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No, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus


The Paineful Truth
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I'm torn. On the one side, it seems like telling your kids about Santa Claus is harmless enough, even pleasant, but it's still a lie after all. On the other hand, it teaches an important lesson in skepticism and mythology, but at what price? Fundies don't use SC for that very reason, but could they be right on some level. Should we lie to our children in order to teach them a lesson, or not lie to them so that they'll be less likely to question the bigger lie? What if we don't harbor a bigger lie (Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy...The Stork)?

 

As a proponent of Truth, this is a serious question. Was Evey in the movie V, right?: "Artists use lies to tell the Truth. Politicians use lies to cover the truth up."

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If I had kids, I personally wouldn't encourage them to believe in Santa (or anything else, for that matter). I would encourage them to seek the truth.

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My tendency is to agree with you that teaching our kids that a fat guy from the north pole flies to our houses every year and leaves presents is a gratuitous lie and it's not good to tell our children.

 

Further, I'm not sure if there is any beneficial side effect of inoculating kids from a bigger lie. America, as much or more so than any place, is both the Santa and christ capitol of the world, and Santa seems to have done precious little to inoculate people against the greater mythology of our society (still generally not recognized as mythology). I personally think that our children will be more likely to question the bigger lie if they are brought up being told the truth, question things, employ reason, and pursue science.

 

That being said, there are worse things to worry about than Santa, and a number of ways he can be dealt with. My own mother used all her deceptive skills as an adult to perpetuate the Santa myth for me as long as humanly possible--it did not turn out well. I vowed not to lie to my kids. My wife, however, had a much different Santa experience, and she thinks it's fun and harmless. Of course she doesn't take it so seriously as my mother did. So we've sort of compromised. My older kid is six and she still "believes." But we have a VERY laid back and non pushy attitude about Santa Claus in our house. When we went to visit Santa last week and my daughter asked if that was really Santa Claus, I didn't say "yes" or "that was one of his helpers." I asked, "what do you think?" Wrapped presents tend to be hidden somewhat casually. Questions are asked and discussion ensues when stories are read. I've made passing references to the logistics of delivering toys to billions of households in one night. So in our house, even though the Santa Claus myth is presented, I take every opportunity to foster the kids critical thinking skills and avoid presenting Santa in a "THIS IS THE TRUTH" manner. It's all up front, and my wife is on board, by the way. If it were just me, or if my wife's opinions were a carbon copy of my own, I'd probably have presented Santa Claus as a fun fairy tale from the outset. But I think our compromise will work out OK for the kids.

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If I had kids, I'd definitely want them to experience the fun of believing in Santa when they were little, like most of us did. When they figure out it's a myth, is a good time to start imparting the lesson that fantasy is just fantasy -- something to have fun with, perhaps, but not something to build an adult belief system around. It's a win-win!

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You're kids might be resentful if you are so serious with them that you can't even give them a good fantasy to entertain. If you present life to them as all seriousness and no fun wouldn't you just be a wet blanket in their eyes? But what do I know, I don't have any.

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Well, I would encourage it. It is fun to play make believe. But then, as they got older, I would gently break it to them that Santa is just a figment of their imagination.

 

I had fun believing in Santa Claus; however, I found out for myself that he was fraud and it really didn't devastate me that much.

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Well, I have a son and have dealt with this very issue. From the outset, I told him that Santa Claus was just "Make Believe" as soon as he was old enough to understand what Santa was. This also included a lesson on what "Make believe" was, and why people enjoy playing "Make believe" sometimes. Then I let him make up his own mind. At the age of 7, he's pretty convinced that Santa does exist in spite of it all, though his skepticism is starting to shine through. I think it's good fun for the kids to have this little fantasy, as their imagination is their playground. It's also good for them because they may arrive at a point where they actually do start to believe, so they can understand later in life that simply believing in something doesn't make it so. I doubt there will be tears because I have told him it's make-believe, then I play along with the game for his sakes.

 

Fundies will hate Santa because it actually helps a child to learn to be skeptical. It will help plant the seeds of doubt.

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I don't have kids but if I did I would definitely have them believe in Santa while they are kids. It can be fun for them, but more importantly I think it teaches a valuable lesson as an experiment in social engineering. I think it teaches skepticism and that just because someone tells you something does not necessarily make it so, even if you believe it is 100% true, "wtih all your heart".

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I was not raised with Santa Claus and I don't think I missed a thing. There are so many other ways of having fun. What really comes up for me as I read these posts is the bitter disillusionment when the child finds out that Mom and Dad lied.

 

I know what it feels like as an adult to find out that a lot of things I was taught to believe are false--things my parents honestly and sincerely believed were true. If I had been taught that Santa brought stuff, then one day I found out otherwise, I would feel totally horrible for having been tricked--not only tricked, but lied to.

 

Parents are supposed to teach children about being truthful. We all learn at some point that our parents are not perfect. Parents are not perfect no matter how hard they try to be. To intentionally lie and deceive a child seems to me like one of the most horrendous things a parent can do.

 

I have no kids but I was one once upon a time.

