If you do “Santa Claus” at your house, please stop immediately.
“Santa Claus” is one of the first Great Lies parents feel compelled to tell their children. On the whole no one minds because it involves giving, and giving comes from the heart, et cetera. But generically speaking, you shouldn’t lie to your children for the same reason you wouldn’t encourage them to lie to you: Lying is wrong. And “Santa Claus” is no small lie: A fat man with a white beard and red suit stealthily maneuvers his way into your home – while you sleep! – and for this felony he is to be rewarded with cookies and milk. John Maynard Keynes couldn’t have concocted an exchange this fatuous.
But seriously. If you’re like most people, you work hard over the course of a year to make your home function as you need and want it to function; what is the wisdom, at the end of it all, in surrendering the fruits of your labor to invisible sources? Worse yet, invisible sources too many parents feel inclined to use as blackmail against their own children?
That last bit stems directly from the “Path of Least Resistance” school of parenting, where children would not be brought up to behave themselves because they need to learn how to be civilized. No, they should behave themselves – from Thanksgiving Day through Christmas morning, anyway – because if they don’t, “Santa Claus” might bring them fewer presents. What an insidious inducement that is. It’s one thing to have incentive based bonuses in the workplace, something else again to have them when you’re six and can barely keep from pissing yourself on a daily basis. A child’s brain is confused enough without your turning their happiness into a mafia shakedown. (“Nice Christmas present you have here. It’d be a shame if something were to happen to it.”)
“Oh come on,” I hear you say, “it’s all harmless fun and they’re eventually going to find out there’s no Santa anyway. What’s the big deal?” I agree on the harmlessness of the thing; no one spends their lives shell-shocked from the day they found out “Santa Claus” wasn’t real. But children do spend years of their lives believing it’s real, and those are years you could be demonstrating to them how the world, and your love for them, actually works, as opposed to the fantasy you want to foist upon them just because your parents did it to you, and their parents to them.
Do yourself the favor of taking credit, along with reaping the emotional rewards, for being a responsible adult. Sit them down and say, “Kids, we buy these presents for you because we love you, because we want you to have nice things, and because it makes us feel good when you’re happy. Merry Christmas.” And give them a gift. Unless your children are far-gone emotional cripples, they won’t need an old lie to enjoy themselves on Christmas morning, or to appreciate their gifts.