go with that and then another kid piped up "If you believe in the Tooth Fairy then she comes to your house; if you don't believe then she doesn't"

I think that is a fairly correct answer and one that my kids have used.

Margo said...

Good, valid post! Though I agree that you wouldn't want Malia going around trampling on peoples' fantasies, she should always be free to answer a direct question with an honest, direct answer. I have no issue with the fun character of Santa, but can't grasp the concept of lying to one's child about anything.

Angela Kroeker said...

Ok, I am never one to shy away from a little controversy. In fact think they are good for the soul. We started off not teaching our children about Santa. In fact we talked with family members and told them we would NEVER do the Santa thing. I grew up believing in Santa, but felt in order to do 'the right thing." I should shy away from Santa. Get my children to only focus on the TRUE meaning of Christmas. Raise them right! I don't buy Santa stuff for the home. We told the kids when they were very young that we don't believe in Santa. Then When Our oldest came home from school one year talking about Santa like he was just going to come to our home I stopped to evaluated the situation again. I talked to my Mother-in-law whom is one of the most powerful prayer warriors I know. I asked what her take is on it. she totally surprised me! She thought that Santa was a fun thing for kids enjoy. Jesus should alway be the focus of the season but that there was nothing wrong with a little fun and imagination! So Pat and I talked it over and we felt...........wait for it................that we would allow a little imagination and fun during the holidays! Yep, we do the Santa thing in our home! We focus on Jesus and the reason for the season but they each get one gift from Santa at Christmas. Its such a little part of our holiday celebration and it's ok.

So Andrea, I think you did the right thing by explaining to your little one the difference between when to speak up and and when not to. Our children all have moments of confusion and its our job to help clear things up. As Christians its going to happen to our children more often then if we were not. Here is where I would like to caution you. Also as Christians we need to act in away that reflects Jesus. That shows the fruits of the Spirit. Now our children are still growing and learning, its up to us to guide them. When we tell our children to just go tell other innocent little children that Santa is not real, you are walking down scary road. It is one thing to be passionate about your faith and another to be pushy. Remember God gave us all freedom to choose. Those parents are responsible for teaching those kids about Santa. It's the parents that are allowing it. It is their right!! By telling your children it's ok to just blurt this out you are running the risk of punishing the wrong person. God said our walk with Him would not be easy. Guiding our Children is no easy task. I believe with all my heart that a person who seeks peace and understanding would not teach their children to just blurt that out. Santa is not evil. We are not talking about a weegie board here. I know how you feel about Santa, I was once there myself. I am still very passionate about many issues but pushing our thoughts and beliefs on others is wrong. Especially little children. Please don't punish innocent kids. Its really not their fault. Its not your job to set them strait. Please keep in mind that God gave us all the freedom of choice. If one day a parent asks you about the subject by all means explain your beliefs regarding Santa. Or if there is an opportunity for you to bring it up in a respectful way. Share. With. The. Parent. If there is going to be any hope of you being an influence on the families that do teach about Santa or non-belivers it's that way. Or invite those families into your home at Christmas and while the children are off playing bring up the subject. What do you think the out come is when we act in a way that reflects the fruits of the Spirit? What do you think the outcome is when we act in a pushy way that steamrolls over people? Let me say that I have had to learn all these lessons the hard way. I can be a very pushy person and LOUD about it! This has been a hard lesson in my own life. I have had to learn to that God commands us to love first and to show respect.

Andrea said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. I've been thinking about this A LOT since the "episode" at school and have been talking with Les about it.

Ang, thanks for your very in-depth comment. I need to clarify a few things though from my side...first, I don't think this really has anything to do with the Christian faith - I think it's a decision that's completely separate, as I don't think that the two are related. You can be a Christian AND "do" the Santa thing in your home simultaneously. My problem is that Malia is getting confused between the two.

And for the record - I will never encourage my kids to just blurt it out for no reason. Like if a bunch of kids are talking about Santa and what they asked him for Christmas, I would not think it ok for my kids to just say "by the way, he's not real you know."

BUT if my girls are ASKED if they believe in Santa or if he is real, we want them to be able to say no. I think it's important - especially after these recent events - to raise my kids to be able to stand up for what they believe in. Now again, this doesn't mean that they will just blurt it out whenever they hear someone talking about Santa. And this is where the difference lies about the topic of God. THAT is a situation where they are SUPPOSED to blurt it out - shout it from the rooftops! In that situation, if a group of kids is talking about how God ISN'T real, that's when I want my child to feel free to express - and yes, even blurt out - that He IS real. Without being asked their opinion.

