Yesterday, our family was doing some shopping at Macy’s, and there was a booth with a stack of papers and pen. Each page of the paper was addressed to Santa. Apparently, you were supposed to take one of these pieces of paper, write a letter to Santa, and drop it off in their receptacle. Tenille grabbed a piece of paper and gave it to Caleb telling him that he could write a letter to Santa if he wanted to. I gave her a bit of a funny look.
In general, Tenille and I are pretty straightforward about Santa to our kids. There is no old man that flies around on a sled pulled by magical reindeer delivering presents to good boys and girls through the chimney of their home. Some might think that it’s robbing the kids of a fanciful childhood experience. Some might think that we’re a bunch of humbugs…. And that’s ok. It can be added to the list of our faults as parents.
In our defense, we’re trying to keep the focus of Christmas on Christ’s birth and emulating the charity of Christ. It’s hard enough as it is without adding on to it making a wishlist of the things you want Santa to give you. Furthermore, there will eventually come a time that he figures out that it’s a prank. As good natured as it is, there may be undesired consequences of such a prank. (e.g. What else have you been lying to me about?) Finally, some folks use Santa as a disciplining tool. At the end of the day, the kids are getting presents no matter how naughty they are. In general, we like to keep our disciplining consequences very real.
This year, Caleb has been particularly curious about Santa Claus, and asking both of us, “Is Santa real?” My answer has been consistently a reference to Saint Nicholas, who was real (but now deceased), but that a jolly man in a red suit flying around on Christmas Eve is just a fun story that we talk about around this time of year to think about Saint Nicholas. Tenille’s answers have been similar – that he’s not real, but just a fun tradition around Christmas time.
And this is why I gave Tenille the funny look. We’ve been telling him that Santa doesn’t really exist, but now mom wants him to write a letter to Santa? Furthermore, traditional wishlist letters to Santa are the type of thing we want to avoid. So, I asked Tenille in a quizzical tone, “What should he write to Santa about?”
She seemed to have caught my drift and realized the confusing place we had put Caleb in. Quick on her toes, she replied, “Maybe you should write about all the good things you did this year… or all the things you are thankful for.“
“Is Santa real?” Caleb asked.
Tenille quickly replied, “No, but this is just for fun… like a craft.”
We were shopping around for another hour or so, then we went outside to see the Snowflake Lane festivities at Bellevue Square. As we were waiting on the crowded sidewalk for the event to start, I saw Santa’s letter folded in half, lying on the ground. I thought that perhaps it might have been some other kid’s letter. But just in case it might have been Caleb’s, I picked it up and opened it. It was in Caleb’s handwriting.
I guess deep inside, we all want to believe. I was thinking I’d send a mail reply back to him.
“Shhh… Yes I’m real. Don’t tell your mom… She’s always been naughty, so she doesn’t know…“
Or perhaps something a little less damaging:
“Yes, I’m real… But I need some helpers… Can you help me by getting a present for your mom and putting it under a Christmas tree? It’s a secret mission so don’t let her know that it was you… and just write that it was from me… Thanks buddy… “
A gradual road to discovering that he needs to become the “real” Santa.