I was a skeptical child. At not even two years old, I sniffed out an Easter bunny imposter. “That’s not the Easter bunny,” I said, standing on a chair hanging onto my mom. “He’s wearing tennis shoes.”
I had my bouts with Santa Claus, leprechauns and the tooth fairy, and my parents went all out for a while.
My family and I used to bake a gingerbread house and leave milk for Santa on Christmas Eve.
When I tiptoed into the kitchen Christmas morning and saw an empty glass of milk and the door of the gingerbread house mysteriously missing, my eyes instant lit up.
On St. Patrick’s Day, my brother and I used to wake up to a completely rearranged house and green milk.
Despite my parents’ efforts, I discovered the truth about these magical childhood figures by second grade and pretty nonchalantly at that.
For some kids, though, the rite of passage into adulthood isn’t such a smooth transition.
In a University of Ottawa study, nearly half of children admit to being disappointed when discovering the skinny truth of Christmas. Some even reported feelings of betrayal.
Some parents are concerned that portraying Santa Claus as real would be considered lying to their children. But there’s a distinct difference between lying and letting children use their imaginations.
And, unless you’re dealing with a child similar to Brittany from “Glee,” common sense will overcome the Santa deception and be replaced with the inevitable disappointment.
The bitterness does not last forever, though, and it makes for great memories. Most people remember the story of how they found out about the jolly old man and reminisce with family and friends.
In fact, my mom appreciated the phone call trip down memory lane as I prepared to write this column.
However, it’s always surprising to me to hear about 15 year olds who “still believe in Santa.” I’m calling shenanigans on that notion.
Unless the teenager has never been exposed to the outside world, there is no way he or she hasn’t heard rumors floating around the halls at school or seen a movie suggesting the old man who delivers piles of gifts around the world in one night doesn’t actually exist.
Besides the select extremely naïve children, believing in Santa Claus once they hit the teenage years is often just a ploy for more presents.
A child who believes in St. Nick gets presents not only from his family, but additional gifts from Santa. Perhaps it’s retaliation against deceiving parents.
While I don’t think parents should expose the truth at a child’s first glimpse of disbelief, pushing the Santa deception into middle school and even high school is a little excessive.
Use Santa as a symbol of generosity; the concept of giving the entire world gifts without expecting anything in return will always be a lesson worth sharing.
Even once the myth of Mr. Claus has been exposed, the traditions formed can prove to be lasting.
Sure, the holiday isn’t quite as magical as it was when I was a believer, but that doesn’t mean it’s not special anymore.
For me, it’s the opportunity to reconnect with family and recuperate after an exhausting semester.
Let children believe and discover the truth. But, most importantly, take advantage of Santa Claus’ positive message.