Do you share the tradition of Santa and kids at your home? How do you balance the magic and imagination with reality and facts?
My husband and I are probably in the minority of parents who don’t do Santa with our three-year-old. It’s not like we hold strong opinions about Santa. It’s just not something we mention.
Sure, if we see Santa at the Christmas tree patch, we’ll say that that’s Santa. Or when our son asks about our neighbor’s Santa figurine, we’ll say that it’s Santa. But we don’t create a story of Santa coming to our home on Christmas Eve. We don’t leave cookies and milk or presenting our son with toys that came from the big red guy.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t believe in its magic.
This may seem strange coming from someone who grew up with Santa and the Tooth Fairy. I watched Christmas movies and wrote to Santa, knowing my letter would whisk from my desk to the north pole. I truly believed all that.
And I wasn’t traumatized when I put the pieces together. When I found it odd that the toys resembled the same ones found in the stores. Or when my parents shushed my older brother as he teased about Santa. No, I was grateful I got that extra gift and realized that Santa was part of a childhood I was outgrowing.
And maybe it’s too early to decide on Santa, considering my son hasn’t asked questions. He isn’t talking with friends about Santa gifts or whether they took pictures with Santa.
But I still don’t feel compelled to celebrate Santa in the typical way. I don’t give him the extra gift from Santa, or even explain the history of this white-bearded jolly man. Instead, I’ll do what seems to work best with my child: follow his lead.
I’m not one to line up at the mall for Santa pictures or buy that extra gift. But I still honor the magic—the imagination—that stems from Santa.
I liken Santa to anything else that my kid would want to create for himself. Just today, he balled up some pieces of play doh and declared that they were pancakes. He has also lined up geometric shapes in a line, claiming these were train tracks. Or played with marbles, all the while saying that they were fountains.
His imagination is growing wild. And I’m not one to correct him and say that no, you can’t eat that play dough. Or that those are actually shapes not train tracks. And that marbles are solid and aren’t anything close to water.
Instead I play along. I ask questions. And I let him imagine. Kids are curious and absorbing everything about their worlds. They’re discerning what makes sense and what doesn’t. And so I’ll leave it up to him to determine what’s real, from Santa to pancakes, from what could be to what is.
Remember when Harry Potter meets Professor Dumbledore at King’s Cross? In what is supposed to have been an afterlife of sorts, Harry asks, “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?” To which Dumbledore replies, “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Get more tips on family life:
- How to Create Holiday Traditions Your Kids Will Love
- How to Encourage Your Child’s Imagination
- Why Commercial Toys Aren’t as Bad as I Assumed
- How to Nurture Your Child’s Creativity
- The Downsides of Having Too Many Toys
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