My bouncy-haired daughter ran up to me more excitedly than usual, tightly hugged my legs, and with eyes shrink-wrapped in tears declared, “I told them you weren’t dead!” Wait, what?! I had just arrived at her preschool after trying to teach hormone-saturated junior high students all day. My mind was not prepared for that deeply relieved, but curiously arresting greeting.
She explained, “I told my friends that Santa was dead, and they told me you were dead.”
Who knew 3-year-olds could retaliate with such malice? These tots weren’t messing around when it came to Santa. I bent down, pulled her into my arms, and asked her why she thought Santa was dead. She explained that she figured it out the night before when we told her the story of St. Nicholas. We told her when, where, and how he lived, and SHE deduced that if he lived centuries ago, then he must be dead now. I was impressed. That was some high-level reasoning for my not-quite-4-year-old. I was also wondering if I would be receiving phone calls from the irate parents of the children who would rather see ME dead, than Santa.
Our first of four kids and precocious to boot, we were still working out how exactly to handle the Santa mythos. It seemed she had decided for us. So, I began the conversation I’ve had with her every year since her revelation. “Sweetheart, yes, Santa is a fictional representation of a real man who loved people well. Yes, there are a lot of legends that surround his iconic character, but we let other parents explain that to their children. Did you hear me? It would be better for you to let other parents teach their kids about Santa.”
To which she usually looked incredulously at me and said, “But… He is NOT ALIVE anymore.”
After years of conversations like this, with me staring at her blankly and muttering, “I know, but still… I don’t know what to tell you. Let their parents handle it.” I’ve decided I’m done. While I will continue advising her to be wise about who and how she shares this with, I walk away feeling foolish when I tell her DO NOT. I wonder whether I should silence a child who is passionate about authenticity, and fear what I might be teaching her by doing so… Continue reading at Huffington Post Parents