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Recently Dave posted a series of videos presenting some talks of Richard Dawkins. One of the introductory speakers conveyed a story about his son. The son asked his father if the Tooth Fairy was real. And the father urged the boy to find out for himself. So the next time that the boy lost a tooth, he placed it under his pillow without telling anyone. The next morning he had his answer.

 

I think that both the pretence of magical beings and the subsequent discovery by children that these things are fabricated can be enriching experiences for them. At once they engage the imagination and also sharpen their ability to think critically.

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The son asked his father if the Tooth Fairy was real. And the father urged the boy to find out for himself. So the next time that the boy lost a tooth, he placed it under his pillow without telling anyone. The next morning he had his answer.

 

Possibly the attitude in which it is done can play an important part. If children are allowed to question their parents it might be a reasonable teaching tool. But when parents punish children for saying things the parents don't believe (for lack of imagination on the parent's part) then it's just plain wrong for the parents to tell their children Santa Claus is real.

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My kid believes in Santa. He's 4. I don't see it as too big of a deal but when I pull the "Santa's watching you " card to make him behave in a store or something I do feel really guilty. In the long run though it's not gonna scare him very bad when he figures it out. I have no memory ever believing in Santa but my GF does and he was a big proponent of him knowing about Santa and well....we're not raising him as a Christian so I should be thankful for that. When I wrote my mom a letter recently telling her I was atheist and was raising my son that way but also letting him believe in Santa I worded it this way:

 

The only superstition he’ll believe in is Santa Clause and that’ll only last another 3 or 4 years. Sure Santa is another bearded figure in the sky designed to keep you in line (he knows if you’ve been bad or good…) and be the justification for mankind’s greed, but no one ever bombed an abortion clinic or a market square over him.

 

He'll figure it all out in another 2 or 3 years and lie someone mentioned above it'll be a good chance to reinforce the idea that make-believe things are for fun and not to be taken seriously.

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He'll figure it all out in another 2 or 3 years and lie someone mentioned above it'll be a good chance to reinforce the idea that make-believe things are for fun and not to be taken seriously.

 

Knowing it's make-belief is one thing. Being made to believe the imaginary is real by parents who know it's imaginary is deceit from the child's perspective. That is where my problem comes in. Do you want to carry on the family tradition of teaching your kids falsehoods? That's where I'm coming from.

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I have no children myself, but I don't think to many children in China feel left out for not growing up with Santa. I feel all the lies have to end sometime or the future may be more lie infested then what it is now. It may have a snowball effect.

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Eh; I don't know exactly how I'll approach it, nor do I really care about it much. I'm sure I'll just let my kids figure it out on their own (when I have kids, that is), though I can see myself telling them that it's really all just pretend. My wife will be more gung-ho about Santa than I will be, I'm sure.

 

It can be a good exercise in discovering truth, though. As mentioned, kids can really grow when they figure stuff out for themselves, and perhaps giving them the Santa myth to deconstruct (like the Tooth Fairy or the Easter Bunny) will help their little brains grow and become accustomed to thinking early on. For that reason alone, I'm ok with the Santa myth (well, that and anything that takes attention away from Jebus over the holidays is a good thing :D)

 

I know I didn't have my heart broken when I figured out Santa wasn't real, so I don't imagine my kids would have much more trouble with it. Kids like to discover things.

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I know many Christians who refuse to teach their kids about Santa, since the kids will eventually figure out that Santa, The tooth fairy, etc. are not real.

 

When I was still a Christian, I thought I had made a terrible mistake with Santa and the Tooth Fairy. My 7 year old daughter asked me a question, that horrified me, and I didn't know how to answer.

 

"If Santa and the Tooth Fairy aren't real how am I supposed to know if God is real?"

 

I guess those Christians are right, don't teach them to believe in other fairy tales, they might end up thinking for themselves.

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I think it is psychologically detrimental for anyone to teach their children of the existence of Santa Claus, especially when they know they will be admitting they intentionally lied about Santa when their children become older.

 

It's easy to decieve a child and put their hopes and dreams up on a pedestal. But when they get older, and they find out about this lie, their hopes and dreams come crashing down, and resentment and distrust in their parents begins.

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Eh; I don't know exactly how I'll approach it, nor do I really care about it much. I'm sure I'll just let my kids figure it out on their own

 

This sounds like you think kids are born knowing about Santa. They're not. They're taught. And the teaching comes from trusted older folks, whether their older siblings or other people.

 

I was never taught about Santa Claus. I never knew about him. One day when I was quite young, my sisters and I were talking about something--maybe we had gotten hold of a Christmas card--and we had a question for Mom. She said, "That's not real."

 

She said it in a tone of voice totally incongruent with our question. That really caught my attention and I wanted to know what she meant or what she was talking about.

 

She then explained that city people believe in Santa Claus but Santa Claus is not real. "Our people don't believe in him."

 

She had to explain to me what Santa Claus is. I didn't know what she was talking about. Obviously, I was not born knowing it. Kids have to learn about Santa Claus. What am I missing here?

