“Where’s Santa?” My 3 year old asked, getting out of the car. “Well,” I said absently, trying to avoid hitting his head with the door as I closed it, “he’s probably at the North Pole. It’s not even Halloween yet.”
Wait a minute. He actively knows who Santa is? When did that happen? I’m not, like, totally anti-Santa. We take pictures with a cosplay Santa every year (yes, I call him that) and I would use his image in crafts or decorating, but we’ve never actually “done Santa.” I have never been that comfortable with the idea, to be honest.
I like to play pretend. I have way too active of an imagination for a 43-year-old. Anthropomorphism (giving human attributes to things that aren’t human) is my jam. But it’s only fun if everyone is in on the joke. And little kids really believe Santa is real until you crush them by admitting he’s not, right?
That doesn’t sound fun to me. It sounds like a recipe for tears and disappointment.
Maybe I’m underestimating them.
I’ve recently seen my child pick up a Swiffer wand, kiss it, and whisper “I’m back” just like Maui from Moana. He likes to run into a dark room, then run out screaming in horror, shouting “AAAHH!! IT’S A GHOST!” (a super fun thing that never gives me a heart attack at all). He’s warned me that the inflatable dragon Halloween display at Walmart is “going to eat us!”
My point is that maybe I’m underestimating a child’s unfettered ability to play pretend. A very obvious concept, I know. But more than that, maybe they ARE in on the joke, at least at some level?
One of the fears of going full Santa is that your child will one day believe that you lied to them and be crushed. Frankly, I don’t remember feeling this way, but I had an older brother, so whenever he found out, that’s when I found out. We’ve always gotten presents from Santa, even as adults, although the tag was in my mother’s distinct handwriting. As long as I can remember, it was just a fun game.
It’s all how you spin it
Am I robbing my son of fun holiday memories because I don’t trust that he’ll know we’re playing a game? Am I robbing myself of the magical time when the kids are so little that everything is a chance for make-believe and play, and I get to join in? Am I overthinking all of this??
Probably on that last one.
Maybe the key is how far you take it. I am never going to do Elf on the Shelf as Santa’s snitches spying on the children. That’s way too intense for all of us, although I’d still make them do silly things because, frankly, I would be doing that anyway. I’ll never go the “if you’re naughty, Santa won’t bring you ANYTHING!” route because, as someone with a primary love language of gifts, that is never going to happen. It’s just not in me.
But if we’re all on the same page, if we all pretend that there’s a magical person doing kind things based on a real human who did kind things, then we can turn around and do kind things for others – because for us, this holiday is about Someone Else entirely, anyway. Maybe we CAN have fun doing good, and all pretend together.