Facebook was founded in 2004, nearly three years after I had my first child. So when I embarked on this parenting thing, I didn’t have access to everyone’s opinion about everything.
Schedule or no schedule?
Commercial or homemade baby food?
Pick baby up or let her cry it out?
Back then, debates surrounding parenting choices were hashed out in real-life conversations. Access to more than your closest friend’s take on a topic was limited – unless you were willing to read a book. And, generally speaking, most friends had the posture of live and let live when it came to parenting choices of no moral consequence.
In a matter of a few years, everyone gained access to this nifty platform from which to share our opinions. Now, simple questions quickly turn into moral debates punctuated with articles galore. Its dizzying to think about how this has transformed the way we share ideas, have conversations and get information. And I think most of us would agree that sometimes it can be downright tiresome.
There is one parenting debate that rises to the surface right on schedule at Christmastime that makes me want to cry in the wilderness. Its not about whether we should say “Happy Holidays” or how soon is too soon to play Christmas music.
The conversation that really makes me cringe is the Santa or No Santa debate. And more recently, the Elf or no Elf debate. Yep, ’tis the season for a plethora of persuasion pieces followed by raging comments both in favor and against these two fairy tales. And whenever I see yet another one, my reaction is:
You guys, really? REALLY?!
Back before I had to wade through the maelstrom of opinions on the matter, I merely rolled my eyes when certain friends wanted to evangelize to my children about the myth of Santa – as if doing so would save them from eternal damnation. Still, the spirit of live and let live prevailed because the debate was kept in proper perspective.
But now? Now we are inundated with articles debating the merits or evils of Ole St. Nick the entire month of December. Grave warnings abound regarding the peril of lying to kids and endangering their tender faith. In response, pithy posts retort that Christian kids have survived the devastation of learning Santa’s not real for eons so stop being such a killjoy and let the kids have some fun.
I am not writing to enter the debate.
In the interest of full disclosure, Santa brings my kids just one mediocre gift – because I am far too narcissistic to let a fake elf get the credit when there’s an X-box under the tree. We also do Elf on the Shelf and forget to move the stupid thing at least 30% of the time, so my kids have wonderfully low expectations where that is concerned.
My kids love Jesus and know He’s the real star of Christmas. So far we have survived two “Santa’s not real” conversations with zero impact on anyone’s belief in God. No one seems to suffer nightmares over the Elf and his telltale heart. And, because childhood is so short, I am withholding the truth from my third child (who’s arguably too old to believe in Santa) until after Christmas because I just want to enjoy her excitement for one more year.
But I don’t feel like I need to defend any of that. I think the conversation should be backed way up to the way it was handled before Facebook gave everyone a microphone and false sense of courage to ask a critical question:
Who cares if I tell my kids there’s a Santa and you don’t? Who cares if I torture myself by moving an admittedly creepy toy elf from room to room and you were smart enough to avoid the hassle? Who really cares?
Is anyone sincerely, in their heart of hearts, worried that a child’s soul is in jeopardy because their parents play along with the Santa thing? And does anyone really feel the need to defend the fact that they play Elf on the Shelf by writing a three point persuasive essay on the topic?
This whole conversation is ridiculous.
Actually, the conversation is embarrassing. Because it’s only from the comfort of excess and materialism that a debate of this nature can even be held. I wonder how these articles would read in Haiti. Or even in the living room of a family living in poverty right here in America. But I digress.
If Santa isn’t part of your Christmas, that’s great. I bet you are a fabulous, fun parent. If you go all out on Santa and your Elf on the Shelf re-enacts the 12 days of Christmas in an elaborate diorama, high five!
Me? I don’t care whether you do or don’t do Santa and I don’t need to read a dissertation on your stance. Santa is not a litmus test for holiness or parenting prowess or morality. We are warned over and over again against engaging in foolish arguments and pointless discussions. And I think any “controversy” about Santa is about as real as he is.
Rather than waste any more words on the topic, let’s spend our time proclaiming the Good News of the season. Let’s go out of our way to show kindness to tired retail workers and have patience with the frazzled baristas whipping up our peppermint mochas. (My kid is now a barista and you wouldn’t believe the stories she tells.)
Let’s sing Christmas songs at the top of our lungs that tell of the coming King and spend time re-reading the miraculous story of how God, himself came to earth on our behalf. Let’s just celebrate the amazing, wonderful time of year that is Christmas and toss this foolish controversy into Santa’s bag of coal, right where it belongs.