What to do about the big jolly guy in the room?
With the world what it is (bad), the decision on whether or not to have children is a big one, and one that should not be made lightly. Because guess what? After you make that initial decision, you’re immediately faced with a bunch MORE decisions. What do we name it? Should I breastfeed? Where will the baby sleep? It’s fine to binge watch The Boys while the baby is napping on my chest, even though the audio is gruesome, because there’s no way they can place the sound of bones crunching yet, right??
Eventually, all that stuff gets sorted, and you feel like maybe you’ve got this parenting thing figured out. THEN it’s Christmas, and you’re faced with one of the trickiest parenting decisions of them all:
In this house, is Santa real?
Allow me to (un)scientifically guide you through this complex subject!
It’s cute when kids like things, and they looooooooove Santa, so who cares? Let ‘em have him.
I don’t know if this is just me growing up in a small town or what, but when I was a kid, there weren’t Santas everywhere. You could only see one if you drove to Lloyd Center, and that was it. Now there are Santas everywhere! Any event between Thanksgiving and New Year’s has a jolly guy with a beard (aside from your sister’s delightful new boyfriend), and so you, the parent who has embraced this seemingly innocent ruse, have to decide how to explain just why there are so many guys claiming to be Santa, yet look a little different. Are they all Santa? Will you go with the Home Alone explanation that the excess of Santas simply work for the real guy, despite the “fact” that Santa’s workers are canonically elves? If all these chumps at holiday parties are liars, where is the real Santa? If you are pretending that Santa is real, you better have a fucking plan here.
You can blame Santa for the shitty toys.
I want credit for all the toys! The kids will cherish everything that comes from Santa, no matter how shitty it is. You can have painstakingly researched the most perfect, expensive, age-appropriate toy to have ever graced the shelves of Target, but come Christmas morning, it’s Santa’s house, and we’re just wearing our pajamas in it. No matter what you do, your child will cradle Santa’s Top Ramen tossed into the stocking at the last minute with tears in her eyes, wondering how Santa could be so amazing as to remember that she loves Top Ramen. There are no shitty toys once Santa is involved. If he broke into our home to give it to her, it’s the best thing in the world.
If you encourage the lie that Santa will be coming to your house while you are asleep, you will be obligated to put out cookies for him, and it’s fun to have an excuse to make extra cookies around the holidays. And you, the parent, actually gets to eat the cookies so that you can tell your child that Santa ate them. Who doesn’t love cookies?!
You know who doesn’t love cookies? You, at midnight on Christmas Eve, when you’re exhausted, probably a little drunk, and now saddled with one more task. And this task is actually two tasks, because it’s not enough to just put out the cookies for Santa anymore; you also have to put out carrots for the reindeer, and take bites out of those, too. Plus, kids are fucking smart (kind of, about certain things) so they know what it looks like when humans have taken a bite out of a carrot, so it’s up to you to figure out how to make it look like a gigantic Nordic herd animal did the damage. Ever stood over the sink with your seventh glass of wine in one hand, a carrot in the other, trying to guess what kind of teeth reindeer have? (Googling is not an option here, because your hands are full, and you no longer know how to read.)
It’s a great idea to introduce the idea of an elderly stranger who breaks into your house in the middle of the night to fill your stockings with crap you don’t need, because we live in sad, awful, stressful times, and whatever amount of time we can get our children to believe in Santa is that much less time that they are exposed to the horrors of reality. My daughter can’t listen to NPR if she’s watching Elf, now can she?
Just because the big box stores have purchased your consumer data and know that you have a kid and what their age is and what they’re into, and they send you catalogs (catalogs!) filled with pictures of plastic crap that will drive them wild doesn’t mean you have to buy it all for them. Perhaps our obscene consumerism has something to do with the degradation of our planet and we shouldn’t be celebrating, much less encouraging, living in excess. Maybe if we didn’t create a whole separate god-like guy to bring us more stuff we don’t need, we’d throw just a little bit less plastic away on December 26, and the Pacific garbage island wouldn’t grow to swallow the entire Earth in our lifetimes. Back in our day, our parents said no. We were used to not getting everything. Santa can suck it; Christmas is for learning lessons about the evils of over-consumption.
That any children are alive today when the germs, weapons, and the weather itself wants us dead is something to be thankful for. Their eyes will light up when they think the weirdo in red put some shit in a sock. Let them have it. Good god, haven’t they been through enough?
Haven’t you been through enough?
After carefully reviewing my own arguments, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will begrudgingly lie to my daughter about this mythical fat man who fits down our chimney, but that you, as a parent, can do whatever you want. It’ll be January before you know it, and you can ignore this dilemma for a whole other year.