I have always been very ambivalent about Santa Claus. Hell, as a non-Christian I’m ambivalent enough about Christmas, so the idea that I’m compounding celebrating a holiday that’s supposed to be about the birth of a divine being who I don’t believe in with lying to my kid about a white dude who drops presents down the chimney just hasn’t ever sat well with me. I don’t like lying to my son– and yes, I think telling your kids about Santa is lying to them, unless you also want to explain why Santa seems to like wealthy white kids more than everybody else. But I’m not so opposed to the idea of Santa Claus that I’m stomping on it, so to speak. The position my wife and I have evolved over the years is that we simply don’t talk about Santa. My mom can tell the boy whatever she likes; he can absorb whatever messages about Santa he wants from the wider culture. Hell, I’ll even read A Visit from St. Nicholas to him on Christmas Eve if he wants, like my parents used to do with me. I let him read Captain Underpants and don’t make a big stink about him not being real; why should Santa be any different? My policy has simply been to neither confirm nor deny, and I don’t write “from Santa” on presents that we bought him– the “from” tag on all his presents is just left blank. He hasn’t seemed to notice that Santa seems to think he lives at his Grandma’s house. And we’ve never done the “go to the mall and sit on Santa’s lap” thing either. Which, honestly, as I’m typing this, I gotta admit I regret just a little bit.
So last week he told my wife that one of the kids in his class was telling everyone that Santa wasn’t real. My wife, caught by surprise, fell back on our usual “What do you think?” shtick and eventually he dropped it, or so we thought. This morning, as we were getting in the car to go to school, he ambushed me with the same question, and seemed frustrated that I reacted the same way. He is 6, and in kindergarten, just so you can properly contextualize this if you’d like.
And then he said something that really caught me by surprise, which was that he thought that this other kid was “ruining Christmas” and “taking all the fun out of everything” by telling the other kids that Santa wasn’t real. I pushed back on this as gently as I could– if Santa wasn’t real, does that mean that the tree and the lights and the presents and the cookies and the family stuff weren’t fun anymore? Surely the fat white guy isn’t the most important part, right? He didn’t answer, but I could see him thinking about it.
And then my reaction surprised me, because I found myself more than a little bit pissed at this kid, and by extension this kid’s parents. I think the family in question is at least nominally Muslim, as I’m pretty sure they’re ethnically Pakistani, but at any rate they’re from that area (the boy may or may not have been born here; I’m certain the parents weren’t) and while in general they’ve struck me as more or less secular people they’re definitely from an area where Christianity isn’t the majority religion. So, okay, your kid got raised with no Santa. You told him the truth. Cool. But maybe you go ahead and make sure your kid knows that showing everyone else the light isn’t so much the way to go? My son is friends with this kid, and he’s visibly upset with him for, again, “ruining Christmas.” And if my son decides that the boy is right about that, then I’m going to have a talk with him about not screwing the shit up for the other kids.
And I gotta admit, I’m thisclose to dropping an email to either my kid’s teacher or this other family (our school makes sure everyone has everyone else’s emails) and in the most polite way I can manage to phrase it suggesting that they tell this other kid to knock it off.
That’s probably in utter contradiction to everything in the first couple of paragraphs. Do I care? I dunno. I care enough that I wrote this to try and hash it out in my head, and I probably need to be talked out of contacting any of the other adults involved– which, again, I promise I’d do politely.
“Eventually ruining Christmas for him was my job, dammit” is not the most persuasive line of argument, after all.
Blech. Parenting is stupid.