The other day a ten year old girl asked me why I didn’t bring a towel to the beach. I told her that I repel water because I am a duck.
Obviously she knew I was joking, but it got me started on an old topic: when is it okay to lie to our children?
The way I see it, there are three types of “harmless lies” which we tell kids without really thinking about: to entertain them, to entertain ourselves, and to avoid having to tell them something.
For now, we’ll focus on the lies we tell to entertain children. Can Santa affect youngsters in the long run? I focus on Santa because he is the one that people will force you to believe in. No one cares if you don’t believe in the Tooth Fairy or Easter Bunny, but debates will go down if a child denies Santa.
It’s hard for me to judge this because I had a rather confusing childhood in this regard. At school they beat Santa into you. Santa is real and anyone who says otherwise is cold and heartless. If your parents are the only ones who give you presents, you are a terrible person.
At home, I was told that Santa was supposed to represent the spirit of Christmas (my mom was reading me Narnia at the time, so I very well understood symbolism). While we still watched The Year Without a Santa Clause, I was taught to think of it more like Spongebob than reality. We kept the story of Saint Nicolas on VHS for Christmas time and all of my presents were labeled “from Mom and Dad” (leading me to believe I was a terrible person). I remember my parents getting in a huge argument with my grandma because she labeled presents “from Santa”.
Because of this conflict, however, I got to have my Santa crisis early on. At this point my parents had decided to give us Santa presents to avoid confusing my younger sister. I was able to determine logically that Santa, even with the help of magic, couldn’t exist because I had been very good all year and I did not get the trumpet I so desperately wanted. So either my teachers had lied to me, or Santa hated me. I had caught my teachers lying before (leprechauns), so I went with that.
So, did Santa scar me? Well, it definitely made me more weary of the educational system. Since then I have never been afraid to argue with a teacher, causing me to nearly fail English 12 (which reminds me, I have to write about The Catcher in the Rye soon). It also made me trust my parents all the more. I think part of the reason I have had such a great relationship with them is I’ve never had reason to doubt anything they have said.
That being said, when my older sister told her best friend that Santa didn’t exist, said friend began to cry, went home, and got into a fight with her mom. They still bring up the “you lied about Santa” whenever they fight.
So, in my experience, telling kids the truth about Saint Nick from the start may actually be beneficial to them. But feel free to comment your experiences with beloved childhood deceits!