Tanya Enberg: Unexpected Mother

Dec
17
2014

One Very Special Reason to Lie to Your Kids

WHY DO PARENTS PERPETUATE THE STRANGE SANTA CLAUS MYTH?

The Magic of Santa Claus

Some things are inherently creepy about the myth of Santa Claus.

As an adult, I can see this.

The line, “He sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake,” in the beloved Christmas tune, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, gives me the willies.

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So does the idea of telling our kids to go sit on the lap of a bearded stranger to ask for free stuff and then unquestioningly accept candy from him (all completely at odds with teaching our children not to talk to strangers or accept candy from them).

Then, to top it all off, we tell our children that this red-cloaked man flies around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer so that he can sneak into our homes late at night and deliver a pile of gifts, while tossing back endless helpings of baked goods.

All this being said, a long time ago, I believed in Santa Claus.

At what point I stopped believing in him is a bit of a mystery, but the discovery of this fallacy certainly didn’t leave any major dents on my psyche or conjure up feelings of betrayal.

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But now it’s my turn to lie, and this Christmas I found myself wrestling with the question countless parents before me have wrestled with: Do my husband and I continue to perpetuate the Santa Claus myth?

Do we lie to our child?

And if we don't, can we live with being those parents? You know, the Bah Humbug ones hated by their fellow community members for their unwillingness to go along with age-old narratives of Saint Nick and, in their refusal to do so, destroy the dreams of countless other kids in their child’s orbit?

No, we can't. 

Yet, it is all highly strange.

How did so many grown-ups (the majority of whom we’ll assume are sane) agree to go along with this widespread lie?

I think I might know.

Recently, my husband and I took our two-and-a-half year-old to see Santa.

His little friend came along, too, and while we waited for Santa’s arrival, the two of them were chatting and laughing animatedly. They ran about as though they’d been downing pints of liquefied sugar all morning (they hadn’t been).

Then, as Santa came into sight, they froze.

They were utterly speechless.

Santa took his spot on a lovely plaid bench and soon we were ushering the boys toward him.

As they sat down, their eyes filled with awe and wonderment.

It was the look of pure unadulterated joy. In that moment, I could see Santa Claus through the wide, star-struck eyes of my child.

This was it.

This is why we lie to our kids.

When we see our children and their sweet openness to the world — so lacking in cynicism, so inviting — we fully understand how beautiful and fleeting a thing like this is.

It is magical. 

We know that one day not too long from now, it will be gone. Writing that last line brought tears to my eyes. Like many of you, I want to bottle up these precious moments of childhood and keep them with me forever.

That night, I asked my son what his favourite part of the day was.

When he answered, his eyes twinkled and he revealed that delicious infectious smile of his, “Seeing Santa Claus!” he exclaimed.

Me, too, I thought.

And once again (this time as a full-grown and presumably sane adult), that wonderful childlike spirit of the holidays is alive and I find myself believing in the mystifying magic of jolly Old Saint Nicholas.

Who knows, maybe secretly I always have. 

Want to read more by Tanya Enberg? Try these: Are You an Imperfect Mom? Join the Club; Don't Waste Your Money on These 5 Baby Products and Toddlers Can Be Crazy, Contradictory, Irrational Beasts ... And Yet We Love Them