Santa Claus Lives And THANK GOD HE LIVES
December 8, 2008 § 7 Comments
‘Round about this time of year I find myself not only getting progressively more red faced and skittish as the advent calendar pops open each day…but I also find that the world at large gets my hackles up and I’m forced, yet again, to beg people the word around to get over themselves, and with great haste. I don’t care if they are miserable, jaded old coots, but I’d hope they would try and pull themselves together for the sake of the children in their immediate vicinity. If you’re of the childfree variety, or a hermit, or a villain of sorts, then go on with your “Santa Claus is a lie and blackmail and betrayal” BS and sip your vodka gimlet while you smoke cloves and watch The Seventh Seal. Enjoy, God bless.
Just yesterday I encountered a young, hip mother who hadn’t decided whether to “let” her children believe in Santa Claus. “I don’t want to bribe them to behave, or blackmail them by telling them an old man watches them while they sleep. It’s totally creepy, and the worst sort of betrayal when the truth is revealed.” Technology as it is here in 2008 prevented me from backhanding her over the internet, but I feel like she’s contributing to this world wide push to force children into adult misery as soon as possible.
Already there are television shows and clothes and music for children designed to exactly mimic their adult counterparts, right down to high heeled booties for infants and leopard print satin robes that say Diva offered for 2 year olds in the Lillian Vernon catalog. We complain that kids are growing up too fast, that in a blink they’re gone, grown up and toddling off to college, and out of the other side of our mouths we squeal with delight at little teeny neck ties for infants (let’s not do away with those, they’re adorable) and we buy our five year old daughters a pilot’s rollerbag for going to grandmas. With the discovery that children are born absorbing everything around them from languages to scientific principals to math to art, we immediately enroll babies in schools, classes, GROUPS, scheduling every second of their lives to make sure they’re growing up as quickly and with as much knowledge as possible. Chicago public shools have gone without recess for years in an effort to improve standardized test scores, some giving children as young as six only 20 minutes “away from desk time” a day. Kids are issued hours of homework in first grade, pounding away on laptops from the moment they can sit in a chair.
And so now, when that one time of year rolls around when even grown ups can be giddy, silly, sugarpacked kids, eating cookies for breakfast, snooping for gifts, wearing reindeer antlers and jingle bells at work, NOW we’re trying to do kids a favor by “not lying to them” about Santa Claus. Every year I hear of people saying they won’t have Santa at their house because of the ‘horrible betrayal’ the children feel when the truth is revealed. I’ve been around this great big world for 36 years, and while I don’t know everyone in the world, I know quite a few people, and of all of those people, I don’t know even ONE person who remembers a feeling of lasting betrayal once the magic trick was revealed. Do you know why?
Because it’s fun. It’s fun to find out that mom and dad have been being silly, playing a joke and being like you. When you tell a grown kid about Santa Claus and they say “why?” the only answer is: “because it’s part of the fun”. It’s not because “we wanted to deceive you about the nature of the universe, convincing you for five years that there are actually a population of altruistic elves, only to tear you down and laugh at your misfortune.” It’s fun. It’s playing pretend, it’s make believe, it’s theatre,it’s magic, it’s a fun secret that’s fun to build on, from putting out cookies and milk, to making reindeer tracks in the yard, to renting a suit and pulling out dolls and games from a big red sack. For the nerds in the crowd, it’s live action role play.
To be honest, I don’t want my daughter to know the ‘truth’ about the world yet. I don’t want her to know that once you hit puberty, the color picture of life starts fading, muting to grey. I don’t want her to know that someday she’ll have to plan and make TIME to have fun. She’ll have to WORK at being happy, she’ll have to forgo surprises and fun and goofiness for the sake of time or money or social obligation. I don’t want her to know that what you see is what you get; that while there are more things on heaven and earth than are dreamt of in her philosophy, she’ll probably only see 1 half of 1% of any of it.
I want, for just a while, to jump into her mind, to take a break from my adult mundanity and believe that a fairy flies in to collect up my lost teeth, that my beloved dog Margaret is somewhere on a farm where she can run and run, that a big cuddly bunny leaves eggs and candy hidden EVERYWHERE in the spring time, and most of all that for a while every year, everyone who celebrates Christmas becomes overstuffed with an ability for surprise and magic, and art and music and creativity. That the world turns multicolored and sparkly, trees live indoors, jewels and stars dangle from strings, and on Christmas Eve, when you can’t sleep a wink for the excitement of the upcoming unknown, a little fat man in a funny little suit comes to your house and rewards you for putting up with the truth of the real world for one more year.