Pragmatic to a Point

Friday, December 24, 2010

A couple of weeks ago my BFF approached me with a strange request.

She is quite possibly the most pragmatic person alive, so it shouldn't have surprised me when she said admitted she was struggling handling the subject of Santa Claus with her 2 year old daughter (aka Bear's BFF "Yiyi").

She said she always wants her daughter to feel that she can trust her and that she is a reliable source of information.  Which means she can't bring herself to tell the Santa Claus myth.  But, she also doesn't want to deny her Santa altogether.

I promised to handle the Santa story for her.  Which is an easy promise to make, but tricky to execute when you've been struggling with it yourself.

After so many years of trying to conceive, I spent more than my fair share of holidays tearfully reading our tattered copy of The Night Before Christmas and wondering if there would ever be a tiny human snuggled on my lap to share it with.  I never doubted I'd go the Santa Claus route with any children I might be lucky enough to have.

Bear's first Christmas was easy enough.  He was only 5 weeks old and we were predictably schoompy about the whole thing.

But it's 3 years later, and I'm feeling a lot of uncertainty.  Now that he's this fascinating little human sponge / parrot hybrid, I feel keenly the weight of my responsibility to accurately inform him about the world.  And we're uber geeky secular humanist types, so we take scientific literacy very seriously.

Yet, I'm the same girl who - just a few weeks ago - admitted to my husband while watching Harry Potter that I wished magic was real.  I share my dear friend's pragmatism... to a point.

Since standing in a long line of heinous brats noisy kids at a blindingly bedazzled mall to sit on the lap of a stranger is hard for the average preschooler, obviously it's flat out impossible for a child with SPD.  So, I had a little leeway with the Santa conversation and decided to wait until the omnipresent seasonal imagery raised the question.

Now, the questions are here and I'm living that nightmare where you show up naked for a final exam you forgot to study for.

Grandma made Santa when I was born
There is something so wonderful in witnessing a child getting excited about Santa Claus for the very first time.  It's especially fun around here because this year it coincided with huge leaps in language skills and so quickly follows his 3rd birthday party (at which he first grasped the concept of "omg presents for ME?!?!")

So, I never thought about NOT going the Santa route, but the more I wrestle with it the less I feel like doing it old school - especially the whole emotional blackmail naughty vs. nice bit.  When your child struggles with SPD, a behavior the average outsider may perceive as "naughty" might be the very best they can do in a particular situation. There is no way I'm going to make that any harder for him with threats about Santa.

A 4th century figure for the 21st century
I've always felt strongly that generosity of spirit is something we should practice as a matter of course, and this time of year the rest of the world joins me in that sentiment.  Since the original St. Nicholas was a real man known for generosity to those in need, I figure that's a pretty good place to start.

At this age, I'm content to read classic tales about a jolly old elf with flying reindeer.  Their fascination is a joy to behold, and that's enough for me.

But next year... or maybe the one after that.  When they're older and wiser and pose precocious questions beyond their years, I think I'll be ready.  I can feel good about telling them that Santa Claus was a real man who lived such an inspiring life he helped the whole world understand that there is magic in giving.  We celebrate what he taught us through giving to others, and that will keep him alive in our hearts forever.