* * * SPOILER * * *
I guess I'm an unorthodox mother. Surprise. I keep adding to the list of things that somehow end up getting confessed in an underhanded whisper, like it's something to be ashamed of or to keep secret: I have my babies at home; I don't immunize them for the first year; I put them to sleep on their stomachs; I homeschool; I don't think doctors know everything. And this Thanksgiving, as I sat around the table chatting with the other mothers present, I added another. I don't lie to my children about Santa Claus. *Gasp.*
But let's be real. What does Santa Claus have to do with Christmas, anyway? Some die-hards will say that he embodies the spirit of giving and that our children can learn to be generous by following his example. But doesn't Christ embody the spirit of giving, and shouldn't our children learn to be generous by following His example?
Others tell me that I am taking away the magic of Christmas for my children by not allowing them to believe that one saintly man can pack a sleigh full of toys for every child in the world and visit them all and give them all exactly what they wanted on the same night each year. But I never remember believing in Santa Claus, and my childhood memories are replete with magical Christmases and sweet surprises.
It's not as though I pulled my son aside one day and whispered in his ear, "Guess what, Joe? There's no such thing as Santa Claus." But he is a curious little boy and he wants to know the truth about everything. So when he asked me, point blank, "Mom, is the tooth fairy real?" I said, "No." When he followed that up with, "What about Santa Claus?" I couldn't look at his innocent face and lie to him. I don't lie to my kids. Not about anything.
That way, when he comes to me one day and says, "Mom, is God real?" I can tell him that God is real, and he doesn't have to wonder if I'm lying to him like I lied about Santa Claus. Because there are so many wonderful, awesome, magical, and completely real things and people to believe in. Like God, and angels, and the miracle of a Savior being born in a stable in Bethlehem so long ago. And I don't want to take the chance that the real meaning of Christmas is superceded by a lie, no matter how sweet and magical Hollywood and tradition and commercialism make it out to be.
But why does it seem like I'm the bad guy? Other mothers tell me they don't mind if I tell my son the truth, but I should teach him not to tell other kids. Because if other mothers wish to lie to their children, they should be allowed to do it without fear that someone will spoil it for them. As if that belief is built on such a shaky foundation that one little, five-year-old boy who likes to tell people what he knows can totally destroy it.
I'm sure that, as he gets older, people will often tell my son, "There is no God." I certainly don't intend to pull them aside and ask them not to. If I haven't taught him well enough up to that point that he can think about it and decide for himself whether or not he believes, then what kind of mother am I?
So this Christmas season, in our unorthodox household, we will not open any presents labeled "From: Santa." If we leave any cookies out on a plate, my children will know, in the morning, that Dad ate them. All givers of gifts will receive their proper acknowledgement. And my son, who knows that there is no Santa Claus, will know that Jesus was born for us and died for us all so that He could give us the gift of eternal life. As unorthodox as it is, this I believe.