My kid asked me this the other day…
“Does Santa really watch you all the time?”
I immediately said no. When we first started the idea of Santa, we decided he wouldn’t be the creepy version most of us are taught. This includes that Santa doesn’t watch you all the time. We tell her that he checks in occasionally to see how she’s doing, but that he relies on us as parents to help him.
I see her struggling with the idea of Santa so I’ve been thinking more on this and why we even have the Santa story in our house to begin with. I remember talking with my partner about it when our daughter was little. Would we just tell her the truth, or play the game? We decided on the game, but this was because we wanted to push her imagination. We also decided to try not to lie to her about it throughout her early years. For us, we wanted her to imagine a world where magical things could and do exist. But we have been struggling against the drive of capitalism. After all, Christmas is mostly a celebration of capitalism.
In our house, we do not celebrate it under Christianity, we celebrate it as a holiday of family and togetherness. That’s what Christmas is to us. We love on each other deeply, tell stories, have a big meal together, laugh, hangout and be with one another all while taking moments to remember those that walk among the ancestors.
But, this year, my daughter remembers how many gifts Santa gave her last year. When she said that she wanted more than one thing, I reminded her that Santa only brings one or two things. She quickly rebutted that she got four presents last year. When I asked her what they were, she could only remember two. I remembered three. I still don’t remember the fourth. I suppose I could look it up on Amazon to see what I shipped on Dec. 22nd to appease my indecisive, last second decision making kid. However the point that I don’t remember, is the message I am working with.
I expect this year will be harder because we are trying to hold our ground, to fight back. Santa will bring two presents to each of our kids and not everything they have asked for.
She is very to the point and very intellectual. She is so smart that we hide the wrapping paper from Santa as best as we can to keep her from guessing. But I expect this year, the questions will come. We had a simple one last year, which ended in a beautiful moment.
We took her for a ride on the Polar Express. When we stopped at the “north pole” and were waiting for Santa to come onto the train, she asked me, “Will this be the real Santa or a person dressed up like Santa?”
A little shocked, I simply told her that we’d have to see. I quickly deducted that she got to this question because of her fear of the Easter bunny. A couple years before, the Easter bunny was visiting her daycare and she was distraught because she was scared of him. She didn’t want to go to school that day. So I told her there was nothing to be afraid of. That it was simply a person dressed up as the Easter bunny so they could have fun, that it wasn’t the real bunny. She still didn’t touch him that day, but she went to school.
So cue this moment, my truth wielding daughter in her brilliance, as Santa stepped onto the train. I hear her whisper, “It’s him, he’s really real.” My heart flipped over and over. I had a moment where I thought, “yes, I have not ruined her forever.” Her belief in magic was still possible.
She is such a practical kid and deducts everything around her. And she’s impatient, so if something doesn’t make sense, she simply ignores it. That’s actually how I think she viewed Santa until that very moment on that train. Before that, he was a creepy idea and against all that we taught her.
(As an aside, he totally is and that is a post to write in itself…sit on this stranger’s lap even if you don’t want to or he won’t know what you want for Christmas…too young to say no? then go ahead and cry and we’ll take pictures and laugh about it…yes, this stranger breaks into your house one night in the only non-locked entry point…sure he watches you even when you’re sleeping…this strange man gets to decide if you’re bad or good… Not to mention the rampant inequity that lies in the gift receiving process.)
But I digress, back to magic. My kid has trouble connecting with things she can’t comprehend, but she has a deep connection to wonder. So that moment in seeing Santa, was a moment of wonder for her. She bursts with amazement when something blows her little intellectual mind. And that Santa did that. Dressed to perfection, jolly, real beard, real smile, careful, cautious demeanor, he was it. I believed in that moment too.
And here’s where it got so much better. This Santa did not hug kids without their consent. He waited for their actions before making a move. He didn’t get in their face or take forced pictures. He instead stayed back if the kid needed it and he listened. When he got to us, she immediately freaked out. He was huge and his realness was overwhelming. He asked her her name and she buried her head. He then crouched down, stayed back with distance, smiled and said, “I’ll be back at the train station, so I can see you again if you want.” I honestly don’t remember his words exactly, but it was close to that. He didn’t touch her, ask her for a hug, or keep talking to her. He respected her space and allowed her to decide what was next.
Back at the train station, she wanted to meet him and was excited to do so. I wasn’t sure what she’d do when she saw him, but she leaped up onto his sleigh and his lap and smiled for a picture. In line, I reminded her that she didn’t have to sit on his lap, that she could stand in front or next to him, but she was so excited. His demeanor again was gentle and guided by her. I felt so grateful and so thankful for this Santa.
The problem we face now is that we can never see another Santa again or it will all be blown to pieces. Luckily that Santa lives in Rhode Island and it’s too far to go and see him again now.
But I do want her to believe in this magic, this wonder. I want to unwrap the capitalism from this holiday so she can experience the rawness of what it’s meant to be. For me, I was so lucky to have parents who understood me and my deep belief in wonder and magic and I want the same for my kids.
When I was about 2 or 3, I noticed that Santa used the same wrapping paper as my parents and I quickly asked about it. My Dad simply replied that Santa ran out, woke him up, and borrowed some. I couldn’t believe he had met Santa. See my Dad has an incredible imagination. His belief in the wonders of this world runs deep. So that moment was profound for me. Why would he lie when I knew he so deeply believed in things like Santa? For years, I told that story. Used it as a rebuttal for the other kids who told me I was silly for still believing.
Finally, when I was about 8 or 9, I was sitting on the couch one Sunday morning. My parents were reading the paper, each with a section in hand on the blue loveseat in the family room.
“Mom, is Santa really real?” I asked aloud.
They were ready. My Mom got up and brought back a piece to read. It was the letter “Dear Virginia” and it was printed in the Washington Post magazine. I read it and I knew, and I also got why they did it. Why they let me believe, why they pushed me to believe. That moment was pivotal for me. It could have happened differently, putting my love for wonder, magic into question. But they knew me and thought about what I needed when that time came. So, they were careful. I learned in that moment what I already knew, that there was no weird man who came down our chimney. I knew that they had crafted our experiences to bring us joy, love, and laughter. I knew that they wanted me to believe, have faith in the act of showing love and giving to others. To know that family time, the fun, the wonder is what is was all about.
We are working towards that in our home. I expect this year will be tough. And, I expect my daughter will learn the truth early, as her smarts, her view of this world will quickly help her realize the facts. But, I want us to experience the wonder. I want us to break free from the capitalism, the greed, and the made up version of a Santa who doesn’t seem to value privacy or consent. As we live from far from our families, I want November to come and excitement to pour from her body because it means it’s the season where we spend deep loving time with our families, and we have fun gifting others because we want them to know we love them and that we have thought of them. I want this kid to experience all of the wonders of this world, even though sometimes it toes the line of what we’re working against.