Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Santa of It All

I know. That title doesn't even sound like anything. Leave me alone. I've had 24 hours of blood and violence and confusion and collapse. It's been like the burning of Atlanta at my house, but without fire. And without Scarlet driving that horse and wagon past the Empire State Building laying on its side. Which was genius, because who can tell when it's on fire? No one, that's who.


When I entered motherhood, I did bulletin boards. I may have mentioned that here, but I'm not going to link to it, because the whole post is basically bashing them. I did get some good out them.

When Brynna was born and we switched over to mommies instead of expectant mommies, the conversations changed. Suddenly, we had no time to post pictures of the super-cute onsies we had bought because we were too busy taking them off for the fourth time that day. The conversations were a little mundane, so whenever a new topic appeared, I jumped on it.

One day, that topic was Santa. It was a debate, a 30 page debate about Santa. About whether or not Santa is good for your kid. Is it okay to lie? Isn't Santa really just a big ole lie? What about kids who don't get presents, are we supposed to believe that they are so evil Santa doesn't come to their houses? It's just tricking your kid, isn't it? Doesn't Santa just teach children to worship someone other than God? No, really, doesn't Santa lead children to believe that a God exists where there is none? No, I think that Santa pulls children away from God and the nativity story? There seemed to be many, many people who had decided that Santa wasn't real and they weren't pretending he was real and screw all the kids that do believe in him, because they weren't playing the game.

I thought they were crazy. I love Santa. And after I moved on and discovered that there were whole corners of the web where no one threatened to call social services on you for buying formula, I decided that perhaps it was just those crazy women. But, this year, I've been reading, reading reading blogs and I seem to have a different opinion than a lot of people about Santa. So, I thought I would share it.

Santa is real. Santa is magic. If you say otherwise, you are a big stupid-head.

That's it.

Okay, well, maybe I should elaborate. To me, Santa is the epitome of childhood belief. He is mystery and goodness and perfection. He is the greatest of all characters in the mind of a child. And why not? He is benevolent, funny, loves everyone, especially kids, he is forgiving and patient, wise and fair. He is the spirit of Christmas.

As parents, we often see Santa as the perpetrator of many crimes of materialism, but that's not Santa, that's us. From the mouths of babes, my daughter told me yesterday morning on the way to school that she didn't need to tell Santa what she wanted because just getting presents was the important part and she didn't need anything special. It's recognition that kids want, the recognition of Santa saying "You were on the nice list this year, here's a present." We are the ones responsible for mounding on the present and weighing down the sleigh. Trust me, if it were up to Santa, every child would have one toy that they loved thoroughly and completely and a stocking filled with all the little things that make kids' hearts pitter patter.

Santa is the head of a whole host of creatures who give to children: the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, the Marble Fairy. Santa holds the reigns, though, because he captures their imaginations so completely. Santa is jolly and fun and not at all creepy, like a fairy who goes around buying kids' teeth, which is, side note, incredibly creepy.

And, as an adult, I know that the real magic of Santa isn't truly understood until you are an adult. Sure, when you are a kid, Santa is great, but as an adult, Santa represents something much, much more worthy. Santa is the universal love of children.

Santa is the momentary acknowledgement by the whole world that children need more than food, shelter and clothing to survive, they need belief. Santa is something we can all get behind. Even if you don't practice Santa in your house, you probably have taught your kids not to ruin it for others. You have probably managed to explain Santa in some way that doesn't break that chain of belief for children who need it most.

I have a friend who has taught her children that Santa only comes for children whose parents can't afford presents. (As I watch her children look at my children while they talk about Santa, I take umbrage at this, in fact, Santa seems to miss many children whose parents can't afford presents.) I know another woman who has taught her daughter that Santa is important for some people, but not for others. One woman who is teaching her son that Santa is a fun game to play at Christmas, but not a real person. Another whose children believe that Santa loves Jewish children best because their presents get spread out over eight days and don't weigh down the reindeer so much. (That's my favorite.)

There are as many different Santa stories in this world as there are parents telling them. And that is part of the magic too. We all collaborate each others' stories even though we don't understand them. We all back each others' plays and put the belief and the magic of childhood first instead of our petty differences.

We all complain when a commercial on TV suggests that there may not be a Santa and send out emails and Tweets about movies that don't have a Santa-friendly message. We tiptoe around each others' kids until we figure out what they believe and why. We call each other and pretend to be Santa.

The belief in Santa binds our children, but it binds us as well. We all rally around the common good of proving to kids over and over and over that belief in the face of reason is a GOOD thing, that it's worth it, that it's important.

Maybe it does lay the groundwork for faith now that I think about it. And maybe if you are anti-faith, this would bother you, but frankly, I believe that everyone has faith in something. God, sure, but sometimes kindness, the basic goodness of humanity, science, community, education, fairness, justice, mercy, whatever. As we grow up, we have to be able to put our faith in these concepts to the test. We have to be able to believe in things that don't seem to make sense. We have to believe that people are basically good even as we read about terrorists and shootings and murders. We have to believe in justice even as we see the guilty walk free and the innocent punished. We have to believe in mercy even when none is evident. We have to. To not believe that those things exist, are possible would be mental suicide.

And maybe believing in Santa is something that helps us get there.

I will do what it takes to keep my kids believing as long as possible. Into their teens if at all possible. I will move mountains if I have to. Not because I think it's fun. Or because I don't want their appreciation on Christmas morning. Or because I like those Coke commercials. But because I want them to understand that the magic doesn't ever die.

I still believe. Not that there's a real, immortal man living at the North Pole. But that the magic of Santa is real. That the story of Santa is real. That Santa exists inside of us the way that love and kindness and forgiveness and happiness exist inside of us. That belief makes it real. That believing is worth it. That belief can be the only thing that matters.


Suze said...

That's sweet. I think my parents were pretty up-front about Santa not being an actual person from the start, because I don't remember finding out...but we still left a plate of cookies out and pretended that Santa came and ate them after filling the stockings.

I DO, however, think it's creepy to have your kid sit on a stranger's lap at the mall just to get a picture. I think I am probably the only mama in this country who feels that way, but I can't help it.

Cathy said...

No, Suze. I'm with you. There is only 2 photos of either of my kids sitting on Santa's lap and they are both of Duwayne. The first was because his dad insisted and the second was at school, so I knew who Santa really was.

Of course, if either of my children (31 and 18) tell me they don't believe in Santa, then they won't have any presents under the tree! My Santa is the joy of seeing someone receive something special that makes them happy!

Cindy S. said...

I still believe in Santa too ;o)

Great post Jessi...btw, you have an award on my blog :)