I’m an atheist. One day I’ll write a post about that, but for now, suffice to say that I admire and respect anyone who believes in a god or higher power; it’s just not for me.
Still, I celebrate Christmas. I love Christmas. I’d like to claim that it’s because at its core, Christmas is a pagan holiday after all, but it’s probably more about my (soft) Christian upbringing, my husband’s (waning) Catholicism, and a love of good food, happy children, eggnog and stocking stuffers.
On parenting boards and some blogs, there are annual accusations that encouraging your child’s belief in Santa Claus is tantamount to duplicity and betrayal. The accusers claim that in their own experience, learning the “truth” was a heartbreaking, life-changing event, that undermined their ability to trust their parents, or any adult, for the rest of theirs lives. Um, okay.
I don’t remember the day when I learned that my house is not actually invaded by a clinically obese fellow in a red suit every December. It just kind of came to me, over the period of a couple of years, that it couldn’t be possible. I hung onto the belief even when I pretty much knew the truth, largely out of fear that I might be wrong, and the accompanying fear that if I was wrong, I might not get any presents. (My journey to atheism is strikingly similar actually, but again that’s another story).
When my children begin to question, and then know the truth about Santa, I plan on being completely honest with them: Santa IS real. He was a actual person, an actual saint, and after his death we continued to borrow his form and figure to personify the spirit we all hope to promote during the holidays. Santa is the representation of generosity, kindness, love and joy. He lives in all of us.
Why exactly am I writing a post about Santa Claus in March?
Because I was shopping for Easter candy the other day, and thinking about how I really don’t like the Easter Bunny. He’s kind of creepy, actually. The idea of a giant, humanized rabbit sneaking around my house at night, hiding eggs (ova, people!) behind my curtains kind of gives me the heebie-jeebies. And yet, I continue the charade because my kids expect and adore it, and because I haven’t figured out a plausible explanation as to how Père Noël can exist but the Easter Bunny was just made up by some shmuck in the marketing department at Cadbury or Hershey.
And then there’s the tooth fairy. Yikes.
Dee has started losing teeth. Have you looked at a tooth recently? Yellowing, chipped, hollow, and in my kids’ case, tiny little things that look like they could have been pulled from the maw of a small rodent. There is nothing sweet about that. So the idea that a diminutive and benevolent pixie comes along to collect them at night is frankly pretty horrifying. I imagine the tradition started in order to help children get over the trauma of losing their teeth (nothing like a shiny toonie to soothe the fears of a first-grader), but I wonder if maybe there could have been a better way? What about a tooth banker? You just walk up with your little jar of blood-stained chiclets and cash them in to a middle-aged guy with a comb-over and a bad suit. Do it one at a time, or save them up for a big payday – your call, kid.
The trouble is that all these little fairy tales – Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy – they kind of come as a package deal. You have to maintain the fantasy for all three, even if you don’t want to. A child can get away with telling her friends that her family categorically does not believe in the bonanza big-three, but it’s harder – maybe impossible, even – to create a story where you believe in one, but not all.
So we go on with the lies. And when the wrapping paper gets recognized, or a tooth goes missing, the lie gets more complex. And at each step of the way, a part of me cringes about deceiving my kids, even though I’m pretty sure they will accept the assault on their psyche if it means getting candy at some point.
I try to look on the bright side: at least I can be honest about God (and yes, I totally see the irony there).