You know me and my ongoing argument with Santa. I honestly don’t mean to come across as grinchy. In real life I don’t think too many gals could beat me in a holiday spirit contest. And, fine, I think Santa’s cute. I just don’t want him to overshadow Jesus’ birthday.
Like any parent, I simply put my energy (which has its limits) into what I think is most important for my kids. And Santa’s not important here at the Blake house. Nothing traumatic happened in my childhood to cause me to behave this way. I guess I’ve just kind of assumed that we, as a culture led by my own generation, were kind of over this whole Santa thing. (But, then, I also assumed that my generation was over the whole public school thing, and I am continually surprised when my peers put their kids on the bus. So maybe I’m not the most grounded witness on any subject.)
You know me, just trying to live in pursuit of truth over here on the Pease Bottom. Makes me suuuuuuuper popular.
Anyhow, I didn’t intend for this to be an angry blog. Sometimes I can come across as abrasive. I am sensitive to that. So I really saw a light when my best birthday buddy, Shirlee (we both have June 23 birthdays), who is a (bravely regular) reader of my blog, recently sent me a link to a story that represents… well… what I would call a Reasonable Approach to Santa.
And so… in an effort to extend an olive branch to the jolly ol’ tall tale, as well as to friends and family who are fervent believers in perpetuating Santa (I don’t really get you people, you know, but I understand that you don’t get me, either), I present this sweet story which went viral on the internet this Christmas season. The version of the story I saw was published on the GoodGood Stories Facebook page and is credited to a mom named Leslie Rus. Here’s what she has to say:
In our family, we have a special way of transitioning the kids from receiving from Santa to becoming a Santa. This way, the Santa construct is not a lie that gets discovered, but an unfolding series of good deeds and Christmas spirit.
When they are 6 or 7, whenever you see that dawning suspicion that Santa may not be a material being, that means the child is ready.
I take them out “for coffee” at the local wherever. We get a booth, order our drinks, and the following pronouncement is made:
“You sure have grown an awful lot this year. Not only are you taller, but I can see that your heart has grown, too.” (Point out 2-3 examples of empathetic behavior, consideration of others’ feelings, good deeds, etc., which the kid has exhibited in the past year.) “In fact, your heart has grown so much that I think you are ready to become a Santa Claus.
“You probably have noticed that most of the Santas you see are people dressed up like him. Some of your friends might have even told you that there is no Santa. A lot of children think that, because they aren’t ready to BE a Santa yet… but YOU ARE.
“Tell me the best things about Santa. What does Santa get for all of his trouble?” (Lead the kid from “cookies” to the good feeling of having done something for someone else.)
Now bring the conversation to its crux: “I think YOU are ready to do your first job as a Santa!” (Make sure you maintain the proper conspiratorial tone.)
We then have the child choose someone they know — a neighbor usually. The child’s mission is to secretly, deviously, find out something that the person needs, and then provide it, wrap it, deliver it — and never reveal to the target where it came from. Being a Santa isn’t about getting credit, you see. It’s unselfish giving.
My oldest chose the “witch lady” on the corner. She really was horrible — had a fence around the house and would never let the kids go in and get a stray ball or Frisbee. She’d yell at them to play quieter, etc. — a real pill. He noticed when we drove to school that she came out every morning to get her paper in bare feet, so he decided she needed slippers. So then he had to spy and decide how big her feet were. He hid in the bushes one Saturday and decided she was a medium. We went to Kmart and bought warm slippers. He wrapped them up and tagged the package: “Merry Christmas from Santa.” After dinner one evening he slipped down to her house and slid the package under her driveway gate. The next morning, we watched her waddle out to get the paper, pick up the present, and go inside. My son was all excited and couldn’t wait to see what would happen next. The next morning, as we drove off, there she was, out getting her paper — wearing the slippers. He was ecstatic. I had to remind him that NO ONE could ever know what he did, or he wouldn’t be a Santa.
Over the years he chose a good number of targets, always coming up with a unique present just for each one. One year he polished up his bike, put a new seat on it, and gave it to a family friend’s daughter. These people were very poor. We did ask the dad if it was okay. The look on her face when she saw the bike on the patio with a big bow on it was almost as good as the look on my son’s face.
When it came time for Son #2 to join the ranks, my oldest came along and helped with the induction speech. These days they are both excellent gifters, by the way, and never felt that they had been lied to — because they were let in on the Secret of Being a Santa.
Awwww. Now there’s a mom after my own heart. Being a Santa — genius! That’s something even I can agree with, and you know me, I’m pretty radical! But the thing is, of course my kids know that Santa is a “thing” — he’s in books, stores, commercials, cartoons, and everywhere else in December. Santa is downright hard to avoid in the good ol’ U.S., so I guess our job as parents is to put a healthy spin on him.
Our six-year-old was totally perplexed by an altercation at the Christmas Eve party at GG’s this year, during which an older cousin held little cousins in a teary hostage because he had “called Santa” on his cell phone to tell Santa that the little cousins were all naughty and didn’t deserve any presents this year! I had to work hard not to laugh at that one.
Which I guess brings me to my final note for this year. Some folks say they perpetuate the Santa tale because they want to “let the kids be little.” I am totally in favor of letting kids be little, and I think there are lots of logical ways to accomplish the same. Like dressing them in age-appropriate clothing. Like letting them play and be imaginative. Like making sure home is a safe place for them. Like protecting them as long as possible from the worldliness that the world — including some peers — can’t wait to tell them all about.
Because if your big kid has heard all about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll at school but continues to “believe” in the Santa who magically brings presents on Christmas Eve — instead of the folks who care enough about him to spend money on him at Christmastime — then somebody’s playing the fool. As far as I can tell, it can’t be both ways.
Again, this wasn’t meant to be an angry blog. I’m making myself stop now. We’re all just trying to raise good kids, right? Kids more interested in giving than getting. And I’ll admit there are a lot of different ways to accomplish the same goal.
Happy New Year’s Eve, everyone!
© Tami Blake