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Santa: To Believe or Not To Believe

by Sheana Ochoa December 09, 2011

By: Sheana Ochoa

“Where’s Christmas?” my three-year-old keeps asking.  Since Thanksgiving ended, he sees signs of it everywhere.  There’s another house with its lights up and more tree-lit avenues with elaborate wreaths or even Santa and the reindeer soaring across the intersection.  “Look at the one in the front with the red nose,” I point out. “That’s Rudolph.”  “Oh,” my toddler responds introspectively, “but where’s Christmas?”  I tried explaining that Christmas was a day not a place, but for someone who doesn’t know his days of the week or even the concept of time, this whole Christmas season is baffling.

And let’s just get to the meat of the matter.  He wants to know when he’s going to get his presents.  Ever since his third birthday party he’s got the idea of presents down.  And since Grandma and Mommy have been asking him what he wants for Christmas (chocolate), what he’s really asking is “When am I getting my chocolate?”

I hadn’t planned on bringing up the whole Santa myth, but when I picked him up from preschool last week he started in on the “Where’s Christmas?” inquiry.  So, I drove around playing “I spy” with him as we found all sorts of Christmasy stuff and then there was Santa and Mrs. Clause on the corner of Wilshire and Rodeo and I pulled over.  Maybe Santa could explain to him where Christmas was.  But my boy was too shy with these strangers who wanted him to sit on Santa’s lap and wanted him to sing “Jingle Bells” to ask where Christmas was.

As we headed back to the car amidst fake snow jetting down on our sweaters, the “where’s Christmas” mantra started up again.  So I just decided to tell him Santa was working on it and that seemed to (finally) satiate his curiosity.  Nothing like making someone else responsible.

Without premeditation, I’ve indoctrinated my son into believing in Santa Claus and, of course, the reindeer and how he delivers presents in his sleigh. Yesterday, he saw a reindeer and it sparked a whining bit about getting his presents now.  I used my Santa scapegoat again, explaining that Santa had a lot of work to do since there were a lot of people in the world, but it didn’t work and his whining escalated.  So, I stooped to telling him that if he wasn’t good, Santa wouldn’t give him presents.  I couldn’t believe I was bribing him since I believe it’s manipulative to bribe kids with a reward for being good.

Now my boy believes in Santa Claus and he thinks he has to be a good boy to get his presents.  There’s only one thing to do.  I will let him believe in Santa as a playful thing.  I won’t hide stuffing his stocking or wrapping his presents under the guise that Santa does this.  I won’t use Santa as a weapon to make him behave.  Santa can just be a nice story, another emblem of Christmas like the tree we’ll get this week.  What he will learn is that Christmas, like Thanksgiving, is family time.  A day to spend and honor your family, which I will try to remind him can be everyday and everywhere.

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Sheana Ochoa
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