Again, there's still some confusion between the two and as I was talking to Malia about it again the other day (after posting this) she still seemed confused. She's supposed to be able to say what she believes in - but in one situation ONLY when asked, and in another situation it's not only okay - but a GOOD thing - to speak up anytime.

I don't think that it's a matter of being pushy by them stating their opinion. We're all allowed to give our opinion. Sometimes we need to keep our opinions to ourselves if it is unnecessary to share it - but I am really feeling strongly about them certainly being ALLOWED to share their opinion when asked about it. Certainly they should not have to struggle with that. It's hard enough for adults to talk around the subject if a little kid asks us about it (such as Angela and her questions she was asked about the tooth fairy by the grade 1 kids) nevermind a child having to figure out how to say it without giving it away yet without having to lie and go against what they believe.

I'm still struggling with this issue, but rest assured that I still have respect for families who make the decision the other way. And previous to this, it didn't really bother me since Joelle understood much better and wasn't confused between Santa and her faith in God.

But with the difference with how Malia is handling the subject...well, my kids are my top priority - especially when it comes to the issue of their faith - and my #1 job is to be HER parent and to worry about her first. I do tread lightly around this issue because I know how important it is to some people and I want to be considerate of that - and I want my girls to be considerate of that too.

But I just want them to be able to give their opinion when asked.

Michelle M said...

Hi all, I figured I would weigh in on this topic. Just 'cause I was feeling chatty this am :) We as parents decided to do the Santa thing in our household. We are Christians and teach the real meaning of Christmas first and foremost though. The difference for us though is we made the decision to teach our kids that even though they believe in Santa some kids do not and that that is their right just as they have the right to believe in Santa. We taught them that everyone has different beliefs and that we must respect that just as we expect others to respect ours. So keeping this brief we are okay if someone tells our kids they don't believe in Santa as we have taught our kids that everyone has a right to their opinions. They know not to take it personally but instead accept that that is their truth. I think this is a valuable lesson for everyone. I think every kid/adult should be able to speak their beliefs as long as they respect the other persons as well.

Andrea said...

Michelle - thanks for weighing in. It's parents like you that make this situation much easier for us. It's exactly as you say - the respect for the different decisions need to go both ways. All through life we will run into people who have different opinions than us on many different topics. And we need to teach our kids right from a young age that it's OKAY to have different views and opinions. Respect for those differences is key, while still having the right to express the differences.

Thanks sis!

Angela Kroeker said...

I think as well that the Santa thing and Christianity are different things. However, generally people of faith are the ones that avoid Santa because of their beliefs. In that way the issue becomes a conversation in faith circles. People seem to tie the two together. I agree you can so both simultaneously as a believer. Obviously because we do it in our home.

I think there is a difference when a child say's, "I don't believe in Santa." and when they say, "Santa is not real" I am glad Andrea that you are sensitive about the wording. That you have instructed your children to NOT TO BLURT it out. Words can be tricky and the out come of those two statements is very different. The effect on the child whom is receiving those words is very different. I think when parents instruct their children to say the latter they are stepping on other peoples beliefs. Their right to parent how they want. Yes, by all means your child has every right to stand up for what they believe in. They should not be afraid to talk about their faith. There are may ways to go about these things. When my oldest was three or four I remember telling him, "We don't believe in Santa but you cannot tell your cousins Santa is not real. That's not ok. Just tell him you don't believe in Santa." It's not like I haven't fallowed my own advice. I knew it was not my job to 'enlighten' my brother and his family. It's totally the wrong way to go about things. It's stepping on peoples right to teach what they want in their own home. Its like when my child goes over to eat at some else's home. If they don't like something on their plate I have told them that they have to eat it anyway. If they are asked they are to say, "It's not my favourite" The idea is training them to be polite and respectful of others. People can agree or disagree. Its what I choose to teach my kids. I have that right. I just think if we want our children to grow up and be able to have an influence on others they need to act in a way that is kind, gentle, and respectful of others. Then when our kids start sharing about Jesus their friends will listen. When they are young and they do such things they will only upset their peers. Also piss off a few parents. The outcome cannot be good. You have a right to train your children how you want as well. I hope you will think about the outcome of such teachings. Does it fallow the teachings of the Bible? Does such actions reflect the fruits of the Spirit? I have made my fair share of blunders with my kids. I have often found myself asking God to "Mop up after me." After doing some deep digging in my own life I have realized how important it is to respect others when we differ. To also keep in mind how patient God is with me as I'm growing and learning. I try to apply that to how I teach my children. So I encourage those parents who don't do Santa in their home to teach their kids to just say, "I don't believe in Santa." It's honest about your beliefs, and respects others rights at the same time.

Thanks Andrea for this post. It has caused me to think about it more deeply.