Peppermint poop and my willingness to lie to my kids
Thursday, December 3rd, 2015
The holidays, to the surprise of nobody who has ever sat through an entire family dinner with extended family, is a time for argument. Love and warmth and charity and happiness, yes, but mainly argument I think.
You put Elf on the Shelf out or you hate the idea of him. Or maybe you put them out but still hate the idea of them. Or maybe you don’t put one out but wish you did. We do put one out and we make up our own rules about it.
Maybe you want to keep the Santa story going for as long as your kids will let you and maybe you hate the idea of lying to your kids about the existence of this magical man in red and know he’s a myth all along. Maybe you do a bit of both, you set out cookies on Christmas Eve and then lie in bed thinking about whether or not you’re setting your child up for catastrophic disappointment.
Maybe who cares.
We all make our choices at this time of year the same way we make choices about raising our kids the other 364 days of the year. They are all good choices for us. I promise not to judge parents for not having an elf if they promise to stop suggesting were raising our kids to grow up in a Big Brother world because we have a crudely stuffed doll that shits peppermint in our house.
Because memories can be fickle.
I don’t remember the moment I realized Santa wasn’t a real person who broke into our house every December 24 as long as we were sleeping and not at all willing to confront him. Over the years I just started piecing together my own puzzle about it, maybe building something that resembles the truth. The likely story is that I loved looking for presents beforehand and one year I finally found them, probably tucked away under a bed, and became too scared to call out my parents on it for fear I’d never get another “Santa Gift.” I remember unwrapping Jaws one Christmas and playing on the Nintendo early in the morning before re-wrapping it and putting it back under the tree. But I don’t remember hearing “Santa isn’t real.”
I don’t hold my parents responsible for mistrust in adults because of it and I don’t think they got anything wrong. I have no heartbreaking moment when I felt like my childhood ended. I don’t remember learning about the Tooth Fairy either. Or any other mythological beings that I now know to be nothing more than something I’m also teaching my own kids about.
Which brings me around to my own question I ask myself every year when my daughters so completely immerse themselves into the idea of Santa Claus and I so willingly refuse to do anything about it: am I a good for nothing liar? And knowing the likely answer to that, does being a good for nothing liar matter?
Mostly, yes I am that liar. There is no man in red who slides down chimneys and leaves gifts for our kids. I know this because I buy these gifts with my own credit card and I know that those gifts end up being labelled “From Santa.” I put them there, he did not. Yet, when my daughter sits her younger sister down to explain to her the importance of writing a very concise letter, I watch with a smile instead of a frown. I don’t consider myself a bad person. Why?
When my five-year-old talks about Santa, she does so with a look in her eyes I can’t create with a joke or even a really good meal with an exceptional dessert. The way our girls talk about Christmas with such amazing smiles on our faces, makes us smile. And the kind of magic that makes both parents and kids alike smile, is a kind of magic I want to preserve for as long as I can.
Which brings us back to lying. I very honestly have no idea what makes your child happy. I know for most kids, that thing isn’t just Christmas. Billions of kids give no shit about Christmas. That’s perfect. Frankly, I don’t care if it’s Christmas or if it’s watching an ant crawl across the kitchen floor. If your kid think ants crawling across the kitchen floor with a bit of watermelon on its back is magic, I want your kid to go on believing that magic for as long as you’d both like.
But I SIMPLY WILL NOT BUY IN TO ANYONE’S IDEA THAT GOOD KIDS CAN’T BE RAISED BELIEVING A LIE. One five-year-old is not better to take on the world than another one just because they no longer believe in Santa. One parent is not doing a better job than another because they’ve already broken the news to their child. Please, please, please, please, let each family manage their magic moments on their own.
If we’re confronted with the truth about Santa, I feel comfortable with the phrase “I’m 36 and I still believe in Santa.” Because, like you might hear in a cheesy early-November Christmas movie, I do. I believe in promoting ideas that make my kids happy and selfishly, I promote extending those moments for as long as I can so that I’m happy too.
A child who knows there is no Santa is still lied to regularly to some degree, and I’d argue that’s a good thing. Honestly, I want my kids to be able to shape reality in a way that will help them put smiles on their faces. As an adult, shifting reality is the only thing that gets me through most days. Watching the daily news, one can’t help but project a future where things are better. My kids don’t know a whole lot about terrorism or the intricacies of cancer, or racism , or sexual assault or that a child born on the same age as them died today.
They’ll learn these things one day and that’s for the best. Hopefully I do a good enough of a job parenting that I’m the one who introduces these issues to them. And I won’t be the least bit upset if they use the imagination they’re building right now to think of a world that’s better.