Over the holiday week, this story – “Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Lie To Your Kids About Santa“, by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry – was making the rounds on social media.
According to Mr. Gobry – who, in common with a distressing number of people who lecture parents about how they should raise their kids, let the record show,
has no children actually has a kid, will miracles never cease – says it’s all wrong because our rationalizations are all incorrect.
The argument goes something like this: lying to children is bad.
Gobry thinks that the Santa story is “lying to children”. We’ll come back to that.
It’s not just a story. Parents usually defend the Santa lie by saying that it’s just a story, like Snow White. But there’s a difference between fiction and lying.
And there’s a difference between both and “shared cultural traditions”.
It doesn’t do anything for their imagination. This is usually the next line of defense: tricking kids about Santa somehow helps their imagination. But that makes no sense. You’re not asking kids to actually imagine anything, you’re feeding them beliefs.
So what? We “feed” our kids all sorts of beliefs; “Because I’m daddy, that’s why”, “don’t trust strangers unless they’re in uniform”, “Jesus loves me, this I know…”, and of course, “honesty is the best policy”. We look forward to the day when they think critically – but that’s down the road a bit, and until then, we need them to know some things just because.
Who cares if it’s tradition? For a very long time, tradition included such smart education principles as “spare the rod, spoil the child.” Now our society doesn’t believe in beating children — and that’s a good thing.
Right. Santa’s just like that.
Families that celebrate Christmas should have Christmas traditions! …You don’t need to invent a supersonic fat man to show your children you love them.
And if Gobry thinks that’s why we still have “Santa”, then this is going to be a difficult conversation indeed.
It’s bad tactics. From the parents’ purely self-interested perspective, the Santa lie is just dumb parenting. First of all, it erodes your trust capital. Once your kids discover that you were actively lying to them for several years, how much do you think they’ll trust you?
To be honest, this is the part where I figured out Gobry has never raised a kid in his life. He honestly thinks kids, after about 12, need any single reason not to trust their parents? And that they won’t seek out other reasons like a Dave Matthews fan looking for Cheetos?
The Santa lie is also used to control children: if you’re “good” you’ll get presents, and if you’re “naughty” you won’t. But really, has that ever worked?
Any parent who uses “Santa Claus” seriously, with a straight face, to “control” childrens’ behavior, as opposed to “a fun excuse to share a fun moment with the family once a year”, and maybe “as a shared inside joke with other parents”, is heading for much bigger problems.
It’s just morally wrong. Sorry to repeat ourselves, but lying to children is just wrong. It is. Just because someone is gullible is no reason to lie to them, and children have a right not to be deceived like everyone else. You can make a case for some “white lies” but the Santa lie is not a white lie. It’s just a lie.
Oh, it’s not a white lie. Glad you cleared that up for all of us, Mr. Gobry.
Actually, I think not having Santa in their lives is a moral wrong. Yes, eventually they, like most kids, figure out that their parents have been pulling a fast one on them. The smart kids figure out “my parents spent all those years getting up in the wee hours to put this little hint of magic in my life, because they wanted to see me be happy. That’s odd – but the odd bit of happiness was sure cool!” The not-so-smart ones get neurotic about Christmas and become NPR listeners – but then, if “Santa” doesn’t do it, something will. And the real dumb ones never quite lose the idea that some beneficent supernatural being brings them stuff for nothing, and go on to support Bernie Sanders.
And why does the “always be honest with kids” thing stop with Santa Claus? Why are we not telling our kids “There’s a 50-50 chance Mommy and I will wind up divorced”, or “Remember, Sophia, that a meteor could wipe us all out someday!”, or “You will very likely die of a chronic, wasting disease, in a nursing home, hooked up to tubes”?
I mean, is complete, utter, academically-transparent honesty with kids the best policy, or not?
And even if it’s a lie, then learning to deal with cognitive dissonance without falling apart is one of life’s great lessons. If a kid falls apart because “my parents lied to me about Santa Claus”? Then the kid isn’t “falling apart because of Santa Claus”, if you catch my drift.
And, frankly, I think dealing, eventually, with the fact that Santa might not be real is a great lesson for kids; having to come to terms with the fact that not all of life is black and white, and that we all have to wrestle with cognitive dissonance, is one of life’s most vital lessons. I pity the poor kid who doesn’t figure this out until they get rejected by a college or turned down for a promotion or dumped by a boyfriend.
It’s selfish. That’s the biggest reason. Despite their protestations to the contrary, parents don’t do it for the benefit of the children. They do it for their own benefit. When pressed and rebutted, parents will eventually blurt out “But they’re so cute when they believe in Santa!” That’s the real reason, isn’t it?
Yep. It’s a reason. Not the reason, but one of them.
Mr. Gobry doesn’t know it,
and I suspect never will, but when you have a kid, you’re signing up for eighteen years of joy – and eighteen years of sleepless nights, vacation days spent with sick kids, evenings in urgent care, birthday parties, out-of-tune concerts, looking through hair for nits, puberty, tension, “tough love”, shouting matches, junior high rebellion, head-butting and exhaustion.
You’re damn right I took a moment once a year to enjoy one of the short list of pure unadulterated episodes of crystalline happiness that the whole experience offers. And f**k you, Pascal-Emanuel “
childfree fop” Gobry, for thinking you know better.
UPDATE: Sure enough, PEG has a kid.
Doesn’t change my point.