I had an interesting conversation with a group of women (mothers) yesterday at a bible study. We all discussed our take on whether or not Santa was a part of our Christmas growing up, and whether or not we then instituted him as a part of Christmas within our own families now.
I was amazed that in 8 women, there were 8 completely different answers.
On the "no Santa" side, the reasons were both about the issue of lying and the attempt to keep the focus on the birth of Jesus. One woman said her mother had felt so betrayed by her own mother at being lied to for so long, that they were very emphatic about telling the truth, including about the myth of Santa Claus. Another woman said that she didn't want to confuse her children between the fact that while Santa is made up, Jesus is real. She mentioned that children often stop believing in both God and Santa around the same time. Because you don't see either of them, kids can find it tough to understand why one is real and one is made up. A third woman said that she found it too difficult to balance the secular and the religious aspects, and she felt Santa would win out every time, so all the presents under the tree were from family instead of Saint Nick.
On the "yes Santa" side, most people either mentioned the magic of the season or roots of family. One woman talked about the glitter and decorations and the happy glow that comes along with the holiday side of Christmas. Another said that her family weren't Christians and so they wanted to balance both aspects so they didn't alienate their family relationships, which they felt were just as important to nourish.
One woman in the group caught my attention. She just gave birth to her first baby, a beautiful little girl, about two months ago. I could see her taking in the conversation, her eyes focused and her mind trying to capture all the positions. You see, it is at this exact moment in life when you really start to ask yourself what position you are going to take on different issues. Before children, there really is only one person at play - you. Flip-flopping on things is no big deal, because you can handle it and it doesn't affect anyone else. Once there is a child in the mix, all of a sudden you realize you have to take a stand on all these issues. Santa or no Santa? Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy? What about Halloween - will you celebrate or not? Let your kids go out? Until what age? Even things around the home like how much TV to watch, what sorts of movies, or will you have a video game system? Although you can change the rules once the kids are around, it's much easier to examine the issue and decide where you stand before the kids are old enough to know any better.
Going back to the great Santa debate, I just thought it was so interesting that among eight women there were eight different stands taken, and for eight completely different reasons. While there was a minuscule amount of tension present (everyone wants to think that they have the right answer, and that everyone else should see things in the same light!), I just loved to see that everyone had thought about the issue, considered the different routes to take, and then had consciously and firmly taken a stand. That is what parenting is all about.