Santa Claus Isn’t Coming to Town, and Neither is Indiana Jones

27 11 2010

Growing up I never believed in Santa because my mother felt it was wrong to lie to children (irony!) and while I don’t think allowing children to believe in such things necessarily amounts to lies (although, in some cases, I have seen that happen when parents push the issue too far), I also didn’t feel my childhood’s holidays were any less magical knowing that Santa was pretend. Not really knowing how to handle it, I sort of took a back seat and let my children decide for themselves. For one year my daughter decided that Santa was real, but after that she’s been adamant that he’s pretend and she’s not falling for that. This is very true of her personality – she does not tolerate silliness well, desperately needing to hear solid facts. For her Santa has been fun only so long as we are clear that he is pretend. My son, who was not born awake like his sister, does not yet understand reality from fantasy and this year, that’s creating some issues.

Many months ago, my son announced that instead of Santa, Indiana Jones would be bringing the presents this year. I jumped right on that bandwagon and stayed there even though Elliott grew bored with the idea. I really wanted Indy, dammit.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve had many conversations on the subject.

Me: Is Indiana Jones bringing us presents this year?
E: No. He’s not real.
Me: Oh, but Santa’s real?
E: Yes. Well, Indiana Jones is real, just not on this earth.
Me: And Santa is real on this earth?
E: Yes.
Me: So you want Santa to bring you presents?
E: Yes. But he’s scary. So tell him to be very quiet and not wake me up. Or else I’ll be scared and I’ll run around and scream.
Me: OK. I promise. I’ll make Santa be quiet.

Me: Hey, Elliott, you know you don’t have to believe in Santa. You can choose to have someone less scary bring you presents, or Daddy and I can bring them all.
E: No. I want Santa to bring them. Just tell him not to wake me up.
Me: But did you know that some people believe in Santa, and some people don’t – they just like to pretend about Santa.
E: Oh. But I know he’s real. So I can’t pretend.

E: Mommy, I don’t want Santa to bring our presents. I want you and daddy to fill our stockings.
Me: Do you want to not believe in Santa?
E: No. I just don’t want him to come.

While I find these conversations amusing on many levels (especially the bit about how he knows Santa is real, leaving me to assume that everyone else is stupid for not knowing this basic truth), I also find them disturbing and somewhat confusing. He’s clearly torn between wanting to find Santa fun, and being just damn scared of the guy, and I wish I could help ease his mind somehow. I think my next step is to just tell him that Santa is definitely not real, but in all honesty, I am not sure he’ll believe me since he clearly accepts this the same way he accepts that food will end his hunger and that he sleeps with his eyes open (he doesn’t – he just has an interesting dogma). But I hope that, however this ends, it ends the anxiety in his little heart.

On a somewhat related note, I recently asked him, “Do you know what God is?” “No,” he told me in his little voice, “Can you tell me about it?”


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7 responses

27 11 2010
clearheart

I was totally scared of Santa. The whole month of December, I thought that he was peeking out of our fireplace. Upside down.
And the holiday specials on TV were so, so, horribly sad. I mean, Frosty melts, they are horrible bullies to poor Rudolf. And let’s not get started on Charlie Brown.
I was So Glad to meet Steve and get to be Jewish.

27 11 2010
Annika

Okay, clearheart’s comment is so good that I have nothing to add.

27 11 2010
bethany actually

Elliot is one of the most awesome kids I know. Margie is another. Just so you know.

I never believed in Santa either. When my mom found out as a kid that Santa wasn’t real, she felt betrayed by her parents, so she always made sure me and my brother knew it was make-believe. We still pretended Santa was bringing us presents, though, and had fun with it. We’ve never pushed hard one way or the other with Annalie. She seems to have sort of always known Santa is pretend, but she tells us that she likes to pretend he’s real, and we’re down with that. But if Troy and I pretend that WE think Santa (or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy) are real, Annalie gets very annoyed with us and tells us she KNOWS those things are really just us, her parents. It’s interesting, like it’s okay for her to act like Santa is real, but if the grown-ups act like they think he’s real it bothers her.

28 11 2010
Kuky

I find this so interesting. Growing up my family didn’t really celebrate holidays. My memory is awful but I can remember one year me and my sister desperately wanting to believe.

So now, we think it’s fun to let our daughter, Isabelle, believe in Santa. I never gave much thought about how she’d react as she gets older. Hope she doesn’t feel betrayed.

28 11 2010
Sarah

I’ve always liked the Santa story and don’t see the need to class it as a “lie”. When I was 4 or so though, Santa scared me too – but more precisely it was the guy dressed up as Santa who’d come round on the local Round Table society sleigh who scared me; I didn’t want him in my house putting things in my stocking. So for a start my stocking was put *outside* my bedroom door and then Dad let me in on the notion that maybe it wasn’t the guy on the car-towed sleigh who put the presents in it, maybe it was him and Mum.

Where are the kids’ stockings put? Or does Santa put things under the tree over there? I just wonder if Elliott is like me and doesn’t like the idea of “some guy” coming into his house, or too near him.

28 11 2010
ZebraBelly

I think it’s quite likely, Sarah. But I don’t know how to help him release the anxiety since he so strongly believes Santa exists “on this earth.” I haven’t had a chance to talk to him yet, though. Maybe I will be surprised.

28 11 2010
Jess

We have a hard time with Santa in our house, too. Jaina fully believes in Santa, despite Brian telling her time and time again that he’s the one that buys the presents. She thinks he’s just being mean and funny! We’ve tried to get Jayce to believe in Santa, but because he isn’t a “concrete” idea that can be proven or seen, Jayce isn’t quite sure about the Santa he’s seen on TV and read about in books. He insisted last year that Grandma put the presents under the tree. This year he’s obsessed with “the list” and if Santa has video cameras because of the Polar Express movie.

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