Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Santa Question

My wife and I took Logan to see Santa at our local mall a few weeks ago.  It was a lot of fun, and although he was a bit cautious at first, he quickly warmed up to old St. Nick and started talking his ear off about all the Christmas trees.  Since then, Logan has been really happy to talk about his experience, and he loves pointing out images of Santa when we pass them.

Our plan was to abort the mission/photo if he started crying and/or panicking.  For the life of me, I will never understand why some people force their kids to sit on Santa's lap even though the kid is obviously terrified.  You can explain it to me a billion times, and I'll still be dumbfounded.  Sure, I get that you want a picture with your kid and Santa, but shouldn't this sort of a thing be more about your kid and less about you?  If the kid hates it, then you're obviously not doing it for his or her benefit.

Anyway, that's not quite my point in writing this.  Some folks have asked me about how I'm going to handle the whole Santa thing with him.  Am I going to tell him that Santa is real? Am I going to tell him that Santa is a made-up guy used to sell Ice Age DVDs?  (I actually have some justification for that one if I did, as the whole display was more about advertising that movie than kids meeting Santa.  Santa even gave Logan a notebook filled with pictures of the characters from the movie.)

It is something that I have to think about, as I don't like lying unless it's absolutely necessary.  Is it necessary that kids believe in Santa?  Probably not, no.  Is it a lie to tell them that he exists?  Yes, it is - and I know that there might be some who are reading this who want to hem and haw and say that it isn't, but I'll stand by that and elaborate in a little bit.  Still, with all that said, I don't have a problem if my kid believes in Santa.

Right now, it's easy.  He's only two, so Santa is as real as Spider-Man, Mickey Mouse, and the members of the Fresh Beat Band.  Logan doesn't know the difference between "real" and "not real".  I told him that he was going to meet Santa, and even if I wanted to tell him that it was just a guy in a suit, he would have no idea what I was talking about.

However, he will get older, and soon he'll start to realize that some things aren't real like leprechauns, clean coal, and Justin Bieber.  Also, there will no doubt be kids that he'll run into who will tell him that Santa isn't real.  This is when it will get tricky.  What will I do if he asks me if Santa is real or not?

My planned response is:  "What do you think?"  The thing is, I want to teach him about Santa for the sheer fact that I want to give him something to figure out.  I want him to understand what it's like to believe something but then realize that you should change your mind according to the evidence.  He'll never do that if I simply tell him that no, Santa isn't real.  But why not just say the opposite?  Because I don't like saying things that aren't true, that's why.

And yes, I've seen some of those responses to children when they ask, "Is Santa Claus real?" where the answer has something to do with "Santa is love and kindness and cookies and stuff.  So yes, all of those things are real, ergo, Santa."  Here's my problem with that kind of answer though: it's obfuscation.  Your kid isn't asking if those things are real.  They want to know if there's a magical guy who rides on a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer who delivers toys to children all around the world.

I have a friend who doesn't like the fact that her daughter is starting to question the whole Santa thing.  I understand that, and I don't want to imply that anybody is wrong for feeling something one way or another; however, I'm just saying that's not the way that I look at it.  I don't think that it's a good thing to simply believe things.  You should have reasons for believing what you believe.  And yes, while it will be one more stage in my son's loss of innocence when he no longer believes in Santa, I will consider it to be a victory for him when he uses his brain to figure out the truth.

The only potential wrinkle in my plan that occurs to me is that I'm not entirely sure what to say if Logan asks me if I believe in Santa.  I don't want to steer him one way or another, but I'm not sure how to answer that one in a way where he has to take on the critical thinking process on his own.  Maybe I can say something along the lines of "You tell me.  If you think I should, I'll believe, but if you think I shouldn't, I won't."  Not sure how good that is, but hopefully I'll come up with some other options when that eventually comes my way.


Ingrid Johnson said...

I don't know if you remember that far back, but when you put the question to me if there was a Santa Claus, I told you "as long as you believe in him there is a Santa Claus". Reality will come to Logan in it's own good time, and maybe he'll have a friend or a cousin who will take the magic out of Santa Claus, just like it happened to you.

Lance Christian Johnson said...

I don't remember that, but I do remember you eventually just admitting that he didn't exist when I asked. I think you basically gave in because it was pretty obvious that I no longer believed by the way I was asking.

Ultimately, that might happen as well. Logan might figure it out for himself but just want a little confirmation.