For several years running I submitted some version of the following editorial to the Deseret News. Last year they finally published it. You may well guess it was controversial, as of course I knew it would be. I will have more to say on the subject of Santa, but first I want your initial reaction to this piece.
Traditionally, shortly before Christmas, an editorial in your paper will â€œbah-humbugâ€ the non-believers in Santa. As one of those folk, I would like to offer an alternative perspective. We will have a season filled with family and friends, light and love, music and holiday food, the Nativity, and giftsâ€”hardly â€œbah-humbugâ€! What we wonâ€™t have is Santa.
Years ago as a young mother I had some reservations about making over much about Santa, but Santa did come. Then one Spring afternoon more than 30 years ago while teaching a rather large church class of nine year olds one of the girls raised her hand and said, â€œWhen I found out that Santa Claus wasnâ€™t real, I didnâ€™t think God or Jesus were either.â€ The class just exploded with everyone wanting to talk at once. These children were still close enough to the â€œbig discoveryâ€ that their memories on the subject were keen and close to the surface. Most had felt betrayed to one degree or another by the people they loved and trusted the most. They also openly wondered about what else they might have been told that wasnâ€™t true.
They had been told by adults they trusted that Santa was real. They had seen Santa and talked to him. Santa was everywhere visible and talked about. And Santa delivered! If what they had been told about Santa was not true, then what could they believe? Who could they believe? This was a sobering day.
I believe that adults build up Santa for their own pleasure (although they all claim to be doing it for the children.) Conversely childrenâ€™s souls hunger for the truth. They want to be treated respectfully and taken seriously. (None of us like to be the ones â€œnot in the know.â€) How the world really works is serious business and one of the most compelling developmental challenges of childhood. Imagining and wondering and exploring are important but truth is still the standard.
I donâ€™t think you need to be hard nosed about Santa. Little children can hold onto several discrepant theories simultaneously. But even these children should not be told things are true which we know are not. We learned that with the youngest children Santa can be played broadly as pretend and â€œjust for funâ€ with little of the magic being lost.
In the years since that â€œexplosive dayâ€ I have come to cherish and protect my integrity and credibility to a degree that I had not done before. Trust is just too precious a commodity to be spent lightly or â€œjust for funâ€. As a parent, and now a grandparent, I have come to appreciate that having my credibility absolutely intact serves me well in hard moments (which will come to all of us) with all the dear children in my life. To be as truthful and kind as we know how should be the standard.