Whilst I’m not a religious man myself (well not in any way you could define with mainstream religion, but that’s another complicated story) I do enjoy the Christmas/New Year period. It’s a great time to take stock of the past year and set goals for myself in the coming year. Still there’s parts of it that have started to give me a fair whack of cognitive dissonance, mainly around the whole Santa thing and the story that we perpetuate with our children. There’s one part of me that enjoys the whole wonder aspect of it and creating that awesome family experience that you can enjoy year after year (until they get old enough to ask questions) but on the other hand the skeptic in me rises up and starts asking me the most poignant question “Will you do the same with your kids?’. In all honesty I can’t say for sure what I will do.
If there’s one thing I’d like to avoid with my future offspring it would be intentionally making them social pariahs. I know what its like for kids who are just a little bit different and they’re going to cop enough flak as it is without me telling them all their friends are idiots for believing in Santa. So there’s a fine line to tread between being a good skeptic and being a good parent. Although there is the possibility that the people of the modern skeptic movement (who are by and large members of my generation) may instead take the alternative, meaning the social norm will shift. That’s not something I’m going to count on though.
I’ve had experience with this before as well. Working in childcare around this time of year usually garnered questions from kids along the lines of “Is Santa real”. I’d worked out the best line for this was “What do you think” with the majority of kids then giving me their own idea without me having to supply my own. It was a good tactic and served to keep the skeptic at bay whilst remaining approachable with the kids. There would be nothing worse than being a childcare worker known amongst the kids as the guy who killed Santa for them.
Is there a happy middle ground we can reach here? It’s deeply entrenched in most western worlds that we perpetuate this lie (don’t fool yourself, you’re lying to your kids), even to the point of getting companies like Air Services Australia to create websites and put their CEO on TV to spout this Santa nonsense. It’s great PR for them but it also shows how far we’re willing to perpetuate a fallacy for a very small section of the population. It’s been irking me every morning when I wake up to watch the news and I see fluff pieces like this on TV, but at the same time I don’t want to go around stomping on other’s childhoods just because I have a skeptical agenda to push.
It seems the skeptic and libertarian are duking it out again.
There’s another side to this tale to: the moment of realisation when you find out that Santa isn’t real and you begin to question what your parents tell you. Many of us have been through this moment and it usually comes at a time when we’re beginning to question the world around us. The realisation that your parents lied to you is astounding since you’ve been told from an early age that lying is unacceptable. Indeed to not perpetuate the Santa lie could very well be tantamount to denying your children a coming of age ritual that our society has been performing for several generations. Do we, as parents (or when we become them), have the right to deny them this? Maybe staying through the 5~8 years of perpetuating the Santa myth would be worth it to instill that lesson in your children that the only real facts are the ones you can verify yourself.
Gargh I’m still not comfortable with that proposition.
In the end what parent’s do with their children is their business and I’m not going to go about telling them what they should and shouldn’t do. Going against social norms is, especially for children, an easy way to see yourself ostracized and can be really devastating, something you’d want to avoid in those early years of a child’s life. After bashing this all out I still don’t know where I stand on all this and I’ll just have to keep letting the skeptic, future father and libertarian in my head duke it out until a clear winner comes out or they all collapse in on each other.
It’s going to be an interesting few days that’s for sure 😉