Thursday, December 23, 2010
How a Skeptic Deals With “The Santa Problem”
Notice that I did not automatically agree with the little girl, that there was no Santa. I asked her to state her reasons. If she had said that someone in her class had merely told her there was no Santa, I would have asked her if she believes everything her friends tell her. I wanted to see if she had supporting evidence.
She told me that last year she had noticed that the wrapping paper that Santa used was the same as the paper her parents used. She also said that Santa was way too fat to fit in a chimney and that most people don’t even have chimneys anyway. (We live in Florida. He would have to go in through the AC I guess.)
“Ingenious!” I proclaimed, and clapped excitedly. I went on to tell her how smart she was and how wonderful it was that she had uncovered her parent’s ruse. By now her parents were quite unhappy. I could sense this from their deeply furrowed brow - one brow between the two of them, staring straight at me. My wife sighed disappointedly. How was I going to get out of this one? Did I just ruin Christmas?
I have no kids of my own, so of course I have no problem giving advice on how to raise children. I think as long as people clearly state the limits of their experience on a subject, they can give all the advice that they like. Since my job is drawing pictures for a living, I can tell a neurosurgeon the best way to perform brain surgery (the trick is to always go in threw though the nose) hopefully, he or she is smart enough to take my advice for what it is worth.
There they where, the three adults glaring at me. I had to think fast. “Well you know what this means?” I said to the girl. “It means your now in THE CLUB. When you’ve grown up enough to be able to use your brain and think, like Sherlock Homes, or Scooby Doo, you get to join..” I was searching for a name. “Now that you’ve figure out the Santa thing this means you’re smart enough to join… SANTA CLUB.”
“What’s Santa Club?” the parents were just a curious as the little girl.
Kids believe all kinds of make-believe things (unicorns, fairies, Miley Syrus) and that’s great. It’s part of being a kid. The joy that children and parents get from the Santa mythology is magical. I get it. But I feel horrible, when I see a kid scolded for figuring out that there is no Santa. Too often kids are made to feel as if they just did something wrong, when in fact they have just accomplished something magnificent. They have applied critical thinking to a common belief and have come to a conclusion completely separate from their peers. This is something every parent should be proud of, on par with watching their baby take his first steps, or standing in the driveway as their daughter rides her bike without training wheels. It should be a celebration. It’s a milestone, there should be parties, cake!
“Santa Club is a game,” I explained. “We were all told about Santa when we were kids, your mom, your dad, your teacher, all the grownups and we all figured it out, and now so have you. Now part of the game is that you have to see how long YOU can keep the story going. The first rule of Santa Club is that you can’t tell the other kids about it. They have to figure it out on their own or else it doesn’t count.” \
The Mother of this girl liked where this was going and joined in. “And it is important that you help keep the Santa thing going. You now have come up with ways to get littler kids to keep thinking there is a Santa Claus.”
The girl loved this idea and she REALLY appreciated the fact that she was now part of “the club.” She said she understood and wouldn’t tell anyone. Since she has younger cousins, she had all sorts of ideas to help keep Santa going. So instead of making her feel that she had done something wrong, she was being rewarded for critical thinking and I don’t think we ruined her Christmas or lessened her childhood one smidgen.
I do have to admit that the husband wasn’t too keen on the whole idea. He still thought I messed something up, but what are you going to do. You can’t please everyone. Besides, his wife tells me that he didn’t join “Santa Club” till he was in his teens. Ouch!
Happy Holidays everyone.