My five year old son (soon to be six) asks a lot of questions. In our hose we encourage critical thinking and trying to figure out problems on your own, even if you come up with the wrong answer. We also encourage making connections and predicting outcomes. For example, if you mix X with Z what do you think will happen? Now let’s test it.
All of that is good and my wife and I believe we are doing well in that regard. We are raising quite the little inquisitive mind. The problem is that we also carry out the traditional children’s myths, Santa Clause and now more recently the tooth fairy.
About a week ago my son asked me how Santa Clause can see him. He said “Santa Clause can see me right now, right? How does he do that?” These types of questions kill me. In every other instance I tell him that magic, fairies, dragons, etc., are not real, and just for stories and fun. I am having a hard time with these questions for two reasons. 1, I want to be consistent with what I tell him, and 2, I don’t like lying to him. Most recently I told him that Santa doesn’t actually ‘see’ him, but that there are those who help Santa by giving him information on all the boys and girls. He seemed to accept that, and I felt a little better not just saying it was all magic.
He recently lost his second tooth. So, being my son he naturally asks “How does the tooth fairy get in the house?” “Why am I not allowed seeing the tooth fairy?” Cripes kid, you’re killing me! I don’t remember my exact answers but I know I resorted to saying that I didn’t know exactly, and that I didn’t have all the information.
I don’t plan on spilling the beans any time soon. But, my wife and I have discussed the whole absurdity that is Santa Clause and whether or not to continue the ruse. The kids do love that time of year, and being a kid is the best time to let your mind wonder about exciting things. We just aren’t sure that not pushing the Santa myth really takes anything away. There must be millions of kids in the world that don’t even know about Santa. Are they deprived? I don’t think so. There are plenty of things that are real, tangible, and awe inspiring right here in the natural world. Children find these things amazing and wonderful given the right learning environment.
What sounds more amazing? That a fat man rides around the world in a magical sleigh giving gifts to boys and girls. Or that the same stuff that makes up stars also makes up you. That dying stars are the reason why you exist. You are the product of a grand and amazing universe.
So naturally I have been surfing the internet and reading other people’s opinions on this. I found a theme among some Christians that do not enforce the Santa myth. They do it because they do not want to lose any trust they have with their child. When the child finds out mommy and daddy lied about Santa, what’s to stop the child from saying the same thing about their faith in god? I find this ironic. This post isn’t on that topic so I will not go into detail here as to why.
What if a different case could be made? One that teaches a child to not just simply believe what you are told. What if we use the revelation that Santa isn’t real as an example of not believing everything simply because you are told it is true? I may take this approach. In fact I remember the day I figured out that Santa wasn’t real. I don’t remember what clued me in, but I do know that the idea of Santa not being real was a ‘eureka’ moment for me. I asked my mom If Santa wasn’t real and she told me that he wasn’t. I was both a little sad and a bit proud for having figured it out. I held no resentment to my parents.
So in the end I think this may be the best approach for us. I am by no means saying that everyone should do this, and that it’s the right way. If my sons figure out that Santa isn’t real I will tell them that he isn’t, no matter their age. I will use it as an example of how critical thinking can reveal truth, and not to simply believe everything you are told, even from your parents. After all, we can be just as wrong as anyone else. With that in mind I look forward to the day my kids teach me something new, and open up the way I think about a held belief or idea.