Inspection- Of Santa, Politics and Raising Children
Now the gifts are open and the tree about to be taken apart, or put out to the curb, shall we honestly approach that house invasion expert who somehow creeps down mostly invisible chimneys these days, escapes the flames of fire places and furnaces… and commits vandalism by altering the contents of our houses?
“Don’t tell them Santa isn’t real. Children need to be able to imagine, to dream.”
-Talk show host on Sirius Left
That reminds me of the director of a school I work with. When I told her about certain Montessori schools that teach as if Maria believed children under five weren’t ready to pretend, she said, “How are you going to stop them?”
Children will dream. They will imagine. We can’t stop them, though we can certainly plant the “bah humbug” seeds far too easily.
There are those who suggest we shouldn’t rob our children of Santa; that outright lying to our children has no blow back: doesn’t effect their later life or attitudes. Then there are those who think Santa should be banned.
I don’t agree with either stance. And I think this has a lot to do with what we think and believe: politically, socially and religiously.
Like there will always be those who argue about telling children they should believe in Santa, in life we face people who disagree with us: sometimes when it comes subjects so basic, so seemingly set in stone, we think them crazy and dangerous. Never guess what? We will face them all our lives and they don’t go away. Ever. Those who die, or move, simply get replaced with equally annoying people.
Strafing them with acerbic rhetoric pretty much backfires. Ignoring them does nothing. We must learn how to live with them… and dare I type, learn from them?
Probably not the lessons they would want us to learn, but hey, it’s your life: not theirs.
I am very much an advocate for freedom of belief. That’s easy to say, but let me clarify: freedom of belief? Yes. Freedom to jam your opinions down the throats of others? No. Freedom to do or say? Not always.
You believe Jews are evil and should be exterminated? …planes should be flown into towers for Allah? …the evil worm-like aliens from Zabelbuns control our minds? Well, I may think you’re about as mentally unstable as a glass brain sitting on the tip of a pin during an earthquake: but what goes on in your mind is your own business and your right to believe. What you do with that belief is not.
And I have to live with you. You may be a relative come over for a cup of coffee or I visit on Thanksgiving, or Christmas. You may be sitting next to me on a subway. You may be my best friend, or a fellow employee: even my boss. You have a right to that opinion: no matter how weird or whacked it may be. It only crosses the line when you actually do something with that belief: depending on what you do, or say.
So… back to Santa.
Instead of banning him or lying, why not approach it more like your uncle, cousin or brother-in-law who is visiting, or you are visiting him? Constantly baiting him, or mocking him, or calling him names is immature and outright rude. You only prove yourself in the wrong when you do that: pointing that Marley like accusing finger right back at yourself.
Let’s say your visitor believes in Santa.
You have every right to believe him foolish, or even an idiot; but your weapon: your mouth, only ricochets back at you when you fire that kind of rhetoric at them.
Now think about your boy or girl. They will have to face those who disagree with them all their lives; and the kind of situations where they are faced with people whose beliefs may be far more absurd than some fat, jolly, guy who visits every house; eats millions of cookies, thousands of gallons of milk all in one night.
Why not use Santa as the perfect opportunity to give them a gift they really need: learn how to handle such situations. Don’t encourage or discourage the belief. When they bring up the topic assess just what the best response might be: you know them better than anyone; hopefully.
Possible responses with possible retorts to their answers…
“Do you really think Santa can get all those gifts on one sleigh and get to all those houses on one night? Then how could he do it?”
(They don’t believe.)
“So, you don’t believe? Then where do you think this all started; this Santa thing? Are people lying just to be mean? Do you think there ever was a real Santa? Do think, in some way his spirit lives on? What harm do you think there is in believing?”
“How big do you think this workshop might be to make all these gifts? Where does he get his help? Do you think they’re paid fairly, or treated well?”
Or, one my father offered me when I was young and I told him I really didn’t believe…
“If you don’t believe, why don’t you write him a letter telling him he doesn’t exist and not to deliver any gifts? If he doesn’t exist it wouldn’t matter, would it? Give it to me: I’ll make sure it gets delivered.”
Then ask about how the letter’s to Santa’s going for a while. Don’t be a nuisance about it. Don’t drag it on and on.
The object is to get them thinking. Give them an opportunity to examine, and reexamine their own beliefs. It will only make them stronger and wiser. The other object here, and you can admit both the last comment and this one up front, is to let them decide for themselves: not just tell them what to believe. And also realize: no matter what they decide. there will always be those who disagree. They have every right to that, and be respect: not mocked or evangelized. Help them learn how to handle such situations, without being harassed, put down or mocked.
Most of all tell them you want them to make up their own minds.
The true magic in the seasons, and our relations with others, is how we can gather together and enjoy each others company despite our differences. From the halls of Congress to our own homes: Thanksgiving, Christmas, when gathering for a blessed event or out of sadness: a funeral, the magic is that we can not only get along, but also accomplish wonderful things despite our differences: what may be pure fantasies rummaging around in the minds of others; or even your head.
If you want your child to accomplish great things, or get along in general, they will need this talent.
But if you don’t believe you can ever be wrong and must drill some “ultimate” truths into their heads so they never, ever, question anything other than what you believe and think, then don’t bother reading any further. You have mental problems bigger than anyone can handle. Get help. Soon.
So now you have at least three choices. Teach Santa, teach no Santa, or use it all as an opportunity to teach more important things.
If you don’t agree with me, then teach, or tell, them something else. If you want to teach them to hate, then teach them the opposite. Just remember: there will always be people who disagree. Some of them also teach them to hate. There will always be someone out there who hates more than you.
Bashing people with words generally gets you nowhere. Don’t bother: you’re wasting your time. You might as well strap on a bomb and join a jihad of your own choosing. And if you think all this means I’m some weak-kneed Liberal well, surprise! I recommend you go ahead and strap on that bomb. Go ahead. I encourage you to do so. I might even help, if you insist: as long as I know for sure everyone else is as far away as possible when it goes off. There are some people and attitudes the world would be better a hell of a lot better without.
And certainly the children would be too.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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