I stripped my children of their fantasies and imagination

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Today after school, Lizzie was talking about library day at Kindergarten and “Silent Night” in music class. Then she mentioned Santa. Just a passing phrase, I don’t even remember exactly what she said. But his name was there and I had a choice: let the conversation go on to other subjects naturally, (and let her believe whatever she believes about him) or take that moment to teach her what I have always known.

I chose the latter. I was pretty confident in my choice. Lizzie, David and Lucy all three have amazing imaginations and a vivid fantasy life. But I also have a faith that I hope they grow to share and love someday too. Josh and I decided when Lizzie was a baby that we would treat imaginary creatures like what they are – extremely fun and yet also imaginary. Since I grew up not believing in Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa or even going trick or treating at Halloween, I know it is possible to have a wild and fun childhood with a huge imagination without them.

The conversation in the car was so effortless and sweet.

“Lizzie, is Santa real?”

“Um, yeah.”

“Did you know he used to be a man named Saint Nicholas? And now he is an imaginary character that everyone has fun with every Christmas? He is like Cinderella or Mickey Mouse. We have fun playing pretend with them, don’t we?”

“Yeah. (giggle) And the elves too!”

“yup!”

“So what about the gifts, mommy?”

“Oh, you know those gifts are from mommy and daddy” (she laughs, remembering how she has never opened a single gift from Santa. I just never put one under the tree. It is just not our normal)

“And that guy at the mall? Does he really have a big fat belly, Mommy?”

“Um….maybe….the one last year that they got to dress up to be Santa was actually pretty skinny, wasn’t he?” (she nodded).

Then we went on to talk about how some people do believe Santa is real and we think that is a fun idea. I told her not to tell any of her friends what she thinks of Santa, either. You see, all of her cousins and most of her aunts and uncles all celebrate the “Jesus’ birthday” focus and I don’t think any of them ever really talk about Santa. I know for sure that her first cousins do not get Santa gifts either (they are both her age). It is just not our normal. But you listen to these 5 and 6 year olds play and you will hear the wildest, craziest adventures!

This is such a hard topic. Amy from Mom Spark wrote about it in 2008, a post that resonates with me today. In fact, I couldn’t have said it better.  “I think Santa is so buried into America’s traditions and way of life, that we do not question why we do it and feel obligated to partake in the experience.” Ditto, Amy. Ditto.

And then Rachel from Following in My Shoes introduced Elf on the Shelf to her kids. She is actually having fun with the Santa fantasy with her kids and teaching them her faith. And that is awesome, I think she will have a blast this year with her Elf.

Me? I am going to keep encouraging the belief in the birth of Jesus as the focus, and also treat Christmas the way I remember it. It was a very educational time for me every year. I learned the history of Saint Nicholas. I learned the names of Santa in different countries and how to enjoy a variety of cultures. I learned that even though I didn’t believe in Santa Clause as a real magical being that gave me gifts, I accepted and enjoyed that my friends did, without arguing my point of view. And my imagination, while it didn’t have half-eaten cookies or spying elves, expressed itself in plays I wrote for my siblings and books I devoured weekly.

My kids do not believe in Santa, and I think they will be just fine. 

Written by:: Annie Shultz

Annie Shultz has written 1924 post in this blog.

She is THE Mama Dweeb :) She created this blog back in 2009 and loves to inspire and connect with others through her writing. She also loves talking, dreaming, 90s pop and country music.

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Comments

  1. says

    I’ve always had such mixed feelings on this. There was a brief time I believed in Santa and would try to stay awake on Christmas Eve so I could hear the reindeer hit the roof. But I think I always knew it wasn’t real, the handwriting on the gift tags was very clearly my mom’s no matter who it said it was from.

    But my husband grew up a JW with no holidays and I see how much he enjoys reliving the holiday experiences he missed out on. And I see how excited the kids get about Santa and our Elf on the Shelf.

    Santa, Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny … it was all just something I decided to give into for his sake (and the kids). Christmas isn’t a religious holiday for us so having Santa gives it meaning for our family.

    But you’re right, your kids will be just fine with or without Santa. :)

    • Annie @ Mama Dweeb says

      And you know what? If Josh really cared deeply about creating the magical scenes at Christmas with the cookies and gifts and elves and whathaveyou, I would support him. When Lizzie was a baby, I asked what he wanted and he said, “I don’t really care. You decide.” Um…ok LOL so I picked the way I was raised since I enjoyed it so much.

