The Santa Debate

As I’ve mentioned before, I volunteer at my daughter’s kindergarten every Monday morning. I basically take care of whatever the teacher needs me to do. Sometimes, that means manual labor. Sometimes, it means helping the kids write. Sometimes, it means trying to operate the medieval torture device that they use for a copier at the school. Out of everything I do there, my favorite has to be reading to the kids. I’ll spend a few minutes during their recess picking out a book, and then they’ll all sit down in front of me and listen to it. I’ve always been oddly proud of my ability to read perfectly well when the words are upside down, but I’ve never had a use for it until now. By holding the book on my lap and reading over the top, I’m able to ensure that all 28 kids can see the pictures. It is definitely my favorite part of Mondays.

Today, I read a book about the 3 bears (the Goldilocks editions) and their encounter with Santa Claus. I was cruising along pretty well until about halfway through the book. There are a few pages in the middle where Santa is visible on his sleigh in the sky. As soon as I turned to that page, I heard a very hushed “Saaanta” from about half the class. It was a little odd, and it threw me off my stride. I made sure to look up as I turned the page because I wanted to see the looks on their faces. Sure enough, there was another “Saaanta” accompanied by looks of pure bliss. It’s hard to describe the look as anything but hero worship. It’s probably about the same look I had watching Bulls games when I was growing up: “Joooordan.”

About half the class reacted that way while the other half sat there calmly waiting for me to finish the book. Our daughter fell into the latter group. At first, I felt bad about this. There’s nothing more awesome than looks of pure joy on a kid’s face, and my child was missing that look. I started to think that maybe she is being deprived of something magical that can never be regained. I’ve been thinking about it most of the day, and now, I’m just torn.

We celebrate Christmas in our house. We put up a tree, we gather what family we can, and we open presents. We’ll have a fantastic dinner, and at some point, I will drink too much eggnog and need a nap. Our kids know about Santa. He’s the fat guy that brings presents on Christmas eve while they’re sleeping and eats their cookies. They know who he is, and they look forward to his visit.

With all that being said, he’s not the part of the Christmas that we emphasize. We try to make sure that the holiday is centered around family and giving. We don’t tell them that Santa doesn’t exist, but we don’t build him up throughout the year either. I don’t think we’ve ever used the “if you’re not good, Santa won’t bring you anything” threat, but we always make sure there are presents from him come Christmas morning. That’s probably why my daughter looks forward to Santa’s visit, but she doesn’t get that look of pure awesomeness on her face when we talk about him.

So, now I’m torn. On one side of the coin, you have the looks of incredibly joy on the faces of the other kids. They light up the room, and every parent is addicted to that look. On the other side, I’m not sure that I want Santa to be what the kids look forward to every Christmas. As much as I crave that look of bliss, I think I would rather have them anticipating dinner and family. What are your thought?

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