For parents: The answer you’ve been looking for!

ORIGINAL POSTED DECEMBER 6, 2008

I’m a parent of two, and I do what most parents do: lie to their kids.

I participate in perpetuating the myth of a jolly fat man in a red suit that has in his possession flying reindeer, who uses magic dust to shrink himself down to fit down the chimney so he can leave gifts for all the worlds’ children.

(kinda sounds like a guy on a bad acid trip, but I digress)

A while back I was asking myself why parents do this.  Why did my parents lie to me?  Why do I lie to my kids?  Sure, it’s tradition, and that’s what keeps us doing it until we stop and think about it.  At that point, some parents decide that dishonesty isn’t the way to go and they break the news to their kids.

So, why do we follow this tradition in the first place when the very next day we’ll go back to telling our kids that honesty is the best policy?  The answer is actually very simple, but I have to admit I never really stopped to think about it until fairly recently.

You see, the world is a cruel place.  You can die at any moment in more ways than you can count, and that’s not even including the things you might deserve based on your stupidity!  I mean just the universe as a whole randomly deciding that your time is up and that’s that.  Some say this is God and his/her Plan in action.  Maybe that’s true, but ultimately if I as a simple human being can never understand God’s plan, as I’m told by my religious friends is the case, then for all intents and purposes, it’s just random acts of terrible things.  And it doesn’t stop with death either: there are all sorts of misery that can be visited upon you that don’t lead to your demise… a stroke, heart attack, losing all your money, your house catching fire, your wife cheating on you, losing your job, your child getting hit by a car, and so on.  All of these are terrible things (some more than others obviously).

The universe is a randomly cruel thing.  That’s a sad fact that we’ll teach our kids indirectly by exposing them to the world.  But, wouldn’t it be nice if in the same breath we could also tell them that the universe can also randomly be kind?  Wouldn’t it be great if for no apparent reason the universe just did good things for you?

That’s where Santa Claus comes in!  Now, sure, it’s not quite so random: it’s every December 25th like clockwork, and sure, we tell them it’ll only happen if they are nice rather than naughty all year… but essentially, Santa Claus represents anonymous kindness provided by someone we’ll never actually see or meet, a force we’ll not know personally (dismissing the mall Santas of course!)… in other words, as far as a child knows, the universe is being kind to them once a year for no apparent reason.

Sure, Santa Claus is a lie.  Us adults know that.  But we tell our kids the lie anyway because it gives them hope.  It gives them a reason to believe that the universe isn’t just cruel, that all the terrible things they’ll experience in their lifetimes, all the horrible things they’ll learn about, aren’t all there is.  In many ways, the hope represented by Santa Claus is, in fact, the greatest gift we give our children, at least until the blissful ignorance of childhood fades into a hazy memory and adult cynicism takes hold.

So yes, keep telling the lie of Santa Claus to your children!  Don’t for a second think you are doing anything wrong!  One day they’ll learn the truth, and they may even be annoyed for a while… but then someday, probably when they have their own kids, they’ll come to the same realization I have and they’ll thank you retroactively for what may well be the ultimate white lie!

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