Monday, December 14, 2009

Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don't

Lest you think I'm a perfect parent, I figured I'd confess one of my parenting mistakes. Or was it?

When the kids were very small, another parent shared her feelings the "Santa Thing" with me and a small group of other moms. She said that when she found out there was no Santa, it totally rocked her world (in a bad way). It shook the foundation of trust she had for her parents, even going so far as making her doubt they were telling the truth about God and Jesus. Because of that, she did not encourage her own kids to believe in Santa. Her story kind of shook me; as a parent, I wasn't sure what was the right thing to do.

In spite of my own revelations about believing in Santa, I thought the whole Santa thing was really cool, and I wanted our kids to experience that, as did Mr.4444. We decided to celebrate the Santa tradition, and that's what I always said when the kids asked about Santa, "Our family celebrates the Santa tradition." We didn't let Santa be the focus of Christmas; he only brought the stuff in their stockings and one or two other gifts (the best gifts came from Mom and Dad), but I have to admit to pulling the "Santa's watching, you know" card a time or two.

I digress here to mention the time that Kendall (age 3) was lying on her bed, being naughty, instead of settling down for bed, when I (in a weak moment) invoked, "Kendall, Santa is watching you right now, you know." Alarmed, she bolted upright and exclaimed, "He can see me?! In my underwear?!!" So cute.

As the years went on, she asked once or twice about Santa, but not in a way that told me she really wanted to know the truth. She was six when she finally pressured me about our being Santa, and because she clearly knew the truth, and I just can't lie, I admitted the truth. She beamed and declared, "I knew it!" She was so full of herself for having figured it out (she insisted that Kyle had not told her, and I believed it.) I reassured her that she would still get presents and that we would still have many, many fun Christmases. That was the end of that, or so I thought...

Six months later, first thing one early August morning, I was in bed when Kendall came down from her bedroom and burst into tears in our bedroom doorway. Taken by surprise, I asked her what was wrong. In between choking sobs, she wailed, "I wish I didn't know about Santa!! Why did you tell me?!"

Talk about a guilt trip! I felt like crap. (Still do, a little, but I don't know that I would do it differently.) My heart broke a little for her, I guess because I remembered what it felt like to know the truth. She was only six, for crying out loud; maybe I should have lied.

Today, at 14, Kendall is an extremely well-adjusted, mature young woman. I'm pretty sure she wasn't scarred for life through the Santa disclosure. And who know? Maybe she just faked the crying to ensure that my parental guilt would result in generous Christmases for the rest of her life?

No way--I've got it on good authority that she's always been on the "Nice" list (except for a bedtime or two.)

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