Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Santa Struggle

My little one, my emotional, tempestuous daughter, came home in a rage yesterday. "It was a great day until I got on the bus to come come and Matthew and Emily both kept saying there was no Santa Claus and I kept telling them that I was going to write a letter and tell Santa that they said that, and then they'd be sorry!" Oh, she was in a fit. Which is sort of cute and charming, in a way, that level of belief, but also alarming in the holy-shit-what-have-I-done kind of way. While I am deeply proud of the sense of magic that we've perpetuated in our daughters for their entire childhood, I know we're hitting the end game in that regard, and I honestly am not sure how to handle it. So what have I done in that regard? I just keep repeating, "I believe in Santa. As long as you believe, he comes." All of which is true. But last week when she made me pinky-swear that I don't put the presents under the tree, I did it, with the justification that, actually, the Santa presents are left NEXT to the tree. So, it's not exactly lying. Right? I don't know. I just don't know. But I do know that the fit she pitched yesterday evening due to her frustrated feelings came out as the nasty, sarcastic, mean-spirited spitting remarks that I lie in fear of when I picture her teenage life. Managing her feelings is a life-skill that we are trying so hard to teach her. Not seeing so much success there yet.

I don't know if I'm doing her more harm by keeping Santa alive than if I just sat down and told her the truth of it all. I have listened to what other people have done with this issue, but nothing has felt just right to me. Maybe it's my own weakeness and inability to look into her disappointed little blue eyes and say the words that will break her heart. On the other hand, am I just making things worse for her as she has to fight the playground battles and gets laughed at in the process? I told her that there are lots and lots of people who don't believe in Santa, and that she should maybe just keep her opinions to herself if she doesn't want to keep getting her feelings hurt. But for all of her sometimes incomprehensible fit-pitching behavior, she has, at her core, a very strong sense of justice. That's where it all comes from, I think. She has a firm belief that she knows what is right and wrong, what is fair and unfair, and the idea of NOT speaking up about that is foreign to her nature. While it's exhausting to have a child that so vehemently sticks up for what she believes (especially when Patrick and I are often in the not-fair category, in her opinion), it's still a powerful quality to have. My job, I know, is to help her find judgement in choosing her battles, and find a balance between speaking out and listening hard to people that she can trust to guide her.

Sigh. It's really just that....parenting is hard. Even the good stuff is still hard, and takes so much energy and tact and discomfort. I am trying so hard to do the right things, and so many nights I tuck them in and just want to put my head down and cry about it all, about the possibility of how seriously I can screw up two small people in the world if I'm not careful. Or even if I am careful.

In other news, we did have a wonderful weekend in New York City with my mom. She took us to see Elf and Wicked, and we saw the Rockefeller Center tree and the amazing windows on 5th avenue and stayed at the Marriot, and really had a magical Christmas adventure. So much joy. The only shadow on things was the same parenting issue I just described, which manifests in many ways. If Patrick and I manage nothing else in this parenting journey, I want to make sure that our children have a sense of appreciation for the good things they receieve, and the good things in the world, and an understanding that everything worth having comes from hard work. I know how hard my parents, and Patrick and I, had to work to afford the special things the girls got to see and do this weekend, and I just keep hoping that the message to appreciate both the tangible and the magical becomes a firm part of their foundation.

Working on it. All we can do is just keep on working on it.


  1. This may seem an insensitive response, but I don't understand the dilemma - you are able to impart a faith in your religious beliefs, despite only mixed agreement from the general public and a dearth of empirical data, but you feel there's a problem teaching faith in Santa?

  2. They have so much love and wonder in their lives, Santa lives through you and Patrick and all the parents/caregivers/friends/family who give selflessly through his spirit.

    Love you lots!!!!


  3. You are one of the few friends who would understand that there are moments or thoughts that can only have a musical response: