Why My Kids Know the Truth About Santa

Choosing to uphold the myth of Santa is a tricky decision.

I have three children, ranging from five to 10 years old, who won’t be getting a visit from Santa this year. In fact, they have never received a single present from the man. Santa never came to my house as a child, and my kids won’t ever hear sleigh bells on our roof either. We just don’t “do” Santa.

Before you go calling me a Grinch, allow me to explain. I actually love Christmas, and I celebrate it with a fervor. I bake dozens of pies and buy far too many presents. I would leave our Christmas tree up year round if my husband didn’t insist on sticking it in the attic every January. This time of year is full of traditions in our family. Santa just isn’t one of them.

The church I grew up in taught that good Christian parents told their children the truth about Santa. Our pastor was afraid that the kids would be confused by the similarities of Christ and Santa stories. The story of an immortal man who you can’t see but is always watching so that he can reward you for good behavior sounded too much like what we learning in Sunday school.

The church also warned that when children learned that their parents had lied to them about Santa, they might wonder whether their parents were lying about God. Obviously, many adult Christians grew up listening for reindeer on Christmas Eve, but in our faith community, it was a given that Santa could drive a dangerous wedge between your children and God.

In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn’t alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played. That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa’s lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real.

When my husband and I got married, we attended a conservative church that took the same hard line on Santa. Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, our former pastor would preach a sermon berating any parents who allowed their children to believe in Santa, reiterating the message that a gift from Santa may interfere with a child’s salvation.

When our first son was born, we went along with this. But things got a little trickier when we became foster parents. I could not bear the thought of taking away our foster child’s belief in Santa, so we taught our biological son to play along with whatever kids happened to be in our home during the holidays.

Eventually, we left that church for reasons unrelated to Christmas. I’m not sure if our new church has an official Santa policy, but if they do, I’m pretty sure it is more grace based and assumes that God can reach my kids even if they think their presents arrived via sleigh instead of mom’s SUV.

As I became disillusioned with our former church community, the moratorium on Santa in our house remained, but the reasons behind it changed. I am no longer afraid that my children will lose their salvation by believing in a little magic. Honestly, I just really don’t like the message that goes along with the current, commercialized version of Santa.

I want my children to understand that people are valuable no matter what they look like, who they believe in, or how much their parents make. If Santa gives presents to all the good little boys and girls, it goes to reason that if a child receives fewer presents, or no gifts at all, they must not have been as good. I don’t want my kids to grow up believing that the child with a new x-box is somehow better than the one who got a little car from the dollar store.

I want them to know that families give what they can to each other at the holidays because they love each other. I want them to know that we help buy gifts for families in need because they are just as deserving of a wonderful Christmas as any other child. I believe it’s critical that they understand that many people do not celebrate Christmas as we do, or at all, because they believe differently – not because their children are bad. 

I also want my children to know that their own worth is not defined by what is under the tree. This Christmas is going to be a tight one for us. We won’t be checking quite as many things off their lists as we usually do because the industry in which my husband works is struggling. I don’t want my kids to think a smaller pile of gifts is in any way related to their behavior or their personal value.

I want my kids to understand that sometimes families struggle, but we come together and make things work anyway. I know many families make things work while embracing the magic of Santa, but all the gift tags under our tree will still say Love, Mom and Dad.

9 Reasons My Kids Think I Grew Up In Prehistoric Times

I recently ran through the list of all of the things that didn’t exist while I was growing up. And as far as my son is concerned, he can’t believe I made it.

It all started with a simple question. My son wanted to know what my favorite television show on Nickelodeon was when I was a kid. I told him that there was no Nickelodeon. He was stunned.

“No Nickelodeon?” he replied, both shocked and alarmed, “I feel bad for you.”

But he hadn’t heard the worst of it. I then shared with him all the other simple pleasures that I grew up without.

1 | No computer

Yep, up until college I don’t think I ever even used a computer. When I was in college, I had one class that required us to use the computer lab. But for the most part, all of my work through school was done on a good old-fashioned typewriter. If I needed more than one copy of a report, I had to use blue carbon paper. 

2 | No internet

“NO way!” said my son, “How did you do your school work?”

I explained that back in my day we did our school reports using encyclopedias. These were large printed books that held information on all sorts of topics. I was fortunate because my parents purchased a set of encyclopedias in our house, although sometimes I did have to go to the library to get more information. If I asked my parents a question and they didn’t know the answer, they would have to admit they had no clue rather than slyly run to the computer and Google the information.

3 | No iPod

I did have an 8-track tape player and then a personal cassette player – also known as a Walkman. I could leave the house and go for walk while listening to about 20 songs as opposed to the 200+ my son currently has on his iPod. If I liked a song on the radio and wanted to own it, I had to purchase the whole album rather than downloading one song.

