Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Trouble with Santa

I never believed in Santa. My sisters and I left cookies and egg nog out on Christmas Eve. We also received gifts under the tree with gift tags that read: 'From Santa.' Yet, I never remember thinking that there was an actual Santa who ate the cookies or left the gifts. I always knew it was my mom and dad. I don't think anyone ever told me Santa wasn't real, but my parents never tried to get us to believe in him. I remember my sisters asking my mom once if Santa was real and she just answered, "What do you think?" In my family, Santa was a fun idea, but not the main focus.

To be clear, I have nothing against the idea of Santa. To me, Santa just stands for the spirit of giving and the enjoyment of giving and receiving gifts. I don't see anything wrong with promoting this spirit. I do, however, have a problem with going out of my way to perpetrate a lie to young, impressionable minds. And therein lies my problem with Santa. Of the very few things on which my husband and I do not agree, Santa is at the top of the list.

In my husband's family, Christmas was all about Santa. All toys received were waiting near the tree on Christmas morning, unwrapped and ready to be played with, as a sign that Santa had just stopped by and left them there to be discovered. Everyone went to great lengths to keep the kids believing as long as possible. My first Christmas with the family, I was warned to not say anything at all about Santa not existing because the nieces still believed. It is not my place to say what other people should or should not tell their children about Santa, but the thought of purposely lying to my own children about this turns my stomach just a little.

So here is my dilemma: What is a confused mom to do? I have never talked about Santa to my kids, but it seems like EVERY PERSON with whom we interact this time of year asks my kids if they are ready for Santa, if they have been good for Santa, what they want from Santa, or any other number of questions involving the jolly old man. On top of that, every TV show the boys watch (with the exception of the amazing and wonderful 'Dinosaur Train') has a Christmas episode seemingly every day about St. Nick. And then, of course, my husband and in-laws constantly talk to the boys about Santa. I don't want to just say to them "Well, Santa isn't real" but I also can't bring myself to tell them he is or talk about him to them at all.

As I've hashed this out in my mind, I think part of the reason I never really "believed" had to do with 'Angel Trees.' You know, the trees with the tags on them with the gender and age of a child in need that people could choose and purchase a gift for. This was a major part of our holiday season growing up. Even the year my dad was unemployed and my parents had to borrow money from my grandparents to make ends meet, we still sponsored an Angel Tree kid (I'm sure they would be horrified to know that I know about the borrowed money, but my parents had apparently never heard the saying "Little pitchers have big ears.") Um... hello? If there really was a Santa, wouldn't he give those kids toys? Why would these kids need us to buy them anything? I love, love, love the tradition of giving to others this way and the 'Angel Tree' is something I've continued with my boys. So... how long before they put all this together?

I just wonder when they find out the truth, if they will question other things we've told them. I don't want to have a conversation where my side sounds something like, "Well, I never believed in Santa, but I let you do it. What? God? Oh yes. God is real. Really. He is." I just don't know. I guess I had always planned to take my mom's approach, but that obviously doesn't work when half the family makes such a big deal of Santa. Luke is already asking how Santa will come down the chimney if there is a fire in the fireplace. He obviously believes.

I guess I just continue focusing on what I feel is important about Christmas -- the joy, the spirit of giving, the time spent together -- and on Jesus, the most important gift of all. And hope that when they realize he's not real, they don't use Santa as a reason to doubt the truth of every other thing we've ever told them.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Girl with the Red Pea Coat

"Sometimes it's a form of love just to talk to somebody that you have nothing in common with and still be fascinated by their presence." -David Byrne

Note: I totally wish I had thought of that quote. What a great thing to say.

People fascinate me. Well... okay. Some people fascinate me. Some people I cannot understand and honestly do not want to, but a lot of people have something really interesting about themselves. The other day I was at Whole Foods to pick up something for lunch. For the record, the Whole Foods near where I work isn't as bad as some Whole Foods in the rest of the country. (There are hippies who work there, but the area is mostly wealthy corporate men and their stay-at-home wives so it doesn't smell and I've never seen anyone there with dreads. Oh, and also, I don't live near where I work.)

Anyway, I was waiting in line at the Whole Foods deli to get something for lunch and the girl in front of me caught my attention. She was petite and thin, with very short dark hair styled in a black, plastic headband. She had about 8 piercings on her ears, skinny jeans, flats, and a pretty red pea coat. I guess I just noticed her because I was standing there waiting, but I don't know. I was strangely drawn to her. She got her food and left and I placed my order.

I had already forgotten about her by the time I got to the checkout. But as I was getting in my car, I looked up and saw her walking by. She had her deli meal in her hands in front of her, and on top, she had balanced a slice of white cake with white icing and a pastel icing flower. Why did she have that cake? Was she taking it to someone else? Was it her birthday and she had no one with whom to celebrate so she was buying it for herself? Was it a reward for some goal she'd achieved? Maybe she just likes cake? I'm guessing I have little in common with this twenty-something, artsy girl with the cake, but I really wanted to know her story. I really like to learn other people's stories.

Sometimes it seems someone has such a similar story as yours that you are bound to be friends. Then, for whatever reason, you just don't click. There are other people who, as much as they seem nothing like you on the surface, you listen to them and find that you have so much more in common that you could have possibly imagined. I guess that is part of why I love the Byrne quote so much. Learning the story of someone else doesn't make you immediate best friends or even mean you will ever talk to them again. Yet, learning their story does add just a little something to your own experience that wasn't there before. So I guess this is just a reminder to myself. I need to not be so busy and focused on my own life that I forget to listen to what other people have to talk about. I might find something fascinating that enriches my life more than I'd ever expected.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


It seems like forever ago I wrote my post on unraveling and I really felt like that was the beginning of a journey. That I was going to unravel my life until I made sense of a lot of things. Now I just feel like I'm left holding a huge ball of knotted yarn. I'm not sure if this is just part of the process or if I got off track. I'm not sure if it is my own frustrations, insecurities, and doubts that made this happen or if it is a result of being distracted by circumstances, but I don't feel like it's working out the way I'd envisioned.

Earlier this week, I was reading in II Corinthians 5 in The Message and I came across this:

"Compared to what's coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home... The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less."
I started this post last week and decided to leave the first part as it was and just continue on from here. The more I've been thinking about that verse, the more I've come to realize that maybe a knotted ball of yarn is okay. Maybe the problem was that I was striving for contentment, striving to feel good about myself. Maybe I was striving to feel like I was doing enough and meeting expectations. I see now how misguided that is.

I'm not meant to be content. This path isn't about contentment or satisfaction. It's about embracing the discontent. It's about pressing on. It's about continuing to pull the string and welcoming the questions so I can explore them. It's about clutching tight to a "live the questions" mentality. And more than anything, it's about realizing that believing in God's promises as I do means I will never be content with the way I am now. I will never be content with settling for less. And that's the way it's meant to be.