Sunday, December 28, 2014

3 reasons to tell your children the truth about Santa

Christmas makes us mad. People are forced to smile and eat too much, and if you have children, then you will know the pain of transforming hard earned cash into cheap plastic pieces encased in impenetrable plastic tombs that you wrap in paper more delicate than spider web for them to tear apart. 

But as Minchin says, I just really like it. That is, up to the point where we all take a collective crazy pill and try to deceive our children that an omniscient father figure watches over them, judging their deeds worthy of the plastic crap they desire. 

One video in particular really pushed me over the edge. 


On the surface this ticks all the 'magic of xmas' boxes as far as most parents are concerned. But the very reasons most of us gush and go ahhhh at such a video, make me face palm. 

So here are my top 3 reasons to tell your kid that Santa is just a nice made up character we pretend comes down chimneys to give everyone presents. 

1. It's the truth. Sounds silly, but I think we owe it to our children to always tell them as much of the truth as they can handle. My son asked once why he has to wear a helmet on his scooter. I told him it is to protect his brain because that is where all his thoughts are stored, and should he hit his head too hard, he could lose some or all of his memories. 

'Just like great grandpa,' he said innocently. 

We have talked about great grandpa too, of course, and what it means to forget who you are. My son is only 5, but he gets it. And now he wears his helmet without a fuss. 

2. It's probably not a great idea to indoctrinate your children into theist ideology.

The belief that belief is somehow good for us needs to die. The number one thing parents say to me when I admit to having told our son 'the truth', is that there is something magical about the belief in Santa that needs protecting. Some even proudly proclaim the 'you have to believe to receive' mantra. Sigh.

Here's the thing. It's only a belief for the parents. There is nothing magical about Santa if a child thinks he is literally true. This is the contradiction and central irony of faith. People who need to believe in god or the stars or humming crystals, only do so in a catch 22 kind of way. Magic is real, they believe, but 'reality' is seen as science and is rejected as if the fact checking makes the wonders mundane. Then in the same breath they apply a version of rationality to justify their ideologies. God must be real, they say, because I prayed and my sick aunt got better. Anecdotal evidence used the way a researcher sites a peer reviewed journal, but without all the messy facts.  If all this is confusing for an adult, just think how hard it is for a five year old. 

Being told that santa makes all your toys is no more strange or interesting than being told about the global industry that exists to make all the staggering amount of aforementioned plastic. Flying reindeer are only magical to an adult, because we know they cannot be real. But to a child who knows nothing or aerodynamic lift, a flying sleigh seems as probable as any other device. It's not imagination if they think it's real.

Where does all this lead? Well, after your children grow up get over the shock of having been deceived, the one thing they will remember beside a small residue of resentment, is the knowledge that believing in made up things is somehow important. They won't know why, but all the associated tinsel and songs will reinforce the dangerous feeling that reality is not magical enough. Which of course, it is

3. Teaching your child that they will be rewarded for just being 'nice' is creating a world of spoilt, entitled teenagers. And they are ruining everything.


I am really over rewarding mediocrity. We tell our son we will get him one big present and a few small ones, but not because he has done anything, because we love him. That's it. Simple. 

Parents use Santa as a bargaining chip--and I get it, we need all the help we can get sometimes--but the system falls down because deep down, children know all the terrible things they have done. And despite all their lies, all the times they were mean to someone, or stole something without anyone knowing, they still got given a nintendo from the man who was watching closer than the NSA. This can have two outcomes. 

1, the child realises the 'naughty or nice' system is bullshit, and wakes up to the fact that the entire thing is a lie (but then goes along with it to please mum and dad (see reason #2) 

OR 2, the child thinks that Santa must think all the lying etc. didn't really matter, and they deserved their $300 gaming system anyway. 

Option 1 makes them think their parents are stupid, and number 2 makes them think they are the centre of the universe. Either way, you have an entitled teenager in the making. 

So that's it. Remember though, I really do love Christmas. Its sentimental I know, but I just really like it. And its not about giving or receiving, its just about being with the people you love, trying to make them as happy as they make you. Santa--or any made up person--just gets in the way.

T.B.