Not being a parent means you and everyone else can only guess how you would be if you were a parent. People are usually gracious in saying that you would make a great parent even if they really think you would spend most of your time imitating Vince Lombardi bellowing, “What the hell’s going on out here?” before resuming whatever you were absorbed in before being interrupted.
None of that stops non-parents from believing how we would be. After all, who wants to think you’ would be a bad parent. Instead, a lot of us, in our heads and otherwise, tend to sound like a Presidential candidate on the stump, “I would be an education parent…I would be a self-defense parent…I would be a fiscally responsible parent.”
It is, of course, conjecture. We really do not have the slightest idea how we would be day in and day out. Most likely, as with most people, we would begin from the kid becomes parent corollary to the golden rule of not doing to our kids what we did not like done or was upsetting to us. So we say we would not drag teenagers to a relative’s house for an interminable afternoon of excruciating boredom or make eating brussels sprouts the key to unlocking the ice cream carton.
A lot of that kids golden rule corollary breaks rather dramatically on the rocks of reality. There are reasons for not leaving teenagers home alone or for making kids eat what’s for dinner before what’s for dessert. However, there is one thing that many of us found upsetting at some point but yet do not hesitate to unequivocally say that we would do. We say that we will encourage kids to believe in Santa Claus.
Now why would we completely throw out the kids golden rule corollary in the face of what we know will be upsetting and for some, intensely upsetting? You would think that it should be sufficient to at least entertain the thought of not encouraging belief in Santa knowing that upset is almost certain. Yet there seems to be no hesitation and no justifications like we lived through it so they can as well or it is not that big a deal when you really look back on it because there is far worse upset to come.
No, there is something deeper at work here, something that we learn from our Santa journey, if you will, that brings us to the lack of hesitation. On the surface, the Santa journey appears to be going from believing as a kid with all the trimmings of the sitting on the lap, milk and cookies, naughty list or its modern version of the elf on the shelf or in the washing machine, and on to the discovery through whatever means that there is no Santa Claus with its accompanying degrees of disappointment, anger, betrayal and other strong emotions to finally accepting he is not real. Of course, a lot of the wounds from the bad part of the journey are salved by the other part of the no Santa revelation that the presents will continue in years hence because Santa all along has been the same people insisting on eating those brussels sprouts before ice cream. In other words, “Wait. I still get presents anyway? Okay, I’m fine. So about next year…”
For a lot of people, acceptance that there is no Santa also means abandonment of most Christmas things like carols and TV shows. We stop watching Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer and we listen to our regular radio stations switching immediately whenever they play something resembling a Christmas song. Maybe some of that is lingering resentment, but most of it appears to be a desire to get away from what are seen as childish things associated with believing in Santa.
Our Santa journey does not end, however, by accepting Santa is not real because there is more yet to come. We tend to miss this because there is such a sizable gap from the acceptance part of the journey to the next part that we do not see them as being related. The next part of the Santa journey is when we rediscover our youthful love of Santa and Christmas and all the magical things we felt as kids. This is where the deeper part of it occurs when we move past just continuing to receive presents and now we get the Christmas spirit.
Suddenly, Christmas is back in our lives bigger and better than ever. Bring on Rudolf! Boy did we miss him. Those Christmas carols we avoided, let’s hear them, and loud. Let’s decorate the tree with gusto and buy presents with abandon. We really know now why Ebeneezer Scrooge was running about excitedly on that Dickensian Christmas morning. For many of us as well, we understand what it means to keep Christ in Christmas as never before. Our faith rediscovered along with our love of the season.
Christmas is once again wonderful, magical, and profound, just as it was when we were kids. We feel it doubly so when we see kids who believe in Santa, recognizing in them what we felt at their age and what we now feel. That is when we say, parent and non-parent alike with no hesitation or guilt: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. The Santa journey begins for a new generation and we gladly are part of it.