I’ll never forget the first time a parent told me “we don’t do Santa.” I remember thinking, what? Then, how is that possible? And finally, “that makes me sad for your kid.” The reason behind it for this particular parent was “I’m not going to lie to my kid.” Honestly, this was the first time (that I can think of) as a 32-year-old mother of two, I ever associated lying with the magical idea of Santa Claus. Fast forward two years and this is now a “thing” I see more frequently. After reading a blog post over the weekend that rubbed me the wrong way I couldn’t bite my tongue any longer. It was time to write A Response to the “We Don’t Do Santa” topic.
I should start with sharing that for the first time a slightly strong source, if you will, was provided on the blog I read. Following the referenced source the author goes on to say, “If your kid needs Santa to have a happy childhood, then there is something wrong with their childhood.”
Cue irritation, dramatic eye roll, and my first objection: This statement is not only a contradiction to parts of her referenced source and her writing, but it’s also a contradiction to every developmental psychological theory that exists. No child by any means “needs” Santa to have a happy childhood. There are 365 days in a year, and generally, families celebrate Christmas for 35 of those days. If by some extremely far stretch of the imagination children did “need” Santa to accomplish a happy childhood then what are they doing for the other 330 days in the year? Well, for starters they’re meeting, experiencing, and overcoming social, cognitive, and environmental obstacles at home, school, and in public. How parents guide, teach and support those experiences are only a few of the hundreds of determining factors in what one might view as a “happy childhood” – Not Santa Claus!!
Because little dreamer, there is more truth in imagination than there is in ‘real life’
– Erin Van Vuren
This is About You, Not Them
One of the objections from the source referenced in the original blog post acknowledges the “we’re just not supposed to tell our children any stories, let them watch any movies or read any fictional books” debate. He responds with, “we should treat the Santa Claus story just like we treat all other stories—as a story. To do otherwise would be to cruelly take advantage of the child’s naïveté and possibly hinder his/her intellectual development.”
If we’re going to take it this far and accuse parents of intellectually harming their children because they participate in the Santa tradition then perhaps it’s time the “We Don’t Do Santa” parents recalibrate their own moral compass. Morally, cognitively, emotionally, and socially you are damaging your child by: 1. Not letting them decide if they want to believe, and 2. Not giving them the opportunity to use their imagination how they want to.
I hate to use the “I did it as a kid, and I turned out fine” argument because even I can admit there are flaws to that stance, but can we be real for a minute? In the original post I read, the author admits, “Having Santa was actually a bad experience for me.” So, instead of taking your own bad experiences and using that to provide something better for your children eliminating it all together is more beneficial? For who? Or, is it just the easy way out? This is about you not them, and taking that away has more potential for harm than giving them something magical to believe in. Something that promotes cognitive development, creativity, and social interaction. For God’s sake, can we just let them believe in something magical for a short time? Before they’re forced to be an adult and that innocence is gone?
As a parent it’s your responsibility to assist in the appropriate development of your child’s imagination. To include, helping them understand the difference between fiction and non-fiction. The argument is that as a “believer” I’m lying to my children; breaking their trust, right? I’m confident in my attentiveness as a parent to know that I have instilled the concept of earning and breaking trust in and outside of my home. My ability to parent effectively established that – not Santa. Children in healthy environments do not face the reality of Santa and later have adverse long-term effects with their parents or peers. This is about you, not them. Own that and move on.
You “Don’t Do Santa,” But You’re Still A Liar
If you don’t do Santa, then I’m sorry your child also misses out on the excitement of losing their first tooth, putting it under their pillow at bed time, and waking up to a dollar the tooth fairy left for them. Because, if Santa isn’t real in your home, then neither is the tooth fairy, right? I’m sorry your child doesn’t get to leave carrot sticks and a glass of milk for the easter bunny. Because the easter bunny isn’t real, right?
I’m sorry that despite your daughter watching Beauty and the Beast 73 times she will go to Disney Land/World and not fully experience the magical environment they create when a real life, human, female dressed as Belle comes up to her to hug her, tell her how beautiful she is, and sign her autograph book. She may want to believe, but now she can’t because her parents have ruined that for her. Because again, “it’s not real,” right?
I’m sorry that you’re child misses out at Halloween, too. What’s more exciting than the anticipation of Halloween and a child picking out their costume? One time a year they get to dress-up as their favorite movie, book, or tv show character and pretend they are that character. This holiday alone promotes imaginary play and social interactions, right? Telling a child that Santa isn’t real, or any other fictitious character they may admire is like saying “It’s ok to pretend, but don’t go using that imagination of yours to its fullest.” Because, it’s not real, right? You’re cutting your child short, and for what?
Lastly, if you’re the “We Don’t Do Santa” family, have the common courtesy of trying to explain to your child that: Hey! A lot of kids DO believe in Santa, and that’s ok, just like it’s ok that you don’t. But it’s not something we have to talk about all the time, because we don’t want to ruin it for them. In short- respect other people’s choices the way you want yours to be respected. Also, don’t use the “I can’t control what my kid says” parenting cop-out. Because I guarantee if they were walking around the playground yelling F-Bombs you would control that!
Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere
– Albert Einstein