I am a huge party pooper when it comes it innocent childhood beliefs. I have been called mean by old ladies because I won’t pay my son money and tell him a magical fairy brings it when he loses a tooth. I never grew up with it and I just can’t make myself pass down the story. I do tell my son about Santa Clause but I could not keep up the pretense that there is a magical gift giving man who is able to ignore the laws of physics and give all the kids presents. We pretend there is a Santa because it is fun at my house, we don’t actually believe, neither does my son.
Why can mean mommy not let her little boy have a beautiful story about a man who gives gifts to all kids out of the goodness of his heart? I am a bad liar, I feel quilt when I keep up a pretense without saying it is a pretense. Still that is not all. We are not wealthy enough to pull it off. We cannot buy our son what he asks for, just a few items and then have the grandparents provide a few more. He asks us why did Santa not bring him something he really wanted. What am I going to say? I don’t know, ask Santa. Then he asks me, why did so and so get a lot more presents than him. He was a better kid than you son. How can I answer this question and keep it within the realm of the story without making him feel bad about himself? I feel bad saying, I don’t know, because that is a lie. I very much know why. It is because we are poor. Santa did not bring him as many presents because we are poor. Santa believes in prosperity theology. He measures how naughty or nice you are based on your parents’ income. Wait, no, that is not right either.
I approach the story of Santa as a fun little fairy tale and I also tell him about house elves and other fun stuff. I don’t believe in these stories and so I don’t present any of them as the truth. My son has a pretty well developed sense of skepticism about crazy stuff people make up. My husband has not been able to fool him with a crazy story for a while. He is getting to be about seven so it is a good time to start spotting when other people are trying to fool you. I was really gullible on the other hand well into my teens. Skepticism is a defense mechanism I learned the hard way. There is a difference between being optimistic and an imaginative skeptic and an uninspired cynic. Not that there is anything wrong with being a cynic, it is just nothing one wishes on a child.
So you might ask me, I hear you: What about your religious beliefs? How can you perpetuate that mythology on your child? The simple answer is that I actually believe in that. My son can tell I am sincere. I do also communicate to him the value of other systems of belief and non-belief and tell him they are sincere too. I introduce my son to other belief systems. I also tell him that the people believing them are just like us in their sincerity. This way he can evaluate things on a more realistic footing. He does not seem to be too interested in religious things, he has not asked me a lot of questions, but that is fine. He is more interested in science, cars, Legos and sledding down hills at the moment. Still, I think I am ready for the hard questions. I have asked them myself and I am not afraid to admit what I don’t know or understand. I always try to approach whatever my son asks with age appropriate honesty and I will continue that.