Our daughter’s been asking the question since she could talk, “How does Santa get in?” With no chimney protruding from our roof, our answer was, he’s magic. That response would appease most children. Not Payton. “Will he use the front door? Will you leave it unlocked?” Well, we didn’t want to cause worry, having her think that anyone can just pop in whenever they want, packages in tow or not. So we stuck to, “He’s magic.”
Every year she’s had questions about this Santa guy, the Eater Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy. A few years ago we threw out magical flying food for Santa’s reindeer (oats mixed with glitter, an idea my husband’s sister shared with us when they visited with their daughters). Her girls loved it and didn’t have questions. But you could see the concern gnawing at Payton when we tried to feed some poor starving trailblazing deer. “How will they find it?” The oats and glitter had fairly disappeared in the snow or the grass, whichever it happened to be each year.
I had a feeling the Santa front wasn’t going to last long. Because all the afore-mentioned and because I am horrible at keeping secrets. Yeah, it’s really bad, mostly when it comes to gifts and not blurting aloud what we bought the kids, when it was supposed to be from the good ole jolly guy.
This past week I was in Payton’s room, she had called to me after she went to bed. I could hear a little fear etched in her voice, and I wondered what it could be. “How will Santa come? I’m always awake at night.” I asked if she was scared of Santa, and she nodded her head. I asked again just to make sure. Yep.
Decision time had come. Do I let my daughter continue to believe in Santa and be frightened of the big man in the red suit totting an extra-large beard or do I tell her the truth and crush any sort of child-like fantasy? Some parents scoff at me because they’ve always been honest with their kids about these fairy tale characters; the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and Santa. My husband was one of those kids that didn’t have the chance to dream about the great Claus because his parents were the honest ones. I, however, came from a family of liars. Well, not really unless I want to be added to that category because I let Payton believe the same.
I remembered what it was like trying desperately hard to fall asleep on Christmas Eve, waiting to hear any creak in the floor, or a thump as Santa left something for my brother and I. I remember the flight to my parents room as soon as my brother woke me (yes, I always slept later than he), begging them to go to the living room and SEE. I remember the thrill of eyeing the presents under the tree, waiting for us. They are still very special memories, and I wanted my daughter to have the same.
Problem being that my daughter didn’t come from the same background I did. Although she’s tremendously better now, worry has always been a part of who she is. She’s also very intelligent. She is able to think through things and figure out that Santa + no chimney = no Santa. Or, if Santa did come down the chimney, he would surely break a bone, if not several. Many of our kiddos who come from difficult places are highly intelligent, even if you don’t see it, it’s likely there beneath the surface, or you are being fooled.
When Payton told me she was scared of Santa, I told her to wait a minute and I went to chat with Justin. This is a two person decision if you are married, so I told him what was going on (he knew she had been concerned before about a strange man entering our house), and he agreed that I could tell her Santa isn’t real.
That was hard for me. Really hard. I was sad to tell her the truth, but then it felt kind of strange knowing that I had lied to her about Santa and the others. I then had to make sure that she knew Jesus and God ARE real, yeah, think I’ll need to work on that one for a while. She actually smiled and thought it was kind of funny that we’d been the ones to fill the Eater baskets, fill the Easter eggs and hide them, and put out presents from Santa.
Our kiddos have a lot of worries, many come from scary places. We need to think about adding to those fears, whether they have a conscious memory of their past or not. You can tell if your child seems overly fearful or worries more than he should. Maybe it would’ve been better for us to have begun this thing differently, no Santa, no Easter Bunny, no Tooth Fairy. If it had been up to Justin, that would have been the way it was done, but I got my way, and I’m seeing that it probably wasn’t the best.
Does your child have an unusual fear of Santa? How have you dealt with it?