Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Santa Stays in the Picture

Yesterday I pondered why children go along with the whole Santa thing (even kids as young as Elliot), since it seems to run counter to everything else they hear in life.

Christmas cheer

Well, here's someone who refuses to perpetuate the Santa hoax at all. Andy Hinds, a stay-at-home dad and blogger, shared his thoughts via the HuffPost Parents site:
Defenders of the Santa tradition cite the joy and wonderment of children on Christmas morning as justification for duping their kids. But is the joy and wonderment of opening presents from "Mom and Dad" rather than from a mythical figure really that much different, and that much less intense? 
I'm not casting judgment on parents who do the Santa shtick, but as for me, I can't even play a prank on my kids for more than a minute without feeling a little guilty, no matter how cute their reactions are. So, while it's probably mostly harmless, I don't know why we feel the need to inject the ambiguity of a benevolent figure who may or may not exist into the already complicated lives of children. Between books and movies, video games and social media, I'm anticipating years of helping my kids sort out what's real and what's not. So why would I want to add to the confusion by trying to convince them that, while Spiderman is just pretend, once a year there will actually be an elf creeping around the house while everyone's asleep?
I share some of his misgivings, but I do think the Santa experience is more intense for kids than getting presents from "Mom and Dad" (especially in our case, since I give the kids soap and expired transit passes).

I think in his heart of hearts, Elliot already knows that Santa isn't real. What we're doing here is just a very long session of make-believe.

And when you're play acting, ALWAYS STAY IN CHARACTER.

Basically, we all become Daniel Day Lewis for the holidays. I'm playing the dad who tells crazy Santa stories, and the kids are playing children who believe them.

When Daniel Day Lewis played Abraham Lincoln, he refused to respond to anyone who didn't call him Abraham Lincoln. He texted people as Abraham Lincoln. When he starred in "In the Name of the Father," he stayed awake three days so that he could more plausibly appear confused. (I require no preparation myself, but I admire the dedication.)

Is concocting a scarcely believable story about Santa  — and sticking with it  — more "intense" than the alternative? Yes.

Do gifts from "Mom and Dad" bring joy and wonderment? No.

Has Daniel Day Lewis ever played Santa Clause? I'm not sure; I'm going to check IMDB now. (He should!)