We outed the Easter bunny.
The Tooth Fairy participated in his downfall.
But not Santa. We drew the line at Santa.
“Mama, does that mean that Santa isn’t real too,” my daughter asked with her wide blue eyes starting to glisten.
I hesitated a split second. Darn it! I just couldn’t do it! “No, honey! Not Santa! Of course, Santa is real!”
I threw a stern glance at my almost eleven year-old son–he would not ruin this for his little sister. He rolled his eyes, but kept his mouth shut. (A rarity these days!)
But my middle daughter piped up. “Zoe’s mom told her that Santa isn’t real.”
Didn’t expect difficulty coming from that quarter! I thought quickly and punted. “That’s just because Zoe’s mom lacks imagination. Does she know he’s not real? Has she walked around the North Pole and actually looked for him?” (Sorry Zoe’s mom! I hate to throw you under the bus, but . . . well, desperate times and all.)
I have also told my girls that we can’t know for sure that mermaids (or water dinosaurs for that matter) don’t exist, as, to date, we have explored less than five percent of the ocean. I admit to them that I don’t think they are real, but that we can’t entirely rule out the possibility. My husband always rolls his eyes at me when I say this–and I think my daughter’s teacher thinks I’m nuts–but, seriously! We have no clue what is at the bottom of the ocean!
At least I don’t do what a friend of mine does (though I did consider it).
While her little loves are sound asleep, the “fairies” come and play with their toys. Her children wake to the visible proof of fairies existence. Perhaps that is crossing a line, but I thought it was rather fun and clever.
I have been on the receiving end of scorn and judgement from parents. “We do not lie to our children!”
Said parents say that it “erodes the foundation of trust.”
I tend to think that is ridiculous.
My daughters do not trust me less now that they know the Easter Bunny is really just Mommy and Daddy. In fact, they had a fun little time of it proving the lack of a Tooth Fairy. They looked for clues. The Tooth Fairy happened to use the same kinds of markers that their mother owned. Hmmm . . . They then put their hypothesis to the test when Arabelle put a tooth under her pillow without mentioning it to me. Sadly, the Tooth Fairy did not know she needed to visit that night and so the tooth, and not money, was found under her pillow that morning. A fine little piece of detective work on their parts!
I read an article by a psychologist who, like me, believed that the promoting of these myths was just fine, and yet one of her children felt extremely betrayed upon realizing that Santa was not real. To that, I would say, you know your own children best. If you have a very literal minded child, or a child who is easily wounded, perhaps these myths are not for them.
But, on the other hand, I think that we, as a society, tend to get too focused on what can be proven, on what is concrete. It is a flaw of our western world. I want my children to imagine, and I want them to have the capacity to believe on faith, not on sight.
We know mathematically, according to string theory, that there are ten dimensions. Ten! Though we can only understand and measure four of them. Still, though we cannot see them or touch them, they exist. Just like, though a dog cannot perceive, or even conceive of, the existence of color, color does, in fact, permeate our world.
Or what about the Multiverse Theory? Many physicists fully believe that there are parallel universes to our own. “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Sir Issac Newton
Or how about dark matter? We know virtually nothing about it except that it does (at least we think) exist.
But how do we know? Can we see it or touch it?
I am not saying that I really think the Easter Bunny or Santa exists. What I am saying is that I want my children to have the capacity to believe in things they do not see. I want them to have imagination. And I want them to have faith. Faith in the existence of God and goodness, even when neither is readily evident.
I want them to open up their minds to the possibilities of this world. Both science and religion attest to the reality that there is so much more to this world than we can see and touch. I want them to embrace what they do not know and believe in its possibility.
So, do I lie to my children? Yes, I am not ashamed to say that I do in these ways. But in the ways that count–doing what I say I will do, being honest about life and its difficulties, being open about the hiccups that permeate a relationship (aka fights between mom and dad)–in these ways I will always be truthful. Because those things will erode the trust my children have in me, not the belief in Santa.
And this way, they will still have wonder in their eyes and the imagination to believe in all this world can be as they start their journeys into this big, wide, mysterious world we live in.