Friday, December 9, 2016

In Defense of Santa

The other day, a buddy of mine posted an article about how lying to your kids about Santa is bad for them. He agreed with the article. I disagreed. We're still friends. No big deal. BUT at one point in the conversation he said, "I still have yet to find an argument FOR perpetuating the Santa myth that is the least bit compelling."

AND I thought, "Challenge accepted. I am going to convince this guy that the Santa myth is awesome." I started to write a point by point rebuttal, and halfway through realized that it didn't matter one bit. Trying to convince people why they shouldn't feel how they feel about something tends to become more of an exercise in self-justification than a sincere effort to make a connection with someone who sees things differently than you. I wasn't really trying to convince my friend. I was just having fun writing about Santa. So I’m giving up any pretense of trying to change my buddy’s mind, or anybody's mind for that matter, and admitting that this post is all about me. And my kids. And Santa… who. Is. AWESOME.

We play the Santa game. We tell the stories and perpetuate the myth. We visit the guy in the mall, and at various company parties. We make cookies and leave out milk. We stay up late after the kids go to bed wrapping presents in paper we've kept hidden all month. We eat the cookies they left out as messily as possible so our overzealous crumbs will provide the obvious clues needed to figure out that, indeed, Santa was here... and he's kind of a slob. Why do we do it? What's our compelling argument? It’s fun. The kids enjoy it. Stevie and I enjoy it. 


We like magic

Stevie and I feel that it is important for our kids to believe in magic for a bit. We think that a belief in magical things is great fertilizer for cultivating imagination in tiny humans. The magic of the world will be removed by the curse/blessing of perspective soon enough. For these few years we want to let them believe reindeer fly, and see where it takes them. Yes, some people will say that it is our job to drop as much reality on our kids as possible so that when they’re eventually confronted by a world full of it they have the faculties needed to cope – but I like to believe that having that tiny memory somewhere in the back of my head of what it felt like to believe impossible things were indeed possible is what helps me cope with the harsher realities of being an adult.

We don't mind lying

“But what about the lie? You’re lying to your kids?” Says the imaginary person in my head I am arguing with.

If the worst thing I ever do to my kid’s is lie to them, then I will be forever happy with my parenting score card. We lie to our kids all the time. We tell them they are safe. We tell them we’ll never go away. We make promises we know we may not be able to keep. And we do this to help them feel secure, because the fallout from discovering the lie is less than the fallout of dealing with the truth. 

Chances are that I’m not going to die any time soon, so I tell my kids I’m not going to die. I tell my kids there is a Santa because I believe that the joy they get from believing in Santa is more than the disappointment they will feel when they discover the truth. Do I know this for sure? No, but I don't really know anything for sure... not since becoming a parent.

Learning the truth is a great exercise in... learning the truth

I do know that, for me, discovering the reality of Santa was one of the first times in my young life that I can recall gathering facts, exploring their validity, questioning what I had been told, and finding out things weren't the way I had been taught. I wasn't resentful of my parents for lying to me. I felt empowered by the process of figuring it out, and excited to move to the other side of the myth. It felt like a right of passage. Yes, all of that is anecdotal. I don’t really care. I don’t need to.

You know why? 

We don’t have to dissect everything 

That may be my least favorite part of being a parent. Sure, this may not be a compelling argument, but it honestly doesn't need to. Sometimes, when I've buried myself in facts and theories and arguments about what is and isn't best for my kids, when I've kept myself up at night asking over and over if the choices I am making for them will break them or form them into happy humans, I come to the conclusion that no amount of advice will help. I just have to trust my gut. I just have to believe.

I believe in Santa. Not, that he exists, but that letting my kids believe that he does is better for them than making sure they know he doesn't. I believe. And trust me, as a non-religious, science loving, fact finding kind of guy, that is hard for me to say. Well... it's hard for me to say until Christmas morning when my kids run out to the tree yelling "Santa came! Santa came!" Then it suddenly becomes pretty a compelling argument.

Merry Christmas,

The Kinnears

P.S. Yes, my favorite Christmas movie is Miracle on 34th Street. Both the original and the remake. I love them both.

P.S.S If you want to give me a Christmas present, please come visit me on Facebook. It would make me tremendously happy.  


  1. I don't think there's anything wrong with perpetuating the myth and letting your children enjoy the story. They should have such stories and feel good.

  2. Justify the lie... it makes you feel better. Pretend your kids are happier being lied to. I happen to personally know several kids that were somewhat traumatized when they learned the truth about their dishonest parents.
    Just because everyone does it... doesn't make it right. You are just like the monkeys in this article , called the "Banana Experiment"

    1. Wanting your kids to enjoy childhood and all the "magical" things that go along with that does not make us monkeys (rather offensive btw). It makes us parents who know what the real world is like and want our kids to be able to be kids for as long as possible. Yes, they will one day learn that Santa isn't real, there are very bad people in the world, and they are not the center of the universe, but until then they deserve the wonder that is childhood.

    2. Highlight for me the place where the monkeys read articles on different points of view, analyzed those perspectives, and then broke down their rationale for their own point of view. I must have missed it.

      P.S. I was traumatized when I found out Santa wasn't real and that my parents, who I thought would always be honest with me, hadn't been. Then I got over it and became a perfectly well-adjusted adult who still trusts her parents.

  3. There is a compromise: to dress up as Santa Claus and make sure children quickly recognize us. It can be great fun for them.

  4. I'm chiming in a bit late here but my kids, who are now adults, were fed the Santa lie, the tooth fairy lie, the Easter bunny lie too. And they loved it. One was upset when he learned, but it was how he learned, not the fact he learned (long story but I assumed he knew for some reason so I said something I wouldn't have had otherwise). They have fond memories of their Santa days and I'm glad we did it. No one has to justify why we want to make the world a bit magical sometimes.

  5. Personally, i found the whole santa thing extremely annoying. it irritated me when. Santa got credit for brining my children presents that my husband had paid for, and i had slogged around the shops looki for. i was glad when they stopped believing in the old humbug. we managed to celebrate christmas perfectly well without the tiresome old man for hundreds of years

  6. My husband and I enjoyed this blog post. He suggested that you should read Hogfather by Terryville Pratchet -if you haven't already. It's one of his favorites and relates to your post.

  7. People lie all the time, for various reasons. Santa is fun and magical for children, a little awe and wonder should hopefully add to fond childhood memories. People tell stories about lots of fictional characters: santa, tooth fairy, Jesus. It's up to them.