Wednesday, December 24, 2008

To Santa or not to Santa?

At this time of year, especially because this is my daughter's first Christmas that she is aware of the season, parents often ask my views on Santa Claus. Most children have difficulty differentiating between fact and fiction. For most, this does not happen until about age seven. So the path I am choosing is to let my daughter know who Santa is (right now that he is a man with a white beard and he wears a red suit), but I won't ever tell her that he brings her gifts, comes down our chimney, or is a real person. Eventually I will share the myth of Santa Claus and what nice stories they are. There are several reasons for this. First, and most importantly, I do not believe that it is all right to lie to your child. They do eventually find out that there is no Santa and wonder why you have lied to them, for years no less. Will they get over this hurt? Yes, but why cause it? It may lead them to wonder what else you are lying about, especially important if you are a religious family because they cannot see god either. I want to respect my daughter and her intelligence. There are so many wonderful, beautiful realities in the world to learn about. Especially during the holiday season. I would much rather her concentration on those. Secondly, how unsettling to know that a strange man can come into your house through the chimney, or however else someone might say Santa comes in. This can lead to a variety of fears in the night. As for my students, I know that this is not a view many families share, so we talk about the cultural significance of Santa and if they ask questions about whether he is real or not I tell them that that is something excellent to ask their parents. My daughter is 21 months old, so I do not need to worry yet about her telling another child that Santa isn't real, at this point she is just identifying the character of Santa. When she does reach that age, we'll talk about how some people like to pretend that he is real and that we should be respectful of that. We'll also talk about how the spirit of Santa is real and is inside people. When she's old enough to understand that. For now, he's the guy that rode the fire truck in our hometown.

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