A con. A lie. A guarantee your kids will become drug addicts. I think I've heard all the anti-Santa diatribes I can take this holiday season. The grumpy mom in Miracle on 34th Street who refused to let her daughter believe in the big guy with the beard was sweet and cuddly compared to the Santa hate that seems to be oozing out on the Internet this holiday season.
I get it! Not every parent on the block wants their kid believing in Santa Claus! But even as I'm typing this with my home-sick-from-school 7-year-old buzzing around, I'm carefully hiding my laptop screen because I want my child to believe in Santa Claus for as long as she possible can.
In truth, I can't remember what it was like to believe in Santa. I remember only the moment when I learned that there was no magical man visiting houses 'round the world every Christmas Eve. I was lying in the nurse's office of my elementary school with a belly ache and -- nosy even then -- listening to the goings on in the main office next door when I heard our gym teacher (and father of one of my childhood best friends) talking about "playing Santa Claus" for his kids.
I didn't, as the real hardcore haters of Old St. Nick will warn, become a rebel overnight, refusing to take anything my parents said at face value. I've never done drugs, nor did I suffer from some sort of post traumatic stress disorder over the revelation.
I simply grew up a bit, earlier than my parents expected or hoped. Looking at my daughter's face as she settled next to Santa on Saturday afternoon, I understand why they let me believe some fat guy in a red suit brought me the things they worked so hard to buy.
On her face I saw magic, pure and simple. She couldn't explain why this man she doesn't see during the year knew her name, her mother's name, knew that she had a new puppy (all benefits of a hometown Santa who is Facebook friends with your mother), but she doesn't even try. She accepts, on blind faith, that there is someone in this world who loves children so much that he'll go the ends of the earth to make them happy.
For us, Santa is not about torturing our child with a threat so she'll behave (I tried it once, and I will never do it again). Santa is about something so much greater and happier, something good in her life rather than the other way around.
At 7, she's already learned about unhappiness. She's seen great-grandparents die, lost beloved pets. She's dealt with bullies and bitter disappointment. I can't shield her from everything, nor do I want to. She needs to learn about the real world.
And yet, I'd rather she learn about it slowly, in bits and pieces. She's still just a child, a little girl lucky to be growing up in American in 2012, in a time and place where childhood is valued, where having a real childhood is still possible.
My little girl wants to believe in magic, and I can let her! It is one of the glorious gifts I as her mother can bestow on her.
I don't have to put her to work the way generations of parents before me. I don't have to treat her as a malleable doll of sorts, ignoring her feelings as generations of parents before me thought was appropriate.
And one day, long after the magic has ended, I hope she looks back and appreciates the time she had, the time when there was no reason to question that there were still people in this world with hearts so large that they're filled with all the children of the world. I hope that if she decides to have children, they too are given this magical gift.
What about you? Do you buy into Santa in your household?
Image by Jeanne Sager