Tuesday, December 8, 2009
A Twist on the War on Christmas
When I went to pick up the girls from school yesterday, one of the first grader's teachers came up to me and whispered that the 7yo had explained that she doesn't believe in Santa Claus. The teacher continued to whisper how the 7yo, who was standing right there with us, had articulated her beliefs quite clearly.
Of course, I had several simultaneous reactions to this conversation. The most important reaction was how proud I am that my daughter can speak for herself. I could tell, though, from the whispering, that my child's beliefs made this teacher uncomfortable. The teacher persisted, suggesting that we read The Polar Express. I told her that we had read it.
Then it was my turn to explain. As a single parent with no other rallying grown-up with whom to wink-wink nudge-nudge our way through fairy tales, building up the concept of Santa didn't really seem worth the effort. Instead, I presented to the children my understanding of the concept of Santa saying, "Some people believe..." and asked them, "What do you believe?" I go along with whatever beliefs they express. It changes from year to year, sometimes week to week, or even hour to hour.
I was uncomfortable whispering because I'm sure the 7yo was picking up parts of the conversation, and the whispering might be sending her the message that her beliefs are not okay. So gently, I brought her into the conversation with us.
We do celebrate Christmas in our family, but neither Jesus nor Santa plays a starring role. We celebrate the spirit of giving, of gathering family and friends, and connectedness. We also bring light into the darkness of winter with twinkly lights, candles, cookies, and song. And yes, we decorate a tree. Of course the children have long lists of toys and gifts they want, but they have those lists all year round. The most miraculous gifts come, not from Santa, but from Grandpa and Grandma, aunts and uncles, and from friends near and far.
The teacher was unconvinced.
She told me that the 7yo's beliefs might scare the other children!
Santa picture found here.