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Santa Claus


ShackledNoMore
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It's ironic that just last week in another thread I said:

 

I, for one, did not appreciate having been lied to when I was told the truth about Santa Claus. My wife, like 99% of the population, disagreed with me. We tried to strike up a bit of a compromise for our kids by not being too serious about it, and I, at least sprinkled copious hints and did my best to encourage my daughter to think Santa through and come to her own conclusions. It backfired. I think the whole thing turned out at least as badly for her as it did for me, and I have to ask from her perspective why she should have a reason to trust me. My son still believes, and I still don't see a way to avert a second train wreck, except that because of his different temperament, I think it will be easier for him than my daughter, but still, carrying what message?

 

I can deny it no longer. For some reason totally unfathomable to me, after the disaster with my daughter, after my own story, my wife's resolve to caustically lie to our remaining believing child on this matter has redoubled. I should have taken more notice last week. I threw out one of my hints to get my son thinking on his own, casting doubt on the Santa Claus charade and showing that it is not taken too seriously around here. Unlike before, and all the times with my daughter, my wife hastened to deflect my observation with a cover.

 

Last night, I was broadsided with the coup de grace. My wife got an e-mail from "Santa." There was a link to a video that "Santa" had personally made just for my son. Bear in mind my son is 8 years old, and has bought into to the Santa Claus lie hook, line, and sinker, and he has taken this whole thing to heart writing quite a number of letters to "Santa Claus" this year. "Santa" started out by smoothly calling my son by name. It was sprinkled with personal references. "Santa" copiously dropped references to my son's name, where we lived, and exactly what my son has been asking for. He even hit squarely on a theme that we had been actively working on with our son: I don't know whether it was using the newspaper astrologer's method of hitting on things that are true for most people or whether it just one more detail that was deftly personalized into the video. It was that smooth.

 

My son went to bed with sugar plumbs dancing in his head, which was spinning with elated wonder and magical delusions of a man who doesn't exist who is supposed to bring him presents. I don't think I have ever seen a more elaborately crafted delusion. The small print for the parents on this awful, terrible website said something along the lines of "feel like a kid again as you see your kid respond to the magical wonders of Santa" or some such crap. Regardless, thanks to technology, one of his parents has gone out of her way to more blatantly and willfully lie to my son than was ever possible for me, and believe me, my mother went to terribly elaborate ends to keep me roped into the lie until the last moment possible.

 

It's probably going to be awhile before I can talk to my wife about this without the children overhearing, but the damage is already done. Instead, I am here, sleepless, for the first time ever feeling that my son was betrayed by his own mother. Hell, I feel betrayed. An important aspect of my core philosophy on how my son should be raised has been ruthlessly undermined. My efforts to raise him as a thinker and earn his trust down the road have been undermined. I simply cannot comprehend how she could have done something like this. So much for the illusion of "compromise" on this matter. I've been thinking about it since it happened, and I simply see no way of doing damage control. With the train wreck for my daughter, I could at least point out the hints I gave her and explain how I was trying to foster critical thinking. Without emphasizing the rift between my wife and my views on the matter, my wife and I could both acknowledge them with my daughter and defend each: the not being too serious about it, the hints to foster critical thinking, and from the other perspective, the magic and fun aspect of Santa Clause, and how a parent, in good conscious, provides that sort of "fun" and "magic" to the kid. At least that was something like how we spun it, and that was how I saw my wife's approach until now: well intentioned, if different from mine, and focusing on a time of innocence.

 

Now, with my son, I only see it as caustic and exploitative. I think an impending "train wreck" will now be a huge understatement for him. What am I going to tell him? After this elaborate ruse, I am not going to be able to say that we took an approach where I could provide hints otherwise to foster his critical thinking. On the contrary, we've wrongly exploited our position as parents to undermine the development of the critical thinking skills he will need so badly. That abominable video served one purpose, and one purpose only: to brainwash kids while they were still trusting and impressionable, and it did its job mind-bogglingly well. In the past hours I have not thought of a way to sugar coat what I think it the real truth: your mother lied to you. I simply do not understand why. Well I can't directly say that, because now I am a full participant in this despicable conspiracy. I conspired with your mother. We lied to you and unscrupulously used our role as parents to exploit your trust in us. You have no reason to ever trust either of us again. Sorry chump, the world is a shit place where you can't even trust your parents. I can't believe that I'm on the parent's end of this monstrosity now. I wish I could somehow say: I'm sorry, son.

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Well I have never encouraged my children to believe in Santa. Now before you make any assumptions about that let me tell you the horrible part. It's because I had a chat with my wife long ago and I convinced her that believing in Santa would interfere with indoctrinating our Children to believe in Jesus. And that is now the minefield I live in. So, no, I'm not in a better position. However maybe my family's situation can shed light on your particular situation.

 

Every once in a while, usually around December, my son gets the Santa bug from school. When he starts talking about the myth I will let him ramble for a while to get whatever he wanted to say off his chest and then I will do the socratic method with him. I get to his level and I look him in the eye. I give him a look that I expect him to do some thinking and I ask "Who is Santa?" He can sense that I do not believe the myth. When he gets it wrong I let him ramble a little and then try again. "No really, who is Santa?" After a while he guesses "You" and then I smile and nod. Then I tell him it's a secret. Santa is part of our culture. I think at some point our kids begin to understand that.

