What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
Marjorie posted on T&S an editorial submitted to the Deseret News about Santa. This well-written article supports my own stance on the detrimental effects of teaching children the existence of Santa Clause (not to mention detracting from the true meaning of the Holiday… but I digress).
Years ago as a young mother I had some reservations about making over much about Santa, but Santa did come. Then one Spring afternoon more than 30 years ago while teaching a rather large church class of nine year olds one of the girls raised her hand and said, “When I found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real, I didn’t think God or Jesus were either.” The class just exploded with everyone wanting to talk at once. These children were still close enough to the “big discovery” that their memories on the subject were keen and close to the surface. Most had felt betrayed to one degree or another by the people they loved and trusted the most. They also openly wondered about what else they might have been told that wasn’t true.
They had been told by adults they trusted that Santa was real. They had seen Santa and talked to him. Santa was everywhere visible and talked about. And Santa delivered! If what they had been told about Santa was not true, then what could they believe? Who could they believe? This was a sobering day.
I believe that adults build up Santa for their own pleasure (although they all claim to be doing it for the children.) Conversely children’s souls hunger for the truth. They want to be treated respectfully and taken seriously. (None of us like to be the ones “not in the know.”) How the world really works is serious business and one of the most compelling developmental challenges of childhood. Imagining and wondering and exploring are important but truth is still the standard.
I don’t think you need to be hard nosed about Santa. Little children can hold onto several discrepant theories simultaneously. But even these children should not be told things are true which we know are not. We learned that with the youngest children Santa can be played broadly as pretend and “just for fun” with little of the magic being lost.
Indeed, if the very people with whom a child has developed a trusting relationship then turn around and say “just kidding, the joke’s on you!”, what other fundamental truths previously taught to that child become questioned and doubted, consciously or subconsciously? I see no reason to teach the existence of Santa to my children; sure, for kicks and giggles I might “play along”, yet I will make sure that my children are aware that he, like the Cookie Monster and Bob the Builder, is “make believe”.