      After asking this question on my facebook page, I realized that lots of adults teach their kids what they experienced (or wished they experienced) as a kid. So the comment about John doesn’t surprise me much :)

  2. Amy says

    I have always told my kids the truth but some how my youngest just couldn’t grasp that ‘Santa’ isn’t real. My mom sent my kids elf on the shelf this year and my oldest (7) thinks it’s so fun to watch the other two look for the elf and he keeps the truth to himself as to not spoil it for the younger ones (5 & 6). I really though I had a grasp on the Santa craze in my house but now with that elf…. that grasp is GONE! I don’t think we will do the elf again but it’s cute this year and I’ll let them be. We’ve never put a ‘Santa’ present under the tree but my husbands family actually does a rent-a-santa at the Christmas party and he hands out gift to all the kids, this will be the first year my kids experience that too. I will admit, I love the look in my daughters eyes when she talks about the elf and tells me he’s magic and he flies and can only talk to Santa, she talks to him but she only tells him she’s been good and would like a teddy bear for Christmas!

    • Annie @ Mama Dweeb says

      A rent-a-santa? LOL!! that phrase just has me giggling! :) I think you are doing a fantastic job, Amy. Sounds like they are having fun, and that is the important thing.

  3. says

    We’ve chosen not to do the Santa thing and I am always surprised at how hard it is to explain this to people and how much push back we get. I agree, though, that our kids will be just fine.

    • Annie @ Mama Dweeb says

      Can’t remember if you saw the discussion on my Facebook page or not….but yes! When I shared on there that I don’t make it all magical and stuff, I got some pretty passionate responses.

  4. says

    I don’t mind letting my son believe in the magic of these things, but if he asks if they are real, I won’t lie. Honestly, I think having children has brought back a lot of magic to the holiday for both me and my husband. It has reminded us both that we all have a little suspension of disbelief in us, and has re-sparked our own creativity even though we know it isn’t “real”. That said, we just started Elf on the Shelf and will put up our Nativity on December 1st. We will talk about different holiday traditions as well as who Jesus is and why Christmas is special.

    • says

      Adding – my family did the same with us. While we did believe in Santa for many years, there was never a moment that I remember being hurt or upset when the reality was fully revealed. I think it’s because they balanced the magic with the real meaning of the holidays, and focused on giving back to our community while getting us excited for the toys and treats santa would bring. Also Santa really only ever did small trinkets and stockings. Big gifts were from family.

    • Annie @ Mama Dweeb says

      And here is the part I struggle with. Why is it that almost everyone that plays up the Santa part of Christmas implies that Christmas is not magical without him? Sure my kids don’t see half-eaten cookies or gifts with a “From: Santa” on them, but they still get the excitement of gifts and the beauty of the nativity story with the glorious star.

      I am not attacking you….I am just voicing what I hear lots of people telling me, and you happened to use their terminology LOL . That by not celebrating with Santa, my Christmas has less magic. So interesting.

  5. says

    We always make sure our kids know the reason for Christmas is Jesus but we also do Santa because it was such a fun part of when i was growing up. I wasn’t disappointed when I found out he wasn’t real but I loved that my mom wanted to let me experience the fun of waking up to see what gifts Santa left. It was just such an exciting feeling :)

    They get gifts from us as well but we do make sure they know the holiday is about Jesus not Santa. I know so many friends who do what your family does and I see absolutely nothing wrong with it it’s how you want to celebrate, just because we have different views, like you said, doesn’t make it wrong :)

    I love that you make sure your kids know not to say anything to other kids to keep it special for those who do Santa. That made me smile as a parent who does Santa….I want to say thank you for making sure to keep it just as exciting for my kids as you do yours :)

  6. cl says

    We didn’t tell our kids Santa brought the presents, either. We said Jesus gave them to them and told them the real meaning of Christmas.

  7. says

    I am SURE your kids will be fine!

    I grew up believing in Santa – and I never let go of the idea of him. When I had kids, I knew I would continue with the tradition. My husband wasn’t raised with Santa (I don’t know about the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny) but he let me have fun. James is 8 and Colin is 4 – both still think there is a Santa. That said, Santa is our tradition, but our focus is that it’s Jesus’ birthday. My kids know WHY we celebrate Christmas.

