Recently I got quite cross… I do occasionally get cross, not normally in public and certainly not with friends. But I do, usually with bureaucracy, call centre workers, the doctor’s receptionist, injustice and my kids and husband. So there you have it I was cross.
The reason? An adult in a position of responsibility told my eldest child that Santa Claus did not exist. Actually it was worse than that, that person assumed my son was too old to believe in Santa, asked him to confirm that he knew Santa was not real in public (thereby forcing him to pretend he knew Santa was a myth when actually he did still mostly believe) and then carried on to debunk the white bearded old man.
My eldest is 11. He is still in Primary School. He was starting to have doubts I know. But I am an excellent liar and so thought we had perhaps headed things off at the pass for another year. Moreover my eldest has younger siblings who also still believe (and quite rightly so). Now he is saddled with not only the sadness of ‘the truth’ but also the responsibility of ‘not saying anything’.
I know this might be quite controversial but I think the realisation that Santa, tooth fairies, the characters at Disney World et al are not real should dawn gradually in a child’s mind. Over a period. It is a thing best left unspoken. A child can then chose to carry on believing and enjoying the rituals and excitement whilst really ‘knowing’ the truth. Certainly as an older child with a much younger sibling I was able to participate in Christmas stockings until I left home so keeping the magic alive for my brother.
Finding out that Santa is not real is not like learning the facts of life or understanding stranger danger. Children do not need to be sat down and have it all explained to them by a certain age in case leaving them in the dark leads to a parallel problem along the lines of an unwanted pregnancy or exploitation. No harm can come from allowing a child to believe longer than is considered the ‘norm’. Yes peer pressure plays its part. However having a fellow 11 year old spout ‘fact’ is completely different to having an adult confirm it to you.
I like make believe – I role play, I like Tolkein, I like to immerse myself in other worldliness. Santa and his mates are similar phenomena for children. What is life without a bit of make believe? Magic? Fairy dust?
So after I had consoled eldest we agreed that in our house believing is allowed, encouraged and actively embraced. Even after logic wins out. I am happy to sit up late on Christmas Eve for as long as they want me to. Childhood is short, and getting shorter, and I am not at all in favour of that.