 

What I would recommend you do it take your son to other safe websites that have answer bots. Show him that punching in starting data can have interesting results as the program tries to figure out the right response. If possible find a different answer bot that has e-mail service like the Santa one. Have your son arrange for this kind of e-mail. Let it be like an old fashioned Mad-lib where he chooses the silly answers.

 

I was going to add something about talking to him about culture but I don't know where to begin. Maybe tell him that sometimes we have surprises because they make people happy. I don't know. Good luck with your wife . . . I know how those disagreements go. We have had a few ourselves and probably will again regarding our family mine field.

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While I don't know your specific situation, I wonder if you aren't over thinking this. In our family, my sister and I both believed until the age of seven or eight, and when we found out, it was no big deal. We weren't traumatized or psychologically damaged. Our own kids held on until about 6 or 7 years old and had the same outcome: no big deal.

 

I think that kids often determine the importance of an issue by picking up on how their parents react. If you treat it as a big deal, they will also. On the other hand, if you treat it as noting to get worked up over, I suspect they will also brush it off.

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I was against perpetuating the Santa lie, but my wife was adamant. Fortunately, she cooperated on the shift from literal Santa to metaphorical Santa, and I don't think the initial deception caused any trauma or much undermining of trust.

 

One of the reasons I did't fight harder on this is that the explosion of the Santa myth led in very short order to the explosion of the God myth. In part, I owe my apostasy to that parental lie.

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Not to discount your concerns Shackled, but hopefully to give you a bit of peace of mind. I believe kids take a lot more from their parent's intentions than they do from the mistakes they make along the way.

 

My own parents raised me with all the worst types of mistakes when it comes to belief systems, but I know in their heart of hearts their intentions were true, honest and based in love. That's the message I took from my parents, not distrust. That base of love for your kids clearly shines through in your post and I'm sure it shines even brighter for your kids.

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It all depends on whether you approve of using another human being as a means in order to get nice consequences. Decide this, and you know what you need to do.

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I can see this same problem happening to me some day in the future. I am holiday crazy. I enjoy them entirely too much. My partner? He is indifferent and couldn't care less about them. But lo, what sayeth he when I speak of not perpetuating the Santa myth to any future children? "NO! It's part of the magic of Christmas!" I cackled and told him "OK, fine, you can tell them your side of the story, and I'll tell them mine. When they figure out the truth for themselves, I guess they know which of us they can trust. Why do you think some kids cry when they hear that Santa is a lie? Because their parents lied to them and worse still, they believed it." What I said changed nothing. He still thinks it's no big deal (and sometimes it isn't -- kids react differently) and wants to let them experience the magic of Christmas! He thinks it would be horrible to not be able to give them that sort of "joy." Blech. For someone who outwardly doesn't care about holidays, he sure does have a lot of nice things to say about Santa Claus!!

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Thanks for your encouragement and perspectives. It has not been a good day. I could not hide my feelings, especially after going without sleep. My wife was very upset. Uncharacteristically, I have not seen her since this morning, but that is probably better.

 

Although the ants' net is stirred up for both of us, I am getting things a little more into perspective by now. As some of you suggest, it just doesn't seem to be an issue for the vast majority of people. My daughter, by all appearances, seems to have made the transition quite nicely after the initial trauma. MM, I handled things with her very similar in many ways to what you described, without driving home any conclusions so directly, and minus the web site idea. I was actually a bit surprised that she had not come to her conclusions sooner and more on her own, especially since she is a deeper thinker than my son. Thanks to you, too, Vigile. I know that both our kids know that both their parents love them and both have their best interests at heart. But our viewpoints are SOOOOOO different on this.

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I was against perpetuating the Santa lie, but my wife was adamant. Fortunately, she cooperated on the shift from literal Santa to metaphorical Santa, and I don't think the initial deception caused any trauma or much undermining of trust.

 

One of the reasons I did't fight harder on this is that the explosion of the Santa myth led in very short order to the explosion of the God myth. In part, I owe my apostasy to that parental lie.

Ro-bear, as for a Santa vaccine to inoculate against the God myth, may I ask if your wife is a christian, non-christian, or marginal christian? It's probably come up somewhere before, but I just do not remember. My wife is a marginal catholic. There has never been been any issue in our family about it. She's been to mass three times in the past 15 years, all of them with me. She has never forced the kids into a set of religious beliefs and tells them that it is up to the individual to come to their own choices.

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I wanted to tell you that I was pissed when I found out my parents lied to me but I got over it pretty quickly and didn't hold it against them. An older sibling actually told me the truth when I was around 8 or 9 but I pretended that I still believed- I didn't want my sibling to get in trouble for telling me- and I also didn't want to hurt their feelings because they always made a big deal out of Santa. I don't plan on pretending that Santa is real for my daughter but since she doesn't have a dad in her life I get to call the shots.

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Why is it so magical? Childhood is magical enough without learning to take about one month out of the year to base your conduct around buttering up a lonely old man to use his affection for toys, then right after payday comes, not think of him for another year.

 

I think part of it really comes out of wanting to make your kids happy without being used yourself. You get to over-provide without letting them see you as a money machine.

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