Friday, December 9, 2011

Santa Claus

There comes a point in our lives that we each have to decide for ourselves what we will draw a hard line on and choose on which side we will stand. As parents to four people who we have been entrusted to introduce to the world and teach them how they should live in it, these hard lines are often magnified.

One such hard line that we all have to decide where we fall on is that of Truth, and how we will interact with it. For Jason and myself, we have chosen that we will always choose to speak the truth with one another, our children and everyone that we interact with in our lives. We want there to be no question that the words that we speak are true, to the best of our knowledge. It's easy to say that you will always choose to speak the truth, but much more challenging to put into practice than one might think.

Especially at Christmas time.

You see, we are also huge proponents for exercising the imagination and embracing the magic and wonder in the world--and children naturally have a propensity to explore this realm. So, when the questions started this year from our 6 and 4-year-old daughters about Santa Claus and if he is real, we were required to actively take our stance on one side or the other of the hard line of Truth, while also teaching our children respect for others and an understanding for how and why other families make different choices in their observance of Santa Claus as part of their Christmas traditions.

Since this conversation was one between Jason and our oldest girls in the car travelling home from school, I will turn it over to him to share how he explained Santa Claus to Caroline and Lydia with grace, respect and simplicity.

(tap tap) Um, is this thing on?  Hello?  O, um, ok...So, yeah, there we were driving along, listening to some festive music on the radio.  The girls like to chatter about what they have been up to for the day, usually in a one sided conversation.  I will get asked questions, but never really given an opportunity to answer.  Not this time.  "Daddy, is Santa Claus real?".  (chirp chirp chirp).  I pause, hoping to avert the question and that they will continue on as usual.  Not this time.  The question is repeated.  Another pause.

I gather my wits, racking my brain how I need to explain things.  I open my mouth, and words start to flow forth.  It was some stammering at first, but soon comprehensible speech starts to flow.  It went something like this:

"No, honey, Santa Claus is not a real person.  That name is derived from 
Saint Nicholas who lived a very long time ago.  He liked to help out people by giving them gifts.  He did it secretly, so that they did not know who was giving them the gifts.  He helped them by giving them money or maybe food or clothes, whatever they needed.  Well, some people thought that this was a good idea, giving people gifts secretly to help them out.  That tradition has continued through the years, and what people would do is say that their gift was from Santa Claus.  Do you see how it sounds similar to Saint Nicholas?  So, some parents like to say that the gifts their children get are from Santa Claus because they like to play the secret game with them.  Your mom and I like you kids to know that the gifts came from us, so we decided not to play that game. We didn't feel the need to give them secretly.  

"So, girls, even though your mom and I don't play that game with you, I hope that you understand that other boys and girls parents play that game with them.  They have fun playing it, and so we don't want to ruin the game for them.  We don't need to go around telling other boys and girls that there is not a Santa Claus.  We will let their parents do that when they are done playing the game."

I repeated the last part a few times to make sure that it sunk in, 'DON'T RUIN IT FOR OTHERS!'  As a general disclaimer, I understand that my history on Saint Nicholas may not be 100% accurate, but I think I got the gist of it.  Ok, back to Steph.

When Jason shared with me last night about the pointed question that the girls asked him and how he relayed to them the truth, as best as he knows it, I was struck. The girls knew that they could ask him a question that they have been unable to get a straight answer from many people about, and trusted their dad to tell them the truth. There is something sacred in that relationship and their trust that I hope never gets destroyed.

I want our children to always know that they can ask us the hard questions, and that we will give them the most honest answer that we know. It might not be a popular response, but it's Truth. From where we sit, looking down the road of life, there is too much riding on them knowing that every word that comes from our lips is Truth to give them anything less. Even if it's about a subject as innocuous as Santa Claus.

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  1. I am so with you on this one! Great post!

  2. interesting conundrum. mine are starting to ask questions as well. I need to think about this problem but I do see your point.

  3. I think he handled it very graciously; a beautiful answer.

  4. I agree, fantastic post and well said!! Our family is dealing with this exact thing as more and more, the colliding of worlds and beliefs has brought this to light. It's ironic that this was the answer given only days after I (in sputtering sentences I'm sure) gave the exact explanation to a family member as to how I view Santa Claus and the true meaning of CHRISTmas.

  5. It's not an easy decision to make. While we don't want to answer the kids' questions with less than the truth, we also don't want to kill their sense of wonder or teach them to be intolerant of others' choices in this instance either. Both wonder and tolerance are also important values, as well as honesty, and killing those values to teach another would be counterproductive.