For anyone who read my inaugural post last Christmas, you will know that Geoff and I decided a few years ago that we were not going to teach Matthew that Santa Claus was real (don't worry - we also taught him that many kids believe that Santa is real and that he shouldn't be the one to tell them otherwise). We have no problem with those who think otherwise, but this is what works for us. When I was a child of about seven years, I learned that Santa was not real and I was furious that I'd been lied to by those closest to me. I felt betrayed, foolish. So, we decided that we would do things differently with Matthew. We talk about Santa if he raises it...but as being the character of a really good story, just like the other stories we read. Some folks have openly questioned our decision to do this, suggesting that his imagination will be stunted. My only response is to tell people that this is a boy with a very powerful imagination (he has great story-telling abilities and has had imaginary friends since he was 18 months old...) - I am not worried about his imagination in any way.
Last year, I was shocked during the Christmas season by how many adults engaged Matthew about Santa. Cashiers at the grocery store would ask him if he'd been "good" so that Santa would deliver presents to him. A clerk at another store asked him if he'd been a "bad boy" because he was going to get a lump of coal instead of presents...Matthew was terrified. A waitress at a local restaurant sat down at our table to tell him about Santa in great detail and, when Matthew whispered to her that he knew the truth (that Santa wasn't real), she told him that his mother should tell him the truth about Santa when we went home! I was really quite annoyed by this and by other adults who persisted in trying to convince him that I was the one telling him something that wasn't true. Matthew finally asked me if I was really sure that Santa wasn't real because a lot of grownups seemed to believe that he was. Sigh.
This year, the scenario has become more interesting. As often as I tell Matthew that Santa is part of a terrific story, he's started to tell me that I'm wrong - that Santa is real. So, I have explained to him my experience growing up and the reason why daddy and I have decided to tell him the truth. He remains unconvinced.
A couple of weekends ago, the three of us were in a shopping mall and happened to see the Santa crew in the final stages of setting up the photo op for children. Matthew wandered into the elf boss' domain and, being the only child there, had an opportunity to take a good look. He edged closer to Santa, a very intent look on his face as if trying to figure out what to make of him. He kept looking back at us with an amazed look, as if saying "mom, I think he might be real." Finally Santa got Matthew onto his knee (trying to sell a photo!) and they had a little chat about what Matthew wanted for Christmas. We even bought the picture of Matthew sitting there because Matthew looked so pleased; and his photographed smile is just a little too smug and brilliant - as if he's the keeper of the real truth. Since that moment, Matthew is absolutely convinced that Santa is real and that I don't know what I'm talking about - "you're wrong, Mom" he says with a tone of finality.
The situation makes me throw my hands up into the air in disbelief...am I the only parent who has actively and deliberately told her child that Santa doesn't exist, only to have the child become resolute in his believe that Santa does live? This is crazy.
Just wait...eighteen years from now, when Matthew is processing all of the baggage that he will inevitably acquire from his growing-up years, this is somehow going to get twisted around and come back 'round to be my fault!