on the existence of santa in our home

This year, Linette and I decided to invite Santa Claus into our home, and into our lives. We’d been resisting, thinking that it would be in Clementine’s best long-term interest if she knew from the start that the whole thing was bunk, but a series of events led us to reconsider.

We were walking though the Henry Ford Museum a few weeks ago, when we noticed a couple of families standing in line to meet Santa. He wasn’t there. According to the sign, he was on his lunch break. So, we stood there, kind of milling about in front of his chair, wondering what we should do. It wasn’t like at the mall. There weren’t sad, little David Sedaris-like elves strong-arming people into buying expensive photo packages. There was just this one gold chair situated inside a thin cross-section of what I imagine was supposed to be Santa’s office. It looked like a log cabin. (My guess is that it was repurposed from somewhere else on the property of the museum. If I had to bet, I’d say it was the boyhood home of George Washington Carver.) Anyway, we stood there for a few minutes, debating as to whether or not we should wait the ten minutes for Santa to show up. We were standing there agonizing over it like the silly ultra-PC liberals, surrounded by about 30 kids and their parents, when Santa walked in.

Of all the kids standing there waiting, the old man singled Clementine out. (Maybe he sensed that she was on the cusp of growing up a non-believer.) He walked over to her, knelt down, and asked her if she’d been enjoying the museum. As she scooted behind my leg, she said that she had. He then asked what she wanted for Christmas and she told him that she wanted a headband and earmuffs. It was cute. She wasn’t jumping up and down, but you could tell by the expression on her face that she was excited. And that’s the moment we began to let our Santa guard down.

So, it kind of spiraled from there. By Christmas Eve, we were writing letters to Santa and leaving them on the mantel along with cookies for him and carrots for his reindeer.

Christmas morning, Clementine was thrilled to see that he’d not only eaten the cookies and given the carrots to Rudolph and the lesser reindeer, but that he’d also left her a note — and the earmuffs and headband that she’d wanted. The note was simple. Santa thanked her for being thoughtful, kind and inquisitive. We debated whether or not we should add “obedient to your parents,” but we thought better of it.

It’s seductive. Once you’ve decided to “believe,” you set out on a long, slippery slope. Several times the week of Christmas, I found myself tempted to say, “I hope for your sake that Santa isn’t watching right now.” We could probably get a month of better behavior if we tried it, but I can’t help but think that it would come back and bite us in the ass somehow. So, we just stuck to our usual threats of “time in the thinking chair” and left Santa out of it.

So, did we do the right thing? I don’t know. I guess time will tell. There’s a chance that once she finds out the truth that she’ll never trust us again. But, I think it’s probably worth the gamble. Childhood in modern America has been cut too short already. If there’s an opportunity, however short, to let a kid experience the wide-eyed, unadulterated joy of Christmas, I think maybe that’s OK… If she’d asked Santa for a Barbie, or a princess outfit, we might have felt differently about it, but, as it played out, it just felt right… So, Clementine got her headbands and earmuffs, and she got to excitedly tell everyone within earshot this holiday, “Santa knows my name!”

So, here’s hoping that belief in Santa doesn’t turn out to be the gateway drug to even worse things, like Toys R Us, the Disney Channel, Bratz dolls, and Republicanism. If, by inviting Santa into our lives, we’ve welcomed the insatiable contagion that is rampant consumer gluttony and a disdain for cold, sober reality, I am truly sorry.

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6 Comments

  1. elviscostello
    Posted January 3, 2008 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    I don’t think it’s wrong to have the kids believe in the magic of Santa. What was the coolest part though, was when our son came to us, knowing there was no Santa, and we were able to tell him that he had now joined the “adult” world, but that he needed to “keep the secret” until his sister was ready to join him. He thought that was cool. That year we bought my daughter a used, white and gold, french provincial bedroom set at a yard sale. On Christmas eve, after she fell asleep, we moved her to our bed, rearranged her bedroom with the “new” furniture, and put her back in her new bed. When she woke up, she opened a drawer and saw the name “Pixie” (The manufacturer, I guess). She came running down and said, “A fairy named Pixie gave me a new bedroom last night!” I wouldn’t trade that memory for anything. Let your daughter believe.

  2. nammeroo
    Posted January 3, 2008 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I believe in Santa Claus.

  3. egpenet
    Posted January 3, 2008 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Now you’ve gone and DONE it!

    Nextvyear, you’ll have to write apologetic notes from Santa, explaining why he did NOT leave behind autographed photos of Brtiney Spears and answering obscure questions about drug side-effects.

    You’ll be sorry …

  4. Posted January 3, 2008 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    This year was the first time that my daughter Sophia really got into Christmas. I started out a few weeks before, as she was starting to absorb santa saturated media, that he was imaginary. She has a very active imagination and despite all of my comments she was resolute in her desire to believe in santa. So, we took her lead and did the whole santa thing and she loved it.

  5. MCNB
    Posted January 3, 2008 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    Last year was the first encounter for our daughter (Clementine of the East) and it was traumatic enough that we didn’t make a big point of approaching Santa this year. She’s still pointing to last year’s photo of herself, saying “She’s crying.”

    But on a side note, our Santa arrived in a camouflage humvee (on a military base). It was quaint.

  6. Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    There is nothing wrong to let the kids knowing the real truth about Santa and at the same time being cheerful with fake santa. A barbie house certainly not a real house, but little girls still enjoy playing with it. I know boom boom car is not a real car especially when I was a kid, but still I enjoy riding one. Hope that explains my point.

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