My friend, Jen, over at Real Life Parenting, recently wrote about how she buys All The Things for her kids at Christmas. I loved everything she said, and especially her insightful reflection as to how, while this was about her kids and giving them what she felt would be an amazing Christmas morning, it was also about her – about redeeming the early December 25th mornings that she'd always wished she had.
Lucy is just two this year, but all be damned if she doesn’t already know about “Santa Cwause” and that he brings presents. We were standing outside on our porch the other day when a neighbor walked by with their dog. The neighbor woman asked Lucy if Santa would be coming soon, and my precocious daughter’s reply was simply, “He bring me presents.” The girl has figured it out.
Lately I’ve been hearing chatter surrounding how some folks are choosing not to lie to their children about Santa. And while I firmly believe that everyone has to do what they feel is best for their own family, I’m going to be clear about something: we WILL most definitely be lying to Lucy about Santa.
I have incredibly fond memories of Christmas as a child, the anticipation coursing through my kid body, and the absolute over-the-top excitement on Christmas morning that catapulted me out of bed and shot me like a rocket down the hallway and into the living room, was THE BEST. I loved Christmas so much that around Halloween, I would create one of those chains made out of construction paper and hang it around my room. For hours I’d sit on my bedroom floor, cutting out the strips of colorful paper and stapling the links together. It was always impossibly too long, but I needed a visual, something I could see that would tell me I was getting closer to that hallowed morning. Eventually, when the chain was manageable, sometime in early December, I’d transfer it to the living room where the rest of the family could join me in my jubilation of ripping a link off each night.
I’m fully aware that kids get absorbed by the self-centered craze of presents. More is more, and it’s all me, me, me. I get that. I WAS that. But, I was also excited to find and give presents. I worked hard to make sure I got my parents and brother gifts I thought they would like. I loved picking things out for friends and other family members. So while yes, I could not wait to tear through my own gifts on Christmas morning, I was also excited to give Mom and Dad their gifts, and see their faces as they opened what I’d picked out for them.
There’s also the sentiment that lying to kids about Santa is taking advantage of their naiveté, and possibly even hindering their intellectual development. It’s true, I read it in a Psychology Today article. For reals. I have no evidence other than myself, my husband, family and friends. We were all lied to, and we are all perfectly functioning adults. I promise.
Before I’d had Lucy, I’d come across the idea of the four gift rule: something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read. A completely sensible approach to gift giving. A way to keep the expectations in check. For her first and second Christmas, we sort of did follow that guideline, mainly because she was too young to understand. But now, she’s getting it, and folks it’s exciting to be on this end of things. To be the adult creating the magic for your kid. It must have been what my parents felt. Lucy is not getting a billion things this year, but she’s definitely getting more than just something to wear or read. And I CANNOT WAIT. I cannot wait to see her little face when she walks into the living room and she sees what Santa has left her. I cannot wait to see her tear through her presents. The giddiness I feel rivals that of my childhood self.
I get to do this all over again, but through her. Sure, I’ll admit this is self-serving, but dammit, it’s fun.
And because I want her to understand that Christmas is also about the spirit of family and giving, we are going to be starting some new traditions in our household. This year, Lucy and I signed up for Presents for Patients, through which we were matched with an elderly person at a nursing home near where we live, becoming their Secret Santa and surprising them with a couple of gifts. This past weekend, Lucy and I visited Josephine (the Moon’s namesake). It was an incredible experience. This lovely woman, 98 years young, was so happy to have us visit her. She even questioned what she’d done to deserve such gifts. My response to "Miss Josie" was simply that we were in the business of spreading good cheer and perpetuating the holiday spirit. By the end of our stay, Lucy even gave Miss Josie a high-five.
I will teach my daughter the spirit of Christmas and giving.
AND I will lie to her, unabashedly and without guilt or regret.
AND I will hold onto that Santa lie for as long as possible.