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I suppose I'll be the voice of dissent here. I agree with Shackled; I don't think the Santa myth inoculates kids against anything. When I ultimately decided Santa wasn't real the thought didn't even occur to me that other "bearded figures in the sky" might not be real either, and neither did anyone else I knew growing up. We all understood Santa and God to exist on completely different levels. So the fat guy in the red suit's a myth, big deal; he's only of any concern once a year. God is presented up front and on the mind every day.

 

Granted, this is simply my personal experience. Much as it galls me to say it, I've come to discover I seem to have had a very underdeveloped sense of skepticism as a child; I could probably count on one hand the number of times I disbelieved something my parents or other positive authority figures told me that wasn't obviously untrue. This has carried over even into my deconversion; I don't often disbelieve my friends either, unless what they're telling me is seriously outrageous. The way I've always understood it is "they're my friends/parents, people who've proven I can trust them. They shouldn't have any reason to lie to me, and I certainly don't feel a desire to lie to them, so why should I have any need to doubt them?"

 

Of course, experience and wisdom have taught me the world and the people in it are rarely that simple, but I find I still struggle with it from time to time. I just don't like thinking I can't trust people as a general rule. Some people would probably call me gullible. I'd prefer to find a less unflattering term, but I suppose they may be right.

 

Concerning the Santa question.. I really don't know. Probably won't until/unless I have children of my own. I doubt I'll encourage them to believe with the intent of indirectly teaching them an important lesson in skepticism, though, as (again) it's been my experience that it really doesn't teach much of anything.

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This sounds like you think kids are born knowing about Santa. They're not. They're taught. And the teaching comes from trusted older folks, whether their older siblings or other people.

 

No shit, really? I'd have never guessed :eek:

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I like DigitalQuirk's response: Tell 'em up front it's make believe and then go with the flow. The best of both world's. You don't lie to them and they learn to be critical. Then one day they come to you all sappy-eyed and ask, "Dad, Mom, I'm going to the Mall and ask Santa for a Beamer, K?"

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I think it is psychologically detrimental for anyone to teach their children of the existence of Santa Claus, especially when they know they will be admitting they intentionally lied about Santa when their children become older.

 

It's easy to decieve a child and put their hopes and dreams up on a pedestal. But when they get older, and they find out about this lie, their hopes and dreams come crashing down, and resentment and distrust in their parents begins.

 

I think you and Ruby are taking this entirely too seriously. Honestly, I've never known of anyone who was traumatized as a child by finding out the truth about Santa. Possible, I suppose, but I've never heard of it, and I think it would take a whole lot more than growing out of the Santa fantasy to cause the kind of lingering problems you seem to be referring to.

 

BTW, I was one of those kids who kept up a pretense of believing in SC for a year or so longer than I actually did just because I could tell that my parents derived some enjoyment from the charade and I didn't want them to grow up too quickly. I was suprised to learn later that many other children were also SINO (Santa-believers In Name Only).

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I think you and Ruby are taking this entirely too seriously.

 

Thackerie, you are discounting the legitimacy of my experiences. I explained what I based this on. I explained that perhaps in certain atmospheres/attitudes it may be okay.

 

Honestly, I've never known of anyone who was traumatized as a child by finding out the truth about Santa.

 

Maybe you have not done your homework. Just because you don't know it does not make it untrue. Ignorance of the law is no excuse. Ignorance of the potential problems is no excuse, either.

 

Possible, I suppose, but I've never heard of it, and I think it would take a whole lot more than growing out of the Santa fantasy to cause the kind of lingering problems you seem to be referring to.

I don't "seem to refer" to these other problems. I explicitly state and describe them. If there is a part you don't understand, please ask for clarification.

 

BTW, I was one of those kids who kept up a pretense of believing in SC for a year or so longer than I actually did just because I could tell that my parents derived some enjoyment from the charade and I didn't want them to grow up too quickly. I was suprised to learn later that many other children were also SINO (Santa-believers In Name Only).

 

Why would you expect me to accept your experience as legitimate if you discount mine just because you personally don't know me or anyone else who was traumatized by dishonest parents? I personally know a person who started questioning god because he found out that Santa was not real. This tells me kids WILL question their parents' teachings if intentionally deceived. Your kids, when and if you have them, might end up rabid evangelicals because they:

 

1. were taught to believe in a skydaddy i.e. Santa Clause.

2. found out you intentionally deceived them--evidence of your godlessness.

3. want to do better by their kids than they were done by.

 

DigitalQuirk said in Post 7:

 

Well, I have a son and have dealt with this very issue. From the outset, I told him that Santa Claus was just "Make Believe" as soon as he was old enough to understand what Santa was. This also included a lesson on what "Make believe" was, and why people enjoy playing "Make believe" sometimes.

 

In my opinion, this is the most fair compromise suggested so far, and I could live with that. It allows for the fun and imagination and critical thinking. It does not leave the child feeling deceived because the child knows:

 

1. it's all make-believe, or at least

2. that the parent is skeptical, which makes it okay to question/not believe.

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