Thursday, 7 December 2017

Santa, Elves, and Accepting Beliefs

I've written before about our decision not to tell our children that Santa is real. I've also written about how the reality of that can be tricky once children are in childcare. Well, as Girl Child has started school it has stayed tricky - although actually, we have found a way of managing it.

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels

Girl Child is at that stage where beliefs are fluid, where she can kind of believe and not believe all at once. A few months ago she emphatically told me that she doesn't believe in Father Christmas or the Easter Bunny, but she does believe in the Tooth Fairy. (We've been honest about all three.) "Well," she continued, "I know it's not real really, but I want to believe it."

A couple of years ago, when I was a bit more gung-ho about these things, I might have taken issue with this statement. But I've relaxed a lot about it since she started school, mostly out of necessity. She lives in her own imaginary world so much - she has imaginary friends, she 'sees' fairies, she even has a magic wardrobe - that I've accepted that figures like the Tooth Fairy inhabit that strange crossover world between fantasy and reality for her.

As the Christmas season approached this year, Girl Child told me she believed in Santa. My response? "OK." I won't do anything differently - the presents will be labelled with the actual gift-giver's name, there will be no Elf or Santa Cam spying on her and I will continue to approach the whole thing with a sense of playfulness. She knows I don't believe. She does. It's an opportunity to show her that two people with different beliefs can co-exist and respect each other.

It's interesting seeing her work out what she does and doesn't believe in. She claims that a red light on her classroom ceiling is Santa watching them, and she even says she's seen the bobble of his hat poking out - and that she's the only one who can see it. Their class also has an elf which she explains, "is just a toy but some children pretend it's real," and that they can't touch it not for magical reasons but the very practical reason that it might get damaged. She's happy to play along and relates the elf's exploits with glee, but at the same time she knows it's a game.

One thing I have been clear about, though, is the idea of nice and naughty lists. I hate the way Santa is used as a way of bribing children to 'be good' - sorry, but it just makes me deeply uncomfortable. So I have told her that in some versions of the story only good children get presents - but that we know that's not true because all children do their best.

This approach also calms my anxieties about what Girl Child will say to her friends. She's a very forthright girl and will speak her mind without a second thought, painfully so at times. And while I choose not to do the Santa thing, I have no wish to spoil things for families who do - I respect their choice to do things differently to us. Luckily I think Girl Child's desire to fit in with her peers is, in this case, stronger than her desire to speak her mind. Phew.

So on the whole I think I've developed a more pragmatic approach to Santa. We'll go to no lengths to continue her belief nor will we go to any lengths to extinguish it. If it brings another level of play and excitement for her then that's fine, and hopefully we can use it as a way of teaching acceptance of other people's beliefs.

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