We teach our children that Santa is similar to God. I know what you are thinking. Follow me here for a moment, though.
We never actually see Santa or God, but we still believe in them. The Polar Express has always helped me with teaching this concept to our kids in a way that they can understand. The story about the bell (of belief) and how it stops ringing for children when they stop believing brings tears to my eyes every time I read the book or watch the movie.
The wonderful thing is that bell has not stopped ringing for any of my kids. It probably will never stop ringing.
You see, in our house, it is not about making Santa a tangible person, but rather teaching the kids that he is a spirit - like we have taught our children about God. Santa is in our hearts. The spirit of Santa is similar to the spirit of God, in that he represents giving, loving and caring.
After all, one of Santa Claus' names is Saint Nicholas. He is a saint. So, we never can plan to see him. No matter how late we stay up on Christmas night, we cannot see spirits, so we will never see Santa.
What about those Santa's in the mall or parades? They are people who Santa has put the spirit of Christmas into to help him spread cheer to all the little girls and boys. Call them Santa's helpers, if you wish.
My sixteen-year-old, fifteen-year-old and thirteen-year-old all believe in Santa. Not in the way that most young and innocent children "believe," but in the way that we have taught them to believe. Christmas is not about Santa and receiving presents, but rather about respect, love, and giving. Kindness. We celebrate a Christmas season full of being respectful, loving, helpful, and giving toward each other and others, not just Christmas day.
You see, in teaching our children that Santa is a spirit, we have avoided a multitude of issues. Like the little girl whose mom posted her very anger-filled letter on Facebook a couple of weeks ago. She was so mad when she found out that Santa wasn't a real person, she drew her parents an emoji middle finger.
Here's her heartbroken letter:
I don't blame the little girl for being angry at her parents! I am sure that my children would be mad at me, too. And, that's why we teach them what we do. We are not lying to our children when we say that Santa is in our hearts and that he is a spirit.
Wouldn't it be so much easier to avoid all of the lies? To circumvent "coming out of the closet," so to speak, and telling them the truth? Because, sooner or later...eventually...the truth will come out.
I'm pretty sure there isn't a parent out there who looks forward to confessing to their children that they have lied to them from day one about an entity whom the children have learned to LOVE. Now, it's time for the child to come to terms that Santa is not a real person.
They actually grieve the loss of Santa! Like the little girl said in her letter to her parents, they BROKE her heart! She felt lied to by the people she trusted the most about something that was dear to her heart.
I will never receive a letter like this from any of my kids, because I don't pretend that Santa is a real person who actually flies around the world and delivers presents to the children who were on their best behavior every year. Sure, I will throw around the "Santa won't be bringing you presents!" but my kids know better.
They know that, no matter how they have behaved each day of each year, they will still receive presents. He does not hold grudges and create a naughty list, like most parents tell their children. (Although I still joke about it, my kids know better.) Regardless of how rotten a child acts all year long, he (or she) will still get presents on Christmas for two reasons:
1) Saint Nicholas loves all the little boys and girls and forgives, just like God does.
2) Christmas is about giving, and because we all are going to be giving to each other in our house, everyone will be receiving. Naughty or not.
I actually like it so much more this way, mostly because the spirit of Christmas has never diminished in any of our kids, no matter how old and grown they have gotten.
I don't have to worry about that bell and whether or not it will stop ringing. I don't have to worry about my children getting angry at me when they realize that things aren't as they seemed. I don't have to feel guilty or terrible for all of the lies. I don't have to comfort my children as they grieve the loss of Santa, or, even worse, the grief from the loss of all things magical and amazing and exciting about the holidays.
In the end, they don't look back and think I'm a big, fat liar.
MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!
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