Friday, November 23rd, 2007
I Saw Mommy Killing Santa Claus
The following exchange occurred over Thanksgiving dinner with our 3-year-old daughter. We had just finished discussing Santa Claus, complete with traditional youthful excitement.
Mom: “Is Santa fantasy or reality?”
Daughter: [thought-filled pause] “Fantasy.”
Mom: “Yes, but isn’t it fun to pretend?”
These words were delivered from my ears to the auditory cortex in my temporal lobe where they were processed and dispatched to my frontal lobes. The meaning and repercussions of the words were hotly debated in a fraction of a millisecond.
Right hemisphere: Did she really just ask that?
Left hemisphere: Maybe you misheard her.
Right hemisphere: No, I think she really did just ask that.
Left hemisphere: I think you’re right; the auditory cortex has never steered us wrong before.
Then the Broca’s area in my left frontal lobe produced two words to be dispatched to my vocal cords:
But those two simple words were intercepted and swiftly tackled by the entire defensive line in my right frontal lobe.
The net effect to a neutral observer in the room would have been the downward readjustment of my lower jaw by two inches and the escape of a low pitch oscillation of my vocal cords heretofore only heard in people taking their last breath of life on this planet.
Broca’s area regrouped after three seconds of much needed contemplation and dispatched the following auditory question directed to my wife:
“So, uhh, that’s our decision?”
Only then did my wife realize she had just killed Santa Claus.
To understand my wife’s psychosis you must know this is typical behavior at our preschool where my wife volunteers. No, not killing Santa. When books are read in class, sometimes an instructor will clarify a fantastical element of a story by asking, “Is this fantasy or is it real?”
The question serves to distinguish pretend stories from ones that are amazing, but true. For example, one time while reading Corduroy at home, my daughter asked, “Do teddy bears come alive at night and run around turning on lamps and stuff?”
I suppose it all could have been a slip-of-the-tongue, a brief moment when my wife’s brain turned off. Except, after conferring with her medical expertise to write the brainy passages above, she is, as I type this, skimming through and pausing our DVD of Miracle on 34th Street in an attempt to convince me that young Natalie Wood looks like our daughter. You know, the movie about a mother who raised her daughter to not believe, in order to avoid the “very harmful mental conflict” posed by Santa Claus. I kid you not.
Mr. Gailey: “Jack and the Beanstalk.”
Susie: “I never heard of that.”
Mr. Gailey: “You must’ve heard that. You’ve just forgotten. It’s a fairy tale.”
Susie: “Oh, one of those. I don’t know any fairy tales.”
Mr. Gailey: “Your mother and father must have told you a fairy tale.”
Susie: “No. My mother thinks they’re silly.”
This brings us to the Santa debate. There are three primary types of Americans who don’t tell their kids that Santa is a real, supernatural person.
- Non-Christians who associate Saint Nicholas with Christianity.
- Christians upset that Santa outshines Jesus in a toy-loving child’s heart.
- Non-theists who believe teaching Santa means lying to their children.
My wife and I each grew up believing in Santa, but I find myself not entirely opposed to presenting Santa as a pretend figure to my daughter.
Don’t get me wrong. Santa is a lot of fun. I remember tracking Santa’s journey in radio reports on Christmas Eve and leaving cookies and milk for him, and so on. For our daughter’s first two Christmas’ I was a Santa devotee.
Now that I have a very thoughtful 3-year-old, there is a part of me that feels like I’m turning off her brain temporarily in order to have a
I hadn’t confronted “the Santa issue” until my wife unceremoniously dispatched Mr. Kringle over Thanksgiving dinner.
Hey, lots of kids in other cultures and religions grow up fine without Santa, even in societies where the Santa tradition is dominant, right?
However, given the transitory nature of toddler thoughts, I’m not convinced Santa is really dead. Like any good literary character, he can be written back into the script.
If my daughter’s perception persists, I’ve conferred with my wife to assure the safety of Santa, Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman in stories, videos and songs to be enjoyed as fun pretend characters by our family.
We will wait and see if my daughter’s imagination takes over and makes Santa real again, and see how Mom and Dad respond. Sometimes we surprise ourselves.
How about you? Are you a mainstream Santa enthusiast, sideline critic or waffling fence sitter?