Does telling children the truth about holidays destroy their imaginations and steal some part of childhood?
I heard snatches of a radio conversation yesterday. It’s one that me and Dawn have blathered on, in pieces, about. The radio conversation was about Christmas and whether children should know the truth about Santa. The show host was clear in her point of view, a bit too clear. I turned on the station while she was near screaming about how horrible it was for selfish adults to teach their kids that there is no Santa. She went on and on. I waited for her to stop talking, to take a caller, to give me a moment to breathe. I resisted the urge to change the station or to listen to the cars around me as I drove to my study.
She introduced questions for the audience, food for thought. Should parents, for instance, raise kids by saying that they, the parents, are the ones bringing the gifts from the top of the closet after the kids have been asleep on Christmas Eve? When it is appropriate for children to hear the truth? Won’t they find out what’s real eventually anyway? The conversation meandered into other holidays, and people started throwing in comments about eggs in April and squelching imaginations and hampering child development.
At first I thought I knew what I thought about these things. After all, I’ve spent some time thinking about some deep questions. I’ve fought with Dawn about my opinions, partly because I’m an opinion-maker and because I take personally the task of changing many of my wife’s opinions about things.
The one thing I hadn’t thought of, though, was imagination. Does a child need to believe in something like St. Nick in order to imagine or create or succeed? What engenders imagination in a person? Does a child need to hold some fake thing in order to relate well in world? Why can’t a child find wonder and marvel and magic in the mother who works everyday of the week for little pay and who still finds a way to cook, clean, and sew a new zipper in her son’s pants? I saw Jessica Ward’s not irrelevant post, and it left me with another question: does telling or withholding the truth about these types of things change the way children relate to ultimate Truth, like God? I don’t know the answers to these questions. Do you?