The Big Lie

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I’ve been absent due to a week-long unintentional Amish-type retreat. My computer and my car were both vandalized- the computer by my monster toddler and the car by some jerkwad in the Petco parking lot. This happened while Scott was on tour and all of my babysitters got the flu at the same time. It sort of felt like God saying, “Chill the heck out and spend some time with your kid.” So that’s what I did. But now I’m back with a question…

Do you perpetuate the Big Lie? Do you participate in the world’s oldest ploy to manipulate children into good behavior?

And by that I mean, of course, Santa. Now, I didn’t grow up believing in Santa, so I never had the traumatic revelation of the fallacy of that belief. You’d think that my Christian husband would weigh in more heavily on this decision, but he keeps throwing the ball back in my court. I’ve done an informal poll of my friends and it seems that all but the most devout (from a couple of different camps) perpetuate the lie.

I guess in the end it was my love of stories and magic that tipped the scale. So I have arrived at a yes. Yes, we’re perpetuating the Big Lie. But then another question arises- how do you tell the story? When the mall Santa asked T if he had been a good boy, T looked at him like, “huh?” Because we don’t use language like that. We don’t classify him as “good” or “bad,” “naughty” or “nice.” We prefer the Nonviolent Parenting model of looking at T’s behavior as a system of needs and strategies.

Although lately I’ve been tempted to start in with the threat/bribe aspect of the Santa story because T has been so, well, so BAD. And I was hardly successful in employing my nonviolent paradigm when T darted into the middle of an intersection as the light changed. I employed the Mommy Dearest paradigm that day. But I digress.

In spite of my temptation to lord that mythic piece of coal over T’s head, we’re eschewing the naughty/nice concept and focusing instead on the sled/reindeer/fat guy in a red suit stuff. So far, T is just concerned that the dogs are going to bark at Santa and scare him.

How about you? How do you tell the story?

14 Responses to 'The Big Lie'

  1. Madgew says:

    Jillian,

    Ask Joe on the next family website (thenextfamily.com). He is our new child behaviorist and he can surely guide you.

    With my grand kids we have Hanukkah Harry who they somehow heard about. Now at age 6 they ask if he really exists and I told them he does he they want him to and if not, not. They got it. When they were T’s age they were wholehearted believers and I went right along even telling them I caught a glimpse of him right before they got to my house. They were so excited and asked so many questions about what he really looked like and was he nice or mean to me. Too many questions that I really almost lost it. Now they are old enough to decide themselves and my little grand daughters just go along with whatever.

  2. Laura says:

    I have no kids of my own, but thinking back on my parents’ way of teaching us about Santa, I think they went about it in a pretty good way. Like you decided, it was less about the he-sees-you-when-you’re-sleeping Santa and more about the he-brings-presents Santa. Which made Christmas way more fun. I was so into the whole leaving cookies and milk for Santa thing. And as tempting as it may be to use Santa to bribe kids, I think in the end it’ll be better if they behave because they know you want them to and because they know it’s the right thing to do – not because they think some red-suited stranger won’t give them presents if they’re bad.

  3. Laura says:

    Also, those pictures are way adorable.

  4. AmyP says:

    T is so adorable — love his joy and the gingerbread house. I don’t have kids so I can only speak of my experience. I believed in Santa till I was six. I became skeptical enough to ask, and at this point I already knew the answer. It was disappointing nonetheless, a sad afternoon.

    But I loved the experience of believing in Santa, just as I loved Santa. Our across the street neighbor would dress up in a Santa costume and visit all the kids in the neighborhood. I completely believed he was Santa and was in awe. I’d scan the moonsplashed nights all December for signs of the reindeer sleigh, and convince myself that the red light of a plane was really Rudolf’s nose glowing. I’d imagine reindeer feet on the roof Christmas eve as I fell asleep. My parents told me no child was supposed to see Santa at work — which kept me upstairs. I left out milk and cookies, which I spent way too much time selecting with thought and love.

    When mom told me Santa wasn’t real, she said that he did exist, but he existed as ‘the spirit of giving.” It was a very wise thing for her to say, and it helped with the disappointment. I treasure the memories. FWIW.

  5. Kristern says:

    We are the same way. It is sooo tempting to do the “santa is watching” thing but I don’t like teaching kids this concept of a punitive higher power, which is really what the santa mythology teaches. Even though it would make my day a little easier!

