Happy New Year, everyone! I left a quick message yesterday, but I wanted to do a proper New Year's post today. One of my New Year's resolutions is to get my blog in shape! About a year and a half ago, I decided to make my blog more about writing and books and less about my family and personal stories. However, I've heard time and time again that you miss that part of the blog (thank you),and in truth, I miss it, too. Here's the thing, the books I love and my writing life are all greatly influenced by my life raising four children and all the excitement that comes with it. SO I've decided to have MOMMY MONDAYS. On these days I will talk about my fam, and save the books and writing stuff for other days.
So....for my first Mommy Monday, I wanted to talk about SANTA CLAUS. Yes, Santa Claus. As a mom and a writer of children's books, I think a LOT about the child's perspective of things. On Christmas day, my youngest son looked at my older son (who had apparently expressed some doubts about Santa) and said, "Santa is totally real. Mom would NEVER get us all this stuff." I had to laugh. He wrote the most darling note to Santa on Christmas Eve that ended with "Your the best!" Of course, I refrained from correcting the grammar and just enjoyed the sentiment because guess what? Santa IS the best.
A few years ago, a preacher friend of mine said they would never 'lie' to their kids and teach them about Santa. He said to me, "What are you teaching your kids when you tell them this big lie?"
It made me think. I mean, really, it's pretty incredible that as an ENTIRE culture, we manage to keep this whole Santa thing going. Generation after generation buys it because they WANT to buy it. I mean, who doesn't want to think that we're going to get rewarded for being good when all these people around us are acting like fools and getting away with it. Once when my daughter was in preschool, this little kid came up to all of the four-year-olds and said, "There's no such thing as Santa. It's your parents. They are the ones who give all the presents." The parents stood in horror as the children began to cry. Only one adult kept her cool and said to the kid, "No, Santa does bring presents to all these children, your parents have to get yours because you're too bad for Santa to come." ha ha ha It sounds harsh, but it saved a room full of weepy kids, and I, for one, wanted to break out in applause. Despite such incidents, we do, as an entire culture, manage to whip the children into a frenzy over this fat man in a red suit. Why is that? I understand why kids WANT to believe in someone who brings them cool toys. As a parent, I see the fun of it. But I come back to my friend's question, "What are you teaching your kids when you tell them about Santa?"
I thought about it a lot at that time because my children were very small, and we were taking every aspect of this parenting thing SO seriously and overanalyzing EVERYTHING. So my poor husband endured my consideration of this question. Was I going to screw up my kids by telling them about Santa? What WAS I teaching them?
I thought a lot about kids, who are concrete learners. They're not ready to grasp great big abstract concepts. They get what they can see and understand. They are very hands on, and they want to see everything. The idea of Santa is very visual. Even though they rarely actually see Santa, his image is everywhere--movies, sidewalks, books, and shopping centers. Stories about his lifestyle in the North Pole abound. Stories about his trusty sidekicks, the elves, are everywhere as well as intriguing tales of his reindeer. Kids love to draw Santa, laugh like Santa, play reindeer, and enact the whole thing. So here's what I decided.
Teaching your children about Santa teaching them this: there are concrete, real rewards in life for believing in things you cannot see. "Believe," we tell them, and they do. Santa is their first exercise in trusting that there is more to the world that meets the eye. It prepares them to believe in other things that they cannot see--the things that are the most important things in life.
God. Love. Kindness. Goodness. A Giving Spirit. Patience. Unconditional Love. These are all important concepts that we cannot see, but they enrich our lives once we learn to believe in them anyway.
Santa teaches our kids how to believe in things. And with concrete positive reinforcement (presents!), it rewards their faith.
Perhaps I'm justifying a long tradition, but I like to think that a belief in Santa hones my child's ability to believe and have faith in things he cannot see.
There are certain processes and things in life that we just have to have faith in. Like raising our children. We have to trust that loving them and nurturing them and respecting them and teaching them WORKS. We have to hang on and believe that it's all going to take. Because parenting is a LONG job, and it is usually a very long time before we know if we've done it correctly.
So perhaps Santa is for the parents, too. Perhaps, the jolly old man reminds us to BELIEVE in the processes that are hard for us--like hugging that teen-ager even when her arms are stiff at her sides and going out to the school even when the kids say they don't want you there and continuing to feed and clothe them even on the days when you want to do otherwise. BELIEVE.
My Mission Statement
I write to serve, to unite, to educate. I write to share literature and flesh out ideas that may be of interest to others. I write to document an emotion, experience, or a blip in time. My mission is to write in such a way that the reader is reminded that we can find humor in all situations. It's one of the great blessings of life.