I’ve got a problem. It’s Santa Claus. If you’re under the age of seven, and you’re reading this, although I admire your advanced reading level and your ability to get on the Internet and everything, I have to warn you, look away right now, because everything you know about Santa Claus is going to get unknown pretty fast.
When I was a little kid, I actually believed in Santa Claus. It’s a crazy thing to think about, but I knew he existed. Everything in my life told me that he was real. My parents, they told me he existed. All the confirmation I ever really needed happened on Christmas day, when I’d go downstairs and there would be tons of presents under that tree.
My belief in Santa was so strong that I would actually see him out of the corner of my eyes sometimes. I guess as I started to grow up and my brain started to wonder about the inconsistencies of one man travelling to every single house on the planet, I began to craft justifications in my mind. One, that he had to have super speed, not only to deliver the toys, but also to constantly check up on everybody throughout the course of the year, keeping track of the naughty and the nice.
So it wouldn’t even have to be Christmastime necessarily. Maybe it would be June and my family would be eating dinner. And I’d see something out of the corner of my eye, something, but I’d turn and there wouldn’t be anything there. Immediately my brain would think, yup, had to be Santa, there’s no other explanation.
It all came crashing down one day in the third grade. There was a commotion over in the corner of the classroom. Everybody was surrounding this one girl, yelling at her. I didn’t know what was going on, but then I heard one of the other kids say, “No! Santa is real! He is!” and it took me a minute to process what was going on. This girl didn’t believe in Santa? And she just stood there, defiantly, “Nope. My parents told me he isn’t real.”
So I started getting angry too. We all looked around the classroom, taking a quick stock of blunt objects that we might hurl at her if she wouldn’t change her mind in the next sixty seconds, but luckily for her the teacher broke apart the nascent mob and sent us to our seats, “and not another word out of any of you!”
I remember what came next almost exactly as it happened. It’s one of those memories that has been imprinted directly onto my consciousness, something I can relive with way too much clarity. I got home from school and went straight to my mom and told her the whole story. I was shaken. Something I believed down to my core had been rocked loose, and I wanted the assurances of my mother to reestablish the foundation. But after I told her, she kind of just looked at me without saying anything for a second. And in that second, a knowing terror grew from within, and before I even had a chance to try to rationalize what was happening, my mom had out with it, the truth, not a gentle letting down, but a quick reveal, like yanking a band-aid off before you even have a second to contemplate the pain.
And that was it, Santa wasn’t real anymore. To say I was crushed, to write about the internal devastation that had ravaged my soul, it wouldn’t even come close to describing that feeling, that long pause between my asking for the truth and the cold revelation that followed. It was like my world was fine, intact, safe, and then over the course of one day everything fell apart. I walked away from my mom that day feeling numb, angry, lied to.
I don’t think this should go on, another generation lying to our children about a fictitious fat man that sneaks into your house on Christmas Eve and leaves presents. It doesn’t do any good. In my case, it did lasting harm (yes, lasting harm. I’m still pissed.) What are you getting out of spinning this story for your kids? What’s actually going on? Are you experiencing some sort of a vicarious thrill, watching your innocent kids actually believe everything you tell them, regardless of how ridiculous it is, how fantastic? And so your kids are born with this innate trust, this willingness to go along with anything you tell them. And how do you respond? How do you treat this trust? You abuse it. You feed them the same made up stories that your grandparents tricked your parents with. It has to end.
First it’s Santa. Once you find out he’s a fake, it’s only a couple more months before you figure out the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, all nonsense. What else isn’t real? And you might even lose teeth after the fact, and you’ll still want that dollar under your pillow, but your parents are just like, well, you’re too old for that, sorry. I was eight. Come on. Give me a dollar.
And parents, having your kids believe in Santa doesn’t do you any favors either. You spend the whole season talking about them being naughty or nice, threatening them with shitty presents if they don’t behave, but get real, every kid gets presents for Christmas, regardless of how much of an asshole he or she is. And so they grow up believing their terrible behavior to be good, well, good enough for Santa, good enough for everybody else. Your kids are getting spoiled. Plus, after a whole month of buying presents, staying up late to hide and wrap them, do you get any credit? Any, “Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. You really went all out for us and we’re appreciative.” No, it’s just, “Santa brought me this, I didn’t ask for this,” and then they just rip the wrapping paper off and leave it on the floor for you to pick up later. Disgusting.
As soon as I procreate, I’ll start drilling into my kids’ heads, before they can even talk, that Santa isn’t real. On his or her first day of school, I’ll instruct my protégé to skip any introductions and just start reciting a memorized speech, letting all classmates know that Santa is a big joke. The first day of school is in September, so there’s going to be a lot of time to get everybody used to the idea.
And if any other parents complain, I’ll just start foaming at the mouth, talking about the constitution, ranting about America and free speech. Seriously, we’ve got to end this. Let’s just end it. Let’s make up a story that Santa got killed in a sledding accident. Or we’ll just come clean that it’s all made up bullshit. Enough lies. It’s kind of a weird thing that we do, no?
Oh yeah, and Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.