Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Me or Your Lying Eyes

I was raised Santa-free. Obviously I therefore have no basis for comparison, but Christmas sure seemed plenty magical, and I never had to get over the weirdness of discovering I'd been pointlessly duped by my parents. I did have to protect the innocence of the duped children, though, a duty I honored by total neglect. I told everybody. The ones who were only holding on in creepy obligation to parents wrapped up in the myth believed me. The ones who really believed thought I was nuts.

Anyway, I don't get it at all, which is to say I think nasty thoughts about parents who force their kids to believe in Santa. Parents and grandparents seem to derive some kind of sick glee from the deception. They always say it's about creating magic and wonder, but do they invent other jolly home invaders and insist maniacally on their existence? Generally no. I think kids would be a lot better served if the adults in their lives put some of that effort and enthusiasm into fostering delight in actual wonders -- in which this universe, thank God, abounds -- rather than lock-stepping along with this same hokey tale.

We all ask our kids to take our word for it that some things are not what they seem. Sometimes it's because our vision is simply wider: the stars are not little lights; they're huge suns far away. Sometimes it's because there are things in which we feel strongly they ought to believe: God, justice, the fundamental superiority of the Philadelphia Eagles to the Dallas Cowboys. But when you ask a child to believe you and not his lying eyes, you'd better have a damned good reason for it. You'd better believe it yourself, or no matter how cute, how precious, how magical the myth is that you ask that kid to accept, one day he's going to understand that you deceived him and feel like a fool for believing you. And then you're just an asshole.

(Edited to clarify meaning. Also to note that Andy Photoshopped the t-shirt -- it really reads "If Mommy Says No, Ask Santa.")


Kathy said...

I think its the same for people who believe in God. People teach their kids that there is a God up in heaven judging them and watching with a magic plan for their life. Then those kids grow up and hopefully go to college and take a few philosophy courses and maybe doubt his existence. Duped by their parents once again!

It's ok to tell your kids to believe in anything, as long as when the time comes to explain their questions, you tell the truth. For us it will mean telling them that Santa DOES exist just not in the traditional home-invasion sense of the concept. He's the spirit of the season (for us anyway). I'm 32 and I still believe in Santa. He's not a real person, he's the magic that makes Christmas day what it is... a celebration of tradition and fun and being with family to pig out on spinach dip.

Ok you can stop rolling your eyes at me now. ;)

Betsy said...

Dear Kathy,
Religion of whatever kind is a deeply held conviction for most of the folks who teach their children to believe in God. Big difference between them and those who know full well that there is no "real" Santa.
If their offspring grow up to question their basic principles, then they did a pretty good job of raising independent-thinking kids.
Miss H was told that the Santa story teaches us about spirit of Christmas and the joy of giving. At least that's the way her parents meant it to come across.