    This year, though, I’ve started to question if I did the right thing by continuing the Santa tradition I grew up with. Some friends from church don’t agree with the concept of it. One does stockings and a Santa gift, but her kids KNOW there is no Santa. They know that Mom & Dad do those gifts. Another friend doesn’t even do the extra gifts. That friend grew up with Santa and believes it’s lying to our kids. (She says she still has trouble believing things her parents say because of “Santa.”) That said, I’ve weighed everyone’s opinions and I think I’ll keep it. When James asks, I’ll tell him the truth. I feel like if I shouldn’t have done Santa, I should have started when James was a baby. I don’t want to take it away now.

    • Annie @ Mama Dweeb says

      I have a close friend’s husband who was very upset when he realized he was lied to as a child about Santa. I know that your friend and my friend are the minority. Most people eventually grow up and enjoy that it was all a game, they do not get upset….but it does happen occassionally….

      I barely by my kids any gifts at Christmas….they get so spoiled by their extended family that there is nothing left for me to buy. But we still keep Christmas joyful and intimate with the nativity story and songs.

  8. says

    I totally agree, you explained it very well. I am not sure what to tell my little ones – but its also not my decision, I am just an auntie :) So, she was pretty calm about it, no?

    • Annie @ Mama Dweeb says

      She was very calm about it. Since Josh and I never did Santa gifts or left out cookies or anything Santa related, it wasn’t like it was a huge shock to her LOL :)

  9. Becky W says

    Annie,

    Your title of this post cracked me up. I don’t think by explaining about Santa that you have in any way “stripped your children of their fantasies and imaginations”

    While I was raised with “Santa” and leaving out cookies, and getting separate gifts my parents eventually broke it to us that there is no “Santa”. To this day though, we still get “Santa” gifts.

    We do use “Santa” with our children, because both my husband and I grew up with that. But as soon as my children question “Santa”‘s existence, I will not lie to them.

    We do stress the real reason for the season and Jesus’ birth.

    It really does seem that most people seem to follow traditions similar to how they were raised when it comes the the imaginary characters of youth.

    • Becky W says

      Annie, to actually get to my point, I am certain that with a Mom, with such creativity and imagination as you, your children will grow up to be very creative and have wonderful imaginations without having to “believe” in characters, such as Santa, and the Easter Bunny.

      • Annie @ Mama Dweeb says

        Becky, your comment made me smile SOOO big! Thank you! :D You have an excellent point about people doing as they were raised. The majority of the time people have beautiful, happy memories that involve their families and Santa traditions. And it is no wonder they want to pass it down! Then there are others that felt betrayed in the lie (read the comment below yours by Liz). Not a surprise when they do not involve Santa.

        The most important thing is that families love and spend time together. THAT is what Christmas means. 100%.

  10. Liz says

    I love you post. We too, do not do Santa.
    My issue is not with the excitement he brings or the “magic”, its when it becomes a lie. And at some point it always does. Sneaking around to make it believable. Lies get bigger and bigger as the kids become more keen to it.
    We teach our kids that lying is wrong but then this lie is ok? It just does not make sense to me.
    I watched my 10 year old cousin go into a severe depression when he learned it was a lie. It was horrific. He is now an adult and does not do Santa. I realize not all children respond that way but it was something to watch.
    And yes, I have been accused of “ruining Christmas” when one of my kids slips and tells the TRUTH to other kids. Such a shame. So, we literally have friends we do not have playdates with for the entire month of December to avoid a catastrophe.
    This is not a grey issue for me, its simple black and white. Lies are not cute, funny or innocent regardless of the plump fuzzy costume they are wearing.

    • Annie @ Mama Dweeb says

      When I saw your comment on Twitter, I could not believe it. But I can believe the depression of your cousin. My friend’s husband went through the same thing as a child. And he, too, vowed to never lie to his children about Santa.

      You are right – that depression and feeling of betrayal is not the norm. Most kids enjoy Santa or it wouldn’t continue to be passed down from generation to generation. But those that choose to “believe” should not judge those that don’t.

  11. says

    Hi, Annie. It seems like once our kids hit a certain age this is such a hot topic! It’s hard to know how to keep the focus on the right things at Christmas and to not be overwhelmed with all of the traditions that seem mandatory. I actually just wrote an ebook on this topic called “To Elf or Not to Elf: How to Have a Christ Focused Christmas without Ruining the Fun or Lying to Your Kids.” I like your approach to Santa through Saint Nicholas story telling. That’s what we do, too.

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