4 | No cell phone

When I left the house in the morning, I said goodbye to my parents and didn’t communicate with them until I returned home. No texts throughout the day. No detailed itinerary on my plans after school. Just a loose promise that I wouldn’t do anything I shouldn’t and that I would be home for dinner. 

5 | No cable TV

This one just made him feel sorry for me. Not only was there no Nickelodeon, but there were only five channels total. We had ABC, NBC, CBS, WPIX, and PBS. WPIX only showed the news and re-runs of old shows. PBS had baby shows plus Masterpiece Theater. So that left three channels of original programming until FOX debuted in 1986. 

My son was forlorn. How could we only have three channels? Then I added in that sometimes the channels didn’t even come through. We would have static and have to adjust the picture with manual antennas, aka “rabbit ears.” And we had no remote control. We had to get up from the couch to change the channel. I might as well have told him I lived in a cave and ate rocks.

6 | No ESPN

After I told my son about the television channels he realized that I hadn’t mentioned ESPN.   More sad news … sometimes the games you wanted to watch were not on television. There were usually two televised football games on  Sunday and one on Monday night. Only some baseball games were on TV. “You lived a life without Red Zone,” cried my son, “That is just so sad!”

7 | No DVR

I guess this isn’t so bad because there were only three channels so you couldn’t miss as many shows as you could now without a recorder or on-demand option. But back in long ago land, people actually watched TV shows at the time they were on. If you missed the show, it was lost until summer when the three channels aired re-runs. And you actually had to watch the commercials.  

8 | But we did have video games

“Thank goodness!” my son exclaimed, “At least you had video games so you didn’t die of boredom from no TV or computer.”  

Not sure he would have thought these games were too great compared to the graphics on his Xbox. Madden 15 looks like actual football players are engaged in a game on the television screen. In comparison, I had “PONG.” Two sticks hitting a ball back and forth, as if engaged in a game of table tennis. As ridiculous as this sounds, I remember it actually being a lot of fun.

9 | And no kale

The only veggies my mom ever served came out of a can. She called them different things – peas, string beans, and lima beans – but in the end they were all just variations of mushy green yucky stuff.  The word “salad” was synonymous with “iceberg lettuce.” Maybe my mom threw in some carrots and cucumbers, but not always. 

Romaine, kale, endive, edamame – these foods just did not exist when I was a kid. This one my son actually thought made me lucky. It didn’t make up for the no ESPN or Google, but at least there was one benefit to growing up in olden times: less green yucky food. 

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Thank You David Bowie: A Playlist for You & Your Kids

A playlist for all your David Bowie tribute needs.

I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring. – David Bowie

David Bowie, a master of re-invention, was more than an artist. More than just a performer. Through his life and music he embodied the idea that all we have to be is who we are. It’s a sad thought that it’s come to an end, yet sharing all of his ground breaking cultural contributions with our kids can be a spark that ingnites something in them. And that’s infinite.

We’ve put together some of the most universally loved songs and videos for you to share with your kids today or any day.

And a Spotify version:

Need to Know: Tig Doc

Do you remember that stand-up set by Tig Notaro that lit the Twitter on fire in August 2012 and launched a little-known comic into the stratosphere? It was the one that Louis C.K. then made available on his website where it quickly sold over 75,000 copies. It started with, “Hello. Good Evening. I have cancer. How are you?

That one.

Well, you’ll be very happy to learn that two filmmakers, Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York [stag_icon icon=”twitter” url=”https://twitter.com/abyork” size=”18px” new_window=”yes”], started following Tig through her life shortly after the shitstorm that preceded her cancer diagnosis (yes, the diagnosis was actually the end of a truly terrible phase of Tig’s life, which she details in the film). The resulting documentary, called Tig, premiered at Sundance last Monday.

It’s sad and tragic and hilarious and uplifting. I cried even as I laughed but never felt as if I was intruding on someone’s personal hell.

As a subject, Tig is open and vulnerable on camera without making the viewer feel uncomfortable, which I believe can be a tough balance to strike and is a huge part of the film’s appeal. As we watch her navigate the choppy effing waters of rebuilding a life and reimagining her career, we see what is possible; we witness just how resilient our species can be. I realize that sounds like a ridiculous cliché, but seriously – she suffered through this horrible illness called C-Diff, a few weeks later her Mom fell and hit her head and died(!), then she was diagnosed with bi-lateral breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. What?!? It’s unconscionable. How can someone actually LIVE through that?

But she did. She really did. Her career reached new heights, she kicked cancer’s ass, and the glorious buttercream frosting on the cake is that she even fell in love (which is a really beautiful process to watch).

The filmmakers have yet to sign a distribution deal, so like the Tig doc’s Facebook page or set your Google alert or whatever you do to ensure you know what happens next. Then go see this movie. It’ll be the most joyful snot-bubble cry you’ve had in a long time.

Check out Tig’s podcast Professor Blastoff, including this episode where she talks with documentary director Kristina Goolsby about foster care.