Ethan knows Santa is pretend.
Before you yell “Scrooge!” lemme explain.
It’s a parenting decision we decided to make and we are very glad we did.
“Santa is pretend. But Santa was imagined from a real guy named St.Nick who gave kids presents!! So even though Santa is pretend, he’s a REALLY fun idea. Lots of kids think Santa is real, and that’s OK. You don’t have to tell them he’s pretend, that may make them sad. It’s OK. He’s still fun to read out and think about!”
It’s super helpful. Because every holiday book ever has Santa in it. The isles at Aldi and Trader Joes are lined with stuff with pictures of Santa. Holiday songs mentions Santa. Plus, I honestly just didn’t want to flat out lie to my kid and say he’s real — and knowing Ethan’s desire for truth and logic, it probably wouldn’t fly for very long anyway.
Here’s the catch, when we read books about Jesus — He Is real. But in Ethan’s child mind, Santa, Jesus, Clifford, and Curious George are all in books, and are books real or pretend? For kids learning, it’s all or nothing. We have chosen not to blur those lines, and speak truth while still maintaining the spirit of creativity. “Curious George is pretend, but there are real monkeys in Africa. And one day, someone sat down and thought about a way to tell a beautiful story about a curious monkey and he wrote it down and wrote a book! Isn’t that amazing!”
I’ve capitalized the truth to actually be helpful to teach against entitlement. Santa brings lots of presents to “good kids”, but that’s not how it really works…..we don’t give or get things because of our actions. We get gifts because someone thought of us and is trying to show us they love us. A single thoughtful gift given or received shows someone is loved and remembered.
Obviously some children holiday books are better than others. But many are a lot of fun, silly, gorgeously illustrated, crazily imaginative, and overall joyful books that are full with Santa that we love to read with Ethan!
So for now. We read Santa books, color Santa pictures, and talk about reindeer flying and elves without endorsing it or avoiding it. We teach Ethan what is pretend and what is real. Would there have been any long term (aka eternal) harm (or benefit) in encouraging the belief of Santa? Probably not. We just had to pick one or the other, and we both agreed to go with the other way. It’s a relief to balance truth with imagination and teach him how to understand this time of year called Christmas!