Friday, November 26, 2010

Agnostic Christmas

Before we officially-unofficially left the church, there was one thing I had grown to agree with the Jehovah's Witnesses on. To quote a friend of Eric's,

"If you teach your children about Santa and they find out that's a lie, then how can you trust that they'll believe you about God?"

I always thought he had a point, both before and after he said it. It had been on my mind. It made sense. But I couldn't teach my kids that Santa wasn't real--could you imagine? I wasn't worried about them but about them spouting off to their friends. Never mind the reactions from friends and family whom I divulged my hesitancies to.

God forbid I didn't teach my kids about Santa!

How dare I even suggest taking such a fundamental childhood experience away!

All of these reactions from fellow Christians.

I'm sure many of you fall or fell into this category and I don't want to judge you. I'm not. It just strikes me as a little odd. Especially when it comes from the camp of "Keep Christ in Christmas." Especially when it comes from a people who do understand the history of where Christmas comes from--why it's not held on or near Christ's supposed birthday. A people who get all up in arms over "Happy Holidays" when it's not necessarily a Christian time of year.

Knock, knock. Hello?

I didn't get it, but I couldn't bring myself to actively teach my kids about Santa, and Eric was on board with me. Our kids learned about Santa through other family and television shows, society at large. So you can imagine I got questions, at least from my oldest (who is rather observant), at a young age.

"Is Santa real?" she'd ask.

"What do you think?"

But now that we're not believers, it doesn't bother me as much. There's still a part of me that doesn't enjoy lying to my kids. It's interesting how things change once you have your own sometimes, in various ways. I was taught about Santa, learned all on my own that he was a hoax. It didn't bother me at all--in fact, probably like many of you, I reveled in knowing when my siblings did not. I didn't make the connection between Santa and God. We tend to think kids have a greater propensity for such conclusions than they do, much like we worry about them seeing or hearing things on a movie that, up to a certain age, goes right over their heads.

So why am I having a hard time with my own kids, especially now? Abbie is so close to figuring it out, she's such a smart kid. I want so badly to tell her, but I'm encouraging her to rely on her own logic. So far she's finding ways for Santa to be possible, but it won't be much longer. I look forward to that day, really, just to congratulate her and include her in the behind-the-scenes action. But perhaps I won't make it and I'll be the one to tell her. I don't know. I hope for the former so, so much.

Perhaps Santa will be a good lesson they can remember years from now if they ever decide to be interested in the church.

If something doesn't seem quite right and you have to reach and stretch to make it rational and probable, something ain't right.


  1. Just found your blog, and I look forward to reading more.

    This is an interesting topic to me, because I have been in a debate that the LDS church (and most churches to be honest) emotionally abuses children.

    By teaching children that God only loves them when they do certain things. And will punish them with suffering on earth and hell in the afterlife if they aren't what he wants them to be, and teaching them they have to give and serve until they have nothing left (and then give and serve some more... goodness, Christ DIED, so if you're still alive, you haven't given enough.)

    One of the arguments I got was about Santa... this person said that we teach our children about Santa, and that's not true, so why is it bad to teach them about a punishing God?

    I couldn't follow his logic. I walked away with the conclusion that you just can't communicate with irrationality.

  2. I'm actually a Santa fan. It's a nice story, and I don't think it's a major let-down to most kids when they find out he isn't real.

    Making the same discovery about God, OTOH, is a let-down, because in most cases the person has made huge sacrifices in order to obey this invisible being.

    Not the case with Santa. He's just a big jolly old elf.

    So, as long as you're not one of those mean parents who tells her kids, "Santa didn't come this year because you were bad," it's a good story. (OMG, does anyone ever do that? Santa ALWAYS came to our house.)

  3. My mother swears that they never told us Santa was real when I was a child. I suspect she was supposed to tell us that, and had agreed with my father to tell us that, but I distinctly remember her telling us one day that she'd just been on the phone with Santa and he wasn't coming that year because I'd misbehaved.

