Some Christmas fluff because, December. I wanted to write something about the education results that came out today, but my brain refused to co-operate.
There’s been a bit of the annual Twitter discussion recently about Santa Claus. Specifically about how to handle the “Is he real?” questions, and the personal and social ramifications of same. There are a range of opinions on this, but the one that flagged my interest was the position that you should tell kids as soon as possible that Santa isn’t real, that lying to them about it is wrong, and there is no need to consider the consequences to other kids who may be “enlightened” by your child’s knowledge, because you have no obligation to conspire in other parents’ lies.
As a scientific type, I can totally see where that argument comes from, but I can also see value in the Pratchett-esque notion of anthropomorphic personifications having a social purpose (although not, of course, a physical presence or a horse called Binky). While children believe in Santa, he is the essence of generosity and joy. He represents the joy of giving, that’s his raison d’être. He’s a really good role model. Remembering the excitement of the idea that someone would give you gifts just to make you happy might well help with understanding the joy of giving that I hope all kids develop at some point.
My position is the classic middle ground one – the “What do you think?” approach. Most kids that are asking already know the answer. I then follow it up with “But kids who don’t profess to believe in Santa don’t get presents”. This is partly to preserve the belief for younger siblings, but it’s also partly to maintain the spirit of gift giving as being about making people happy, and not about obligation. Santa gives because he wants to, and I want that to be the spirit of giving in our family. This plays out in an interesting way with my middle kid (aged 7), who has an Aspergers type brain. He struggles with the joy of giving, and he struggles with why we would pretend to believe something we know is not true. But at the same time, discussing Santa as an anthropomorphic personification is giving him the beginnings of insight into some of the intangibles of human relationships that rather baffle him. I’m seeing this very explicitly with him, but I suspect it helps lots of other kids too, they just need much less prompting.
I’m a fan of APs, and I think it’s conceivable that kids get something out of having believed (although I have no evidence to back that up). Without hard evidence that belief does them some damage, people should not be too cavalier with the belief’s of other people’s kids. It’s not really a lie, it’s an inappropriately allocated corporeal presence.
Addendum by tigtog: I added an index archive thumbnail for the post.
Image Credit: an early 20th century Christmas Card showing Santa Claus wearing a blue robe