Friday, December 24, 2010

Santa Claus is coming to town

My parents didn't want me to believe in Santa Claus.  So, of course, I did.

It's not even that they didn't do anything to reinforce the myth.  They straight out told me that Santa didn't exist.  I would argue with them.  Magic explained it all.  It didn't matter that I knew my parents bought the presents and filled the stockings.  Somehow Santa was still a part of it all.

I think I needed that magic in my life.  Still do, although it manifests now as my love of reading science fiction and fantasy.

The year that my parents had nearly convinced me of Santa's non-existence, I received a present with a "From: Santa" gift-tag.  I waved that around as the very proof I had been lacking for so many years.  Even though the gift wrap and handwriting matched the other gifts from a certain aunt.

I suspect that my parents' original decision, not to indulge a belief in Santa, came from my father and matched his decision to raise us knowing about both Christianity and Judaism without encouraging blind belief in either.  It's something I never thought to ask my dad before he died, but I can imagine it as a topic we might have discussed over coffee when E. was a baby.  (My mother is something of an "unreliable narrator," so conversations like this just don't happen very often for us.)

A. and I are letting E. believe in Santa.  The story is everywhere anyway, and E. just loves the various Christmas movies and stories, fed by A.'s love of them and habit of playing them during the fall, starting with The Nightmare Before Christmas shortly before Halloween.  After seeing The Polar Express a few years ago, he found a jingle bell in our house and carried it around with great reverence.

I can reconcile our encouragement of all this with our desire to raise E. to be a critical thinker thanks to an essay written by Dale McGowan.  He's run it during a couple Christmas seasons and it appears in his book Parenting Beyond Belief.  The short version is that Santa provides kids with an opportunity to reason through something that they are originally told just to believe.

E. is not ready to stop believing yet.  He has accepted, without question, Santa's budgetary limits and deadlines for wishlists.  He does not care to notice that the gift-tags are the same as on some of our presents, that the handwriting is mine, that Santa uses different wrapping paper at our house and at his grandparents'.  He does not dwell on the logisitics of Santa making it around the world in one night.  All of it still just is.

And I'm happy for it to stay that way for just a bit longer.

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