    I have never taught my kids a thing about santa, but they know all about it from their friends, so we just kind of go with it, and try to downplay it.

  6. Kristen says:

    Kristern? Crap, I need some sleep.

  7. admin says:

    Wow. Thanks for all this gorgeous writing and for sharing your perspectives!

  8. Catherine says:

    Hi Jillian,

    I can only say that I wish I was as liberal and straight forward with my son (who is also Tariku’s age) as you are with T. I believed in Santa for a while, I think until the Christmas where I saw my parents sneaking in a Fisher-Price dollhouse for my sister which they later claimed it was delivered by Santa… My husband was adamant about Leonidas getting a picture with Santa and being good so Santa can bring him presents… I hate the concept of exchanging good behavior for gifts, even though we used that technique for getting him potty-trained and yes, it worked. I think that kids need that “magic” in their little lives, even though it’s a myth and even though they’ll wake up one morning and realize that it was all a major commercial ploy. I say, do what feels right to you.

  9. Tadd says:

    While I’m not a parent, I can very vividly remember the role Santa Clause played in my childhood. I was always unsure of his existence, but always left cookies out for him. One year my parents went out of their way to wrap a bunch of gifts in different wrapping paper than what was used on all of the other gifts while me and my siblings were asleep. I was totally fooled, and thought he existed for sure after that. My parents never came out and said “he’s not real” but I think I just figured it out over time.
    Looking back, I know they did it to get me excited about Santa, but it is a blatant lie and they completely tricked me. I don’t hold a grudge or anything, but I still feel unsure of my parents going out of their way to make me think someone that didn’t exist, did.
    I ran across this website this morning and that’s why I returned to comment on your blog. To me, this is an all time low.
    http://www.icaughtsanta.com/
    It’s one thing to tell them, it’s another to completely trick your kids into thinking someone was at your house by showing them “proof”. I thought you might find this interesting.

  10. Lesley says:

    We focus more on the “spirit” of Christmas in our home. Of course, Santa comes up and we do go see Santa for the delivery of the letter and picture BUT I try to stay focused on what I think the true meaning of Christmas is. Giving. Kindness. Love.

    Great website called Offbeat mama had an article recently about this subject. Here is the link:
    http://offbeatmama.com/2010/12/truth-about-santa

    Have a peaceful and wonderful holiday season!

  11. faith says:

    Here is what happens when T gets older and starts to question Santa and starts to question what other lies parents tell kids….shit…we are all just doing the best we can, right?

    http://littlehouseinbigwoods.blogspot.com/2010/12/when-imagination-meets-reality.html

  12. Katie says:

    I’ve been following your blog for a lil while now. I saw you on tv discussing your book and couldn’t remember the name of it and searched your name and here I am!!! Double delighted to find out you’re part of the Weezer family….frickin’ LOVE that band!!!! But anyways had to comment on this BIG LIE!!!!! I hate it!!!! My son,who is now 11, caught me at 4 and I just gave in and ratted myself out! Such relief!!!!! Now my daughter is 4 and she is as girly as they come! She’s not made of sugar and spice, she’s made of pink,princesses, and fairy tales!!! She is in love with the BIG LIE!!!! She fills the gaps in herself, she’s got the story down pat!! I dread the day she finds out for my own sanity cuz she is gonna be scarred for life!!!! But let me tell you…Christmas has turned in to a pain in the ass!!!! I’ve gotta bribe my 11 year-old to go along w/it and he’s back to getting a present from “SANTA”!!!!! uggghhhh!!!! I already told my husband that our future last kid is screwed cuz I’m not playing this game anymore!!!!LMAO!!!! If you figure out a way you’re gonna let T down easy in the future,give me the heads up,okay?!!!! LOL

  13. Michelle says:

    I am a mom of two girls, 13 and 11. I also work in school. I love Santa. We don’t use it to encourage good behavior (we want that anyway). Without Santa, Christmas has no magic, the hope and thrill of what *might* be there. I tell my second graders “It’s hard to believe when you are at school and your friends are talking to you, but if you sit in your living room, with your Christmas tree and listen quietly in your heart, I think you’ll know then if you believe”. We believe at our house. The most fun is when everyone gets to be Santa.

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