...and they all lived happily ever after...

...and they all lived happily ever after...

Thursday, December 12, 2013

How we answer the question of Santa Claus to our kids

The first time I faced the Santa question was when Bryce was only five years old.

He was very young and very innocent and a friend at school had told him there was no such thing as Santa (it's rough when other children are involved in things like this) .  Bryce was seriously concerned.  He knew he believed for himself, but he came home with a question for me.

"Mom, do YOU believe in Santa?"  His face was so open and tender.  I knew my response mattered to him. 

I didn't even really have to think about this one before I answered.  I told him that I absolutely do believe in Santa Claus and that I hoped he did too.  He smiled, I gave him a hug and sent him on his way.  And that was good enough for that day.

But that was when I realized I needed to come up with a plan because one day that little sprite (and the five little sprites that follow along behind him) was going to come to me and press a little more insistently for answers and I needed to know before hand what I was going to tell him.

So, I started paying attention and listening to ideas.  I knew that I wanted to help solidify in my sweethearts the knowledge that Santa is important, that he stand for something beyond just a Ho Ho Hoing man in a red hat.  To me Santa is a reminder of selfless kindness, belief in something un-understandable and unexplainable, and a notion that goodness is of value and should be treasured.

Then, one day I stumbled upon this story and I knew it was exactly what we needed. (As a side note, Josh is all for this plan as well, but the kids come to me on this issue every time so far so I have been the one to deal with it hands on.  If only they would go to him for questions about sex, then we would be even.  Sigh.)  Anyway, here is the story.


I remember my first Christmas party with Grandma. I was just a kid. I remember tearing across town on my bike to visit her on the day my big sister dropped the bomb: "There is no Santa Claus," she jeered. "Even dummies know that!"

My grandma is not the gushy kind, never was. I fled to her that day because I knew she would be straight with me. I knew Grandma always told the truth, and I knew that the truth always went down a whole lot easier when swallowed with one of her world-famous cinnamon buns.

Grandma was home, and the buns were still warm. Between bites, I told her everything. She was ready for me.

"No Santa Claus!" she snorted. "Ridiculous! Don't believe it. That rumour has been going around for years, and it makes me mad, plain mad. Now, put on your coat, and let's go."

"Go? Go where, Grandma?" I asked. I hadn't even finished my second cinnamon bun.

"Where" turned out to be Kerby's General Store, the one store in town that had a little bit of just about everything. As we walked through its doors, Grandma handed me ten dollars. That was a bundle in those days. 'Take this money," she said, "and buy something for someone who needs it. I'll wait for you in the car." Then she turned and walked out of Kerby's.

I was only eight years old. I'd often gone shopping with my mother, but never had I shopped for anything all by myself.

The store seemed big and crowded, full of people scrambling to finish their Christmas shopping. For a few moments I just stood there, confused, clutching that ten-dollar bill, wondering what to buy, and who on earth to buy it for.

I thought of everybody I knew: my family, my friends, my neighbours, the kids at school, the people who went to my church. I was just about thought out, when I suddenly thought of Bobbie Decker. He was a kid with bad breath and messy hair, and he sat right behind me in Mrs. Pollock's grade-two class.

Bobbie Decker didn't have a coat. I knew that because he never went out for recess during the winter. His mother always wrote a note, telling the teacher that he had a cough, but all we kids knew that Bobbie Decker didn't have a cough, and he didn't have a coat. I fingered the ten-dollar bill with growing excitement. I would buy Bobbie Decker a coat.

I settled on a red corduroy one that had a hood to it. It looked real warm, and he would like that.

"Is this a Christmas present for someone?" the lady behind the counter asked kindly, as I laid my ten dollars down.

"Yes," I replied shyly. "It's ... for Bobbie."

The nice lady smiled at me. I didn't get any change, but she put the coat in a bag and wished me a Merry Christmas.

That evening, Grandma helped me wrap the coat in Christmas paper and ribbons, and write, "To Bobbie, From Santa Claus" on it-- Grandma said that Santa always insisted on secrecy. Then she drove me over to Bobbie Decker's house, explaining as we went that I was now and forever officially one of Santa's helpers.

Grandma parked down the street from Bobbie's house, and she and I crept noiselessly and hid in the bushes by his front walk Then Grandma gave me a nudge. "All right, Santa Claus," she whispered, "get going."

I took a deep breath, dashed for his front door, threw the present down on his step, pounded his doorbell and flew back to the safety of the bushes and Grandma. Together we waited breathlessly in the darkness for the front door to open. Finally it did, and there stood Bobbie.

Forty years haven't dimmed the thrill of those moments spent shivering, beside my grandma, in Bobbie Decker's bushes. That night, I realized that those awful rumours about Santa Claus were just what Grandma said they were: ridiculous. Santa was alive and well, and we were on his team.


I tend to push the kids off on the serious, sit down talk as long as I can.  I wait for them to REALLY want to know before I will take on this particular conversation.  But, as each of my youngsters has come to me when they are ready and are honestly looking for answers (and I have one at that place this year which is why this is on my mind I guess), this is the story I share with them.  Then I tell them that although I may be the one that wraps the gifts and fills the stockings here at our house, I do believe in Santa Claus.
I believe in what he stands for.  I believe in the message he shares and the life he represents.  I believe in his love of children and his open heart and his selfless acts of service.  
No, there is not one single person who gets all done up in red each year and slides down chimneys, but together -- we as a people, as a family -- we are Santa Claus.  We become him on Christmas Eve in our living rooms, but it is so much more than that.  We are Santa when we put goodness and right before convenience or personal gain.  We are Santa when we bless the lives of others even in small ways...maybe, especially in small ways.
We are Santa when we accept that there is much more to life than what our eyes can actually see and when we reach for the goodness within and allow it to come pouring through our souls.
For me, Santa is a symbol and I love what he teaches.  I WANT him to be part of my Christmases forever after.  For me, he has very little to do with the momentary bestowal of gifts and much more to do with the timbre of emotions I want flooding through my home this season.  For me, Santa is there when Aubrey and I are making simple holiday treats for her friends and instead of making the eight she needed we make ten instead and decide to have her give one to a couple someones who might not be remembered otherwise.  Santa is there when a trio of sprites run a simple, hand-made ornament around the block to a sweet lady living far from family and visit with her for a bit.  Santa is peeking out from behind these things reminding us that there is more to life than ourselves.
And I want my children to be part of that whether they think there is really a fat, jolly man in a reindeer drawn sleighs in the sky or not.
Christmas is about our Savior, Jesus Christ.  He is the entire point of this holiday, and for our family Santa Claus helps us remember to be the kind of person that our Savior wants us to be.
We want to be on that team.


Wendy Brown said...

Thanks for making me cry a little. This post did more to put me in the Christmas spirit than anything else so far this year. Merry Christmas and thank you :)

MTWhitmer said...

You are such a wise mother. How I wish I had been in your home as a child. But then I guess that would be awkward when I became your Dad. Anyways, I am so thankful you learned such good lessons in your youth and are carrying them on with your own family.

jess said...

What a beautiful way of putting it! This year was the first year that Whitney really understood the sibling exchange gift and it was so special watching her pick out something she knew her sister would love, instead of picking something she would love, but had to give to her sister. Santa is very much alive and real and is magical. Merry Christmas!

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