I haven’t posted in a long time. But the truth is, I have 16 drafts of blog posts waiting to be finished. I try to work on them a little bit at a time, time permitting. But my drafts of blog posts are very much like my mind, and jump around from subject to subject in record time. But today I had an experience that pushed all those drafts aside for yet another day. It happened in church today, but contrary to the title, this is not a spiritual or religious post. This is an ethical power war I had with a 7 year old child.
In church I play the piano in primary, or children’s classes. I love it! Its the perfect combination of working with children, but not really having to work with them! It saves me from having to attend as many adult classes, but also provides me with a sense of accomplishment. Its perfect for me! No matter what level my belief in the church is at the time, I love showing up to play for these kids each week. But today was 5th Sunday, which is exactly how it sounds. On the rare occasion that we have 5 Sundays in a month, roles get a little scattered around. And instead of playing the piano, I found myself sitting in on a class taught to 6 and 7 year olds. All was fine and well, the lesson was being beautifully taught, until one innocent little boy mentioned the existence of Santa Clause. And another seemingly know it all child proudly announced that Santa Clause was a myth and didn’t really exist. The disappointment or may I even say crushed looks of despair quickly settled on the faces of the other children, and I immediately jumped into Mama Bear mode.
Now I want to get a few things out in the open. I don’t by any means have a problem with the parents who choose to have an honest and open dialect about the jolly man’s exhistance. So far our country is still free and has yet to be turned into a true Gilead (in reference to Handmaid’s Tale), so parent’s have the right to parent the way they want. I totally understand the fear of lying to our children and the possibility of distrust that can come from that. I understand the lack of common sense that surrounds a man that not only visit every mall in the world during the holiday season, but can visit every single home in the entire world in one night. That kind of activity couldn’t be done by a physically fit man, let alone an overweight one with a cookie obsession. And more than anything I understand trying to protect a child’s visions of getting anything his heart desires when they live in a home where that isn’t possible. I grew up in a home where getting just our basic needs met was a blessing, so I get not living under the novelty that we somehow should get more. And I’ve answered the questions my kids have asked when we participate in Sub for Santa events in the simplest way I can to protect them and make them understand that not everyone is as fortunate as they might be. BUT…. It’s when the kid feels its his right, or responsibility, to share his knowledge with children who’s parents still feel like letting them enjoy their childhood that I start to have a problem. The Christmas of 1988 was truly the most magical Christmas I will ever remember. My brother and I got pound puppies and bubble gum machines. I remember my father questioning how the pound puppies got out from their bedroom closest and me exclaiming “It was Santa!” And I remember him smiling and agreeing that had to be how. We didn’t have a lot, but that day I felt like the luckiest girl in the world. I still have that pound puppy. Every time I see it I still remember how magical that day was. The next year I learned the true identity of Santa Clause. It was the same year I said goodbye to my father (who died that year), and my innocence (I was sexually abused by a trusted friend that year), and I truly mourned the loss of the one person who I thought made everything better. He made everything fair, he made everyone smile, he made everything ok if just for one day. And I still needed him in my life. But my cousins knew the truth and felt free to share, officially shattering every last shred of childhood I had left. It was 8 years old then, and I vowed right then and there that I would let my children enjoy every last precious second of childhood they could hold on to. And almost 30 years later I truly still want just that for them. A carefree childhood full of happiness and belief.
Now I know in this day and age hoping for a carefree wonderful childhood is stretching the laws of nature. I’m raising 3 independent, smart, charismatic boys in a very uncertain world. They are completely bombarded from all sides with images of sex, violence, drugs, more sex. My 9 year old is asking questions that I was barely asking at age 11. In fact, he’s asked so many questions that I’ve questioned whether or not its time to give him “The Talk”. But much like the Santa conversation, I don’t want him going to school and being “that kid”. The kid who ruins the innocence of all his classmates and forces their parents to talk to them about things they aren’t ready to share. They repeat phrases they hear from other children that would have made me lost the ability to sit for a week, and even worse they have no idea what they are even saying. It an uncertain world we live in now. Being a parent is a constant tug of war between protecting them and preparing them. I pray every morning and every night I can find the fine line between those two things and provide them with the safest environment I can give them. So if that environment involves a tiny sense of wonder disguised as a fat jolly white bearded man dressed in a red suit, I feel its my right to be able to do that.
So lets get back to this afternoon. I don’t know if I was more annoyed over the fact that this child didn’t mind ruining the rest of Christmas’ for all the other class members, or that his parents didn’t think about mentioning to him when they broke his heart that it might not be appropriate to do the same thing to other children. Although I guess I can’t say for certain that this child’s parents didn’t warn him that we shouldn’t destroy a childhood fantasy for all other kids, but I have to guess on this situation that they didn’t. But I immediately stopped the class to outwardly express my irritation with this child’s comment. And what kills me the most is actually smirked at me when I stopped him. Afterward I mentioned to him that it wasn’t appropriate to say things like that to other children. He said to me “What? You don’t actually believe in Santa do you?” To which I told him I absolutely did. He gave me a confused look and I told him that I believe in everything magical. Unicorns, treasure hunts, all your wildest dreams coming true, and most importantly Santa Clause. Because when you don’t believe in him he can’t believe in you. I also proceeded to tell him that Santa still brings me a present every single year. I did leave out who actually writes “From Santa” on the gift. And yes, I do that! Because I want my kids to believe, and how can they if I don’t?
Again, I’m not telling any parent how to do your job. Because in this dog eat dog world of motherhood we live in we spend way too much time feeling bad about ourselves because someone has mentioned how we can do our jobs better. And no matter what we allow our children to believe, I do believe that we are all doing the very best we can. But with another holiday season quickly bearing down on us again, PLEASE talk to you children about not spoiling the wonder and amazement of Christmas for the believing children. We don’t always have to be right, we don’t always have to know everything. But we should always try to be kind. And as the great Mormonad states: It’s nice to be Important, but its Important to be Nice. After all, isn’t that the real meaning of Christmas?