Somewhere in the 100+ comments to Rebecca’s post on The Great Cracker Debacle, the topic of Santa came up.
I know it tends to be a touchy subject for people. My husband and I were quite surprised at the reactions from people when we said we weren’t going to be telling Moose that there is actually a real live Santa. Our loved ones quietly disapproved of our choice to raise our son without religion, but not so quietly disapproved of our choice to raise him without Santa Claus. I can’t understand how I’m supposed to tell my kid that Santa is real, but Jesus is fake.
As a skeptic, I stand by my decision. There was no room for compromise on this one.
I’ve gone back and forth on posting this. It’s not quite in line with the general tone of Skepchick. It’s very personal, but no more personal than anything in Parenting Beyond Belief (nor as poignant). But I think the topic of Santa does deserve it’s own post and separate discussion.
After the jump is a letter I wrote to our son on December 20, 2007, just a few days before his first Christmas, explaining my decision to him.
As I write this, you are 4 months old. You fall asleep wherever you want, convenience and comfort are inconsequential. Your days are spent learning the basics of the world – like that things have names and that I don’t slip out of the universe just because I’ve disappeared from view and that people laugh when you laugh. You are adorable. I can’t help but worry that I am not up to the task of being the mother that you deserve, and that I am so much more than under-qualified to raise such an amazing boy. I look at you and I don’t know whether to be humbled by you or to feel like a god for creating you. To say I love you is almost a lie in its understatement.
Some day you are going to want answers from me. You are going to want to know why I’ve made the decisions for you that I’ve made, and your father as well. While I know your father better than anyone else, I cannot speak for him. You will have to ask him yourself. This letter is about my motives.
Tonight is less than a week before your first Christmas, and as you fell asleep on my shoulder I began to wax philosophic about your life and the decisions I am making for you. The first one that may set you apart from your cousins and your friends is that you will probably never believe in Santa Claus. Some people think it is a tragedy to deny a child the magic of Santa, and that by not pretending that he’s real, I am not letting you have an imagination.
Maximus, I want you to have the biggest, dreamiest, kookiest imagination ever to have existed. I want you to imagine things no one has ever imagined before.Â I want you to think and I want you to dream. I want the universe inside your head to be further reaching than the universe outside of it. I want you to have brilliant fantasies and adventures in your mind. But you have to be the creator of your own magic.
If I looked at you and told you there was a Santa, and he is watching you, and he flies around the world in a sled and he has presents and he is real; I would be lying. I would also be telling you that magic is real, that it happens effortlessly, and it is everywhere. Forcing you to believe in a tired old lie just because it is a tradition is not going to help you to build a world of magical fantasy. It will stand in your way.Â Instead I want you to look at the story of Santa Claus and say, “This may not be real, but I can imagine a world where it is.” I want you to find a way to make it real. Making it real for you, and then taking it away is not fair. I refuse to stand in the way of your imagination. I won’t package someone else’s magical world and hand it to you and expect you to treat it like it’s yours.
It is my job to be your role model, Maximus. I will fail at times, that I promise; but I will do all that I can to lead an exemplary life for you. I want you to grow up to be proud of your mom and the job that she did. To do that, I need to set a precedent of honesty.
So you are not going to have a belief in a real Santa as you grow up. Some people think that’s strange. But, my sweet boy, I am giving you something far better than anything any crimson-fleece-suited man can ever leave under a tree: your own imagination and the truth. It will be years before you understand these gifts are better than the newest toys and gadgets topping your wish lists, but that’s okay. You’re not being denied the glorious packages that come along with the tradition of Santa, you’re getting those as well. You are going to love opening presents and all the excitment that comes along with getting two carloads of toys in one day. But you will never love getting those gifts as much as I will love being the one to give them to you.
Merry First Christmas, Maximus.