    I'm more about teaching the kids about the spirit of Santa. As cheesy as it sounds, I'm all about "Santa lives in the hearts of kind and generous people".

    I have no idea if I could explain that to a child under the age of six, though.

  4. I remember figuring it out on my own when I was little and pretending for a long time. My big brother was assigned to tell me the truth a few years later, and he came running back to my parents yelling, "She knows! She's known for years!" I don't remember one bit of that conversation.

    But just because it wasn't traumatic for me doesn't mean it wouldn't be for my kids to find out I lied to them, especially if I threatened them with this lie to make them be "good little boys and girls." Uck.

  5. Santa and God seem to have a lot in common.

    Sees you when you're sleeping, punishes the misbehaved--funfunfun.

    I dunno. I had fun with it as a kid but I'd personally rather teach my kids that Christmas is about family and hope and forgiving and serving others and thinking of them. Santa doesn't have to be a part of that, and neither does Christ, but I understand that not everyone feels that way. I respect that (and hope my pov is respected as well). I just can't bring myself to be excited about Santa and all.

    I'm not a total grinch (ask my husband who gets to put up a bunch of crap today, haha), just cynical. Nothing new.

  6. My husband and I don't have children yet, but he is well aware that I'm VERY opposed to telling them Santa is real, just as I would never tell them that Jesus is real. HOWEVER, I think it's very important to respect your children enough to teach them ABOUT these myths, so that they can understand the traditions and the people around them who do believe. Children are smart enough to understand. We don't have to lie to them.

    Just an example, I explained to my 16 month old niece that mommy has a baby growing in her tummy but she can't see him yet because he's not finished growing. She thought about it for a few seconds, went over to my sister's belly, lifted up her shirt, and asked "baby?" Even now, 4 months later, she still goes to cuddle with her brother and give him kisses - she totally understands that he's still in mommy's tummy for awhile. They can understand if you just talk to them.

  7. I swore we weren't going to do the whole Santa thing when my kids were little. I didn't want to lie to them. I caved in to the pressure from family and friends and my plan backfired on me when I made my kids watch Christmas cartoons over and over (I used to be a big sucker for old Christmas cartoons from when I was a kid). They were pretty much indoctrinated by their tenth viewing of Rudolph. It wasn't completely smooth sailing when my oldest two discovered the truth but it wasn't scarring and I think they are happy they had that sense of "magic" for a while.

    I remember a lesson in Gospel Doctrine a neighbor of mine gave. She told a story about how when she was a kid if they hinted at all that they didn't believe in Santa there would be no presents. And she presented this as a good thing. I found it really strange considering she was supposed to be teaching the "gospel". What a confusing message about what is real and what is not for a kid.

    BTW, I'm an occasional commenter now commenting under a new name.

  8. I had that same threat that Santa would cease bringing presents the second I confessed I knew he wasn't real.

    If you think about it, it fits in with the Christian mind-fuck rather nicely. "If you cease believing in god, he'll cease to bless you."

    It's not true. I was scared to death it was and I still wonder, but my life goes along much the same way it always has. Even a bit better because I can do the good, fulfilling things I've always wanted to do but was either told or "felt" were unworthy of a daughter of god/mama.

    The sense of magic is a nice thing, but I don't necessarily think it's exclusive to an active belief in Santa (not saying you do, just putting in my two cents). My kids aren't really aware of the "be good or else" schtick like I was--if it's mentioned at all it's mentioned as a joke. If anything, the good I can see coming from this is the fact that they will learn not everything they're told is necessarily true. But that, too, can be confusing, which is why I want to encourage critical thinking. That has to be the best arsenal against this kind of crap.

    While I'm curious as to your original handle, I respect your need for a new one. Thanks for commenting <3

  9. I know how you feel.

    I like Santa, but I don't like telling my kids he's real, when he's not. As far as I'm concerned, pretending is fun. You don't have to think it's real for it to be fun. Indeed, quite the opposite -- when you know it's not real, you can let your imagination run free without worrying about whether you've got the story right or not.

    I've written about this extensively on my blog, look here, for starters