This is the first year that my son has really started to clue into Christmas. He has made the link between the holidays and gifts. No matter how much of a stress we place on this time of year being about gratitude, family and giving, my kiddo has figured out that there is going to be loot for him under the tree. And by-golly, he is getting some loot. A trunk load of Lego that he can turn into an electric train to be exact. His homemade stocking will be full with homeschooling supplies, stamping markers and a tangerine.
I am taking his excitement about gifts with a grain of salt. Of course he is excited! He is a kid, there are gifts and having been in a few toy stores in his time, there is a long list of things he is imagining that the packages could be full of. Go for it buddy. Be excited. This has also proven to be an amazing time to talk about self-control, polite behaviour around gift giving, and thoughtfulness in considering what to give or make other people in our lives.
I am happy to take the squeally voice, the parcel stroking, and the million questions of what could possibly be inside. He is 3.5 and like any 3.5 year old this is a huge deal.
But, all coolness around gifts aside, we hinged all of this on Santa Claus. For many people on Twitter, this is up there with not giving your kids cow’s milk or brushing their teeth with fluoride (shoot, I don’t do that either). For loads of people, the omission of Santa is sinful and kids like mine are guaranteed to ruin this little bit of
behaviour manipulation tradition for their own little darlings.
Even at 6 months old, while coming up to Aodhan’s first winter holiday, I didn’t want to write ‘from santa’ on his stuffed monkey. It didn’t seem right to start off his understanding of this super time of the year by lying to him. We bought the monkey, we sign the card. As Aodhan has gotten older, and I have been privy to more conversations around the parenting blogs, I feel even more certain in our decision to just tell him the facts about Christmas, and use the time to model descent and relaxed behaviour.
As November crept over us this year, I was constantly seeing Facebook and Pinterest comments about how to best utilize Elf on the Shelf to modify children’s behaviour during November and December. Our house is huge on avoiding extrinsic motivation when it comes to Aodhan and asking him to dig deep to find the internal desires that rule his body and mind in decision making. Equally, I don’t use fear or threats to scare him into doing (or not doing) behaviours. Instead, I tell him the truth and ask him to stop whatever he is doing. I don’t threaten him with the watchful eye of some creepy elf or the naughty list from a now twisted tale of St. Nicholas.
Traditions are lovely. Stories are the backbone of our society. I agree. Santa can be a splendid story to tell, just like the bible can be a remarkable set of tales. But, context, both historical and social, are important when we make these stories a part of our lives.
This year, Aodhan has spent a lot of time learning about Santa and understanding that some children believe that Santa brings them gifts. Just like some children in Belgium believe that St. Nicolas leaves speculoos in their boots and children all over the world who believe in the Jewish faith receive gifts in conjunction with the lighting of a menorah. I like to think that by not hanging Christmas on Santa, I am opening up the winter holiday a little wider for Aodhan to enjoying in a multiplicity of ways as he interacts and connects with the variety of cultures, faiths and philosophies that celebrate in their different ways at this time of the year.
Don’t assume that because we don’t sign our gifts ‘from santa’ or threaten Aodhan with comments like ‘you better be quiet or santa won’t come’ that my kid doesn’t get to fully embrace and connect with the magic of the season. Instead, you do it your way, and we will do it our way. Happy Holidays.
Do you have a santa-free holiday?