Every year, soon after Thanksgiving, our children Belle and Joe start thinking about writing their letters to Santa Claus. What a special time of year!
What a magical ritual! You’d be surprised how magical it is, actually; it’s so magical that it can now be done, according to Joe, via telepathy.
When I found out that Joe wasn’t planning on writing a letter to Santa I had a feeling it wasn’t a sudden attack of altruism so I asked him, “Why not?”
“Because I’m going to think it to him,” he announced.
“Think it to him?” I queried. “What does that mean?”
“Doesn’t he know,” Joe said, in his trying-to-be-patient-with-his-mother tone, “what I think? You said he does. So that’s how he’s going to know what I want.”
Perhaps, at some point, I had said something along the lines of an all-knowing, all-seeing type of individual. “Uh, okay,” I said. “But why don’t you want to write it down?”
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“Because I’m not going to write it down,” he replied, and he didn’t feel that answer was circuitous, and furthermore that was as far as he’d go on the subject.
Later I found out from my husband why Joe doesn’t want to write a letter to Santa. Apparently I’ve told Joe in the past that, if she asks him not to, Santa won’t bring a kid something his mother really doesn’t want him to have. And this year, as he told my husband, whom he apparently trusts not to interfere, he wants a high-end video game system which he knows darn good and well his mother doesn’t want him to have, so he determined that it would not be very smart to write that down lest his letter fall into the wrong hands on its way to the North Pole.
So now what do I do? I see three options.
1) I could tell Joe that I myself have been exchanging psychic messages with Santa Claus and have found out exactly what he asked for and have put the kibosh on it, and he’s got to choose another present.
2) I could break down and get the video game system on Santa’s behalf, hoping to put some limits on it, knowing I can’t stand between Joe and video games his whole life.
3) I could tell Joe that there really is no Santa, that’s it’s all just a fun bit of make-believe perpetuated by his father and me and that dang it, I don’t want to buy him a video game system because I think it’s a hugely addictive and expensive waste of time.
I’m not sure what the right answer is but I’m seriously considering option number three. As much as I hate to tell Joe and Belle the truth about Santa I’m not sure I want them to hear it from someone else, either, which at this point wouldn’t be too surprising. Joe’s nearly eight and Belle is nine and I’m sure they both have contemporaries who already know the scoop. Plus, it would be kind of a relief to get out from under not just the Santa myth, but the growing burden of all the little lies that go along with perpetuating it (how it is that he shows up in so many places, how he gets down the chimney, why you can buy the exact same stuff in stores).
I’d miss Santa Claus, but I think there might be something nice to fill the void. I remember at some point in my own childhood the focus at Christmas changed from getting to giving, and I think it happened when I quit writing letters to Santa. Instead I started making lists of people I wanted to give something to; namely my mom, my dad, my brothers and my favorite cousin. Of course, I still looked forward to receiving things. But I learned the pleasure of giving, too.
So maybe it’s time to give Santa the boot, knowing the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy will surely be the next to go. They were fun while they lasted, but they couldn’t last forever. And we’ll keep bits and pieces of them around for decoration and fun, and maybe we’ll tell ourselves stories.
My husband doesn’t share my objections to the video game system, by the way. So whether or not Santa gets the heave-ho, I’ve still got to argue with him about that. And unfortunately it can’t be done by telepathy.