“Children see magic because they look for it.”
Before I became a parent, I thought it a bit cruel to teach children the fantasy of Santa Claus.
Mind you, I wasn’t a scrooge. I wasn’t traumatized when I learned the truth myself as a child, and I still love celebrating Christmas. I also wasn’t overly concerned about the commercialization of the holiday or that Santa has usurped Jesus’ birth as reason to celebrate. I could tackle those problems as a parent.
I simply thought it mean-spirited to build up such an exciting fantasy in the very young, only to crush it for them a few years later. I was like Maureen O’Hara in Miracle on 34th Street.
Now that I’m a parent, I’ve changed my mind.
I realize now that the pre-parent “me” had missed the point because I had focused too narrowly on the literal existence of Santa. In my daughter’s eyes, Santa is indeed real because he manifests Christmas itself – except 5-year-children don’t talk about “manifesting reality” – they think instead of a jolly old guy in a red suit.
In my daughter’s eyes, mermaids and monsters exist; Mickey Mouse REALLY lives at Disney World; and reindeer can fly all over the globe, safely landing on rooftops. It all makes sense. She’s not as focused on the reality of Santa Claus as she is the magic of Christmas. She’s at too tender an age to separate the two. By teaching her about Santa Claus, it makes teaching her the magic of Christmas – the important things – much easier.
Today, I enjoy seeing her enthusiasm for Santa Claus. It’s not cruel; it makes sense in her world. When she is a few years older and the realities of life come sharper into focus, the truth about Santa Claus will make sense, too.
Now I understand.