Hello. How have you been?
The above picture was taken during a Christmas walk. We try to walk every day, even days like today; frigid, never-over-freezing days. Christmas walks are particularly nice, because everyone is nice on Christmas, especially to kids.
We run an interfaith household over here. Emma and the girls are Jewish; I was raised Catholic, but all I’ve kept is the guilt. This means we do many Jewish holidays and also…..Christmas.
I’m a secular Christmas celebrator: it’s very much about getting the family together, very much about presents, very much about showering love (which is sort of like every day), and very much about Christmas music and movies.
We don’t do Santa, or Elf on the Shelf, or Christ.
We also do Hanukkah, so this is what our house looks like during the holiday season:
As I said, we don’t “do” Santa, and we’ve told Helena as such. Last year (2019) during the December holiday season, Helena told us that Santa visited her school, which was where she was going to daycare at the time. We reminded her that we “don’t do Santa” in our house.
We informed her that Santa isn’t real.
You may be aghast at this, particularly if you’re a Santa fiend. I don’t know, maybe you’re aghast at all of this. That’s fine. Personally, I think Santa is a creep, and I think his little helper, the “Elf on the Shelf”, is a little creep too.
Don’t go watching my kids while they’re sleeping, monitoring their behavior, and doling out appropriate rewards.
Don’t come falling down my chimney.
We don’t tell Helena all of those opinions. We just say that “we don’t do Santa” and keep it at that.
And the “not being real” thing. We do that too. Sorry.
But I’m sure there are some of you out there thinking about your own kids, who DO believe in Santa. What happens when they run into my kid, the one who says “My Mom and Dad told me Santa isn’t real”?
Because I’m sure that’s heartbreaking, right? To lay that groundwork for your kid to believe that some jolly man watches them constantly, even while they sleep, culminating in a home invasion via chimney. He eats your cookies and leaves a bunch of gifts that YOU worked hard to buy under your tree. The lengths you have to go to in order to keep up the façade: repositioning that damn elf every day, guiding them through the cognitive dissonance that both you and Santa are responsible not only for the gifts, but for gauging the appropriateness of their behavior.
“Hey, who’s sober and crazy enough to break out the ladder and the bells and go stomping up on the roof this year?”
And then for little Pre-K Helena to come in, always sure of her opinions, and just lay it out there: He’s NOT REAL.
I’m making it sound worse than it really is. I’m sure you can handle it at home. Also, you have a whole popular culture to back you up, so there’s that.
This past year (2020) Helena started Pre-K and is in a different school. They talk about all the December holidays and make decorations to take home for each. So she painted a Christmas tree. She made a Star of David out of popsicle sticks. She made a Kinara. We continued to talk about “not doing Santa”.
One day, before Christmas, we’re at our dining room table after I pick Helena up from school. She’s working on a drawing and talking about Santa. Santa’s a hot topic nowadays. I remind her of Santa’s lack of existence, just so we’re clear on that.
“But Dad,” she says, still working on her drawing. “My classmate told me something.”
“Oh yeah, what’s that, kiddo?”
She looks up from her drawing; looks me in the eye, and whispers, a secret thing – “Dad, Santa is REAL. My classmate told me so. He SAW him.”
I have to admit: I didn’t prepare for this. I figured, get it out of the way, tell her the truth, and be done with it. I truly, truly, did not expect her to catch us in the lie.
And then this little punk comes and ruins it for her.
It was only a matter of time before someone broke it to her, that awful, first heartbreak of childhood: your parents have been lying about Santa this whole time.
He is real.
“Kiddo, there are kids who do Santa at their house, but he’s not real, and we don’t do Santa at our house.” I use “understanding but authoritative” voice. I understand and respect these Santa-loving households, but I’m the leading authority in the house on whether or not he’s real.
I have, after all, been there.
She doesn’t really pause at all. She just continues with her drawing, and without looking up, says:
“Well Dad, I do Santa.”
You know, as a parent, I never really need to be reminded that my kid is my kid. And besides the obvious genetic markers, this one just runs away with my oddball sense of humor, intermittent moodiness, and….what’s the word……..incalcitrance?
But then sometimes, she goes ahead and shows it off anyway.
I wasn’t sure how to argue with that. Mostly because doing so would be contrary to my whole approach as a parent. Kid decided on her own that “she does Santa.” I can respect that.
So I let it go.
Hope you all had an enjoyable holiday season, whatever you do or don’t do at your house.
Until next time.