I continue to have conversations with individuals who ask me questions about how I might want to raise my son. I always have lots of ideas to share with them, but one in particular comes so strongly to me that I wanted to share with you. Honesty and trust.
You might find me out in left field, or strange, or just not at all mainstream, but I am not sure I want to raise my son by telling him lies. I wrote a blog about it last May — the idea that we basically lie to our kids about Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny (and I am sure a lot more). Yet, I continue to be baffled that we want to teach our kids to tell the truth and have honesty and integrity, yet we somehow are horrible examples of that. Of course we want our kids to have mystery and adventure in their lives, but there has to be a better way.
Yes, I will try to find a way to be graceful about it all so that he does not ruin it for other kids, but I want to be honest with him and not create this world where he later finds out that the stories we tell about these holidays are all made up. How then have I truly taught him about trust, honesty, and integrity? We can still celebrate the real meaning of these holidays (which I wonder how much of that is really lost on so many kids because they learn this fairy tale rather than the essence and significance of these holidays).
This conversation keeps coming up, and it has brought about some interesting dialogue. Maybe I am rogue or on the fringe, or maybe we are not asking the right questions. As parents we should be the examples. My dad’s answer was often: “Because I said so.” Which I hated because it meant he either did not have a better answer, he was too lazy to explain it, or he just wanted to have control over what I thought. As exhausting as it might be I want to be transparent with this little boy entering the world and give him honest answers that help him weave together and make sense of an already complex world.
We lie to kids all the time. We should stop. I often talk to Chris about all the Hallmark holidays that have gotten out of hand. Maybe I am a buzz kill, but we are basically telling kids lies and then later expect them to trust us. My parents did it and I turned out fine (at least I think I did), but I think I might just stop the craziness when I have kids. I thought Stefanie Wilder-Taylor said it just right in “Gummi Bears Should Not be Organic:”
“Early on their life is filled with fantasies they believe to be true, such as Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy (notice I capitalized Tooth Fairy—because, like God, the Tooth Fairy is still very much a real and venerable life force in my house.) And who puts those fantasies in their head? We do. So when your child tries to convince you that the reason they took all the forks out of the kitchen is because they needed them to help run the jelly bean factory in their closet, how can we be mad when we’ve convinced them that a fat guy with a sack of toys is going to be sliding down their chimney?” page 92-93
She is right. We lie and then we expect them not to lie to us. Besides I think most kids do not even know the true meaning of Christmas. They think of it as a plethora of gifts, a tree, photos with Santa, and whatever other crazy traditions we have started. What if instead we all went back to the true meaning of Christmas? Giving to those in need and being together. Sadly, because of all the crazy hubbub of Christmas, I have become a Grinch. I do not want to buy you a gift just to get you a gift, and I do not want you to do the same. I do not need a thing.
It is funny — I decided to Google “the true meaning of Christmas” and I got such an array of answers about Jesus, God, and lots of other religious babble. One site did give me an answer I liked — that the true meaning of Christmas is Love. Now that is something I can wrap my arms around. Can we show our kids that? Instead of telling them about a fat, jolly Santa, the North Pole, and lots and lots of presents, why not show them how to give to kids in their community that do not have as much? Maybe sharing a coat with someone who does not have one? Or selecting toys to give to children that do not have any. What then are you teaching your kids? Love, gratitude, sharing, and appreciation for all they have each day?
I do not want to raise kids that feel they are just going to get presents upon presents under the Christmas tree, and so many they cannot even begin to appreciate them. That is commercialism and consumerism at its best. I would rather dote on them throughout the year, rather than swoop in on one day out of the year. Besides it feels like a lot of pressure, and is it really worth it? Call me a Grinch, but I do not want to start that tradition.
I ponder questions about my future as a mom. I often wonder with my tendency to be blunt all the time, will I decide to tell my kids that there is a Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, or Santa Claus? What is the right thing to do? On one hand there is fantasy and fun surrounding these mythical stories, but what does it teach kids if they learn that we have been lying to them all these years?
I suppose from a tier of importance, Santa Claus has the most weight. If he is capable of bringing every child around the world a gift all in one night, while riding a sleigh, and going down any houses with chimneys, well that is not a loaded lie! Oh, and about the chimney, the man is fat. And, he has a reindeer with a red light at the end of his nose. How many lies has that added up? 5 so far. I am sure if we really looked at the story, we could count many more.
The Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy carry much less weight from the lie factory. For Easter, the bunny hides eggs. That does not seem so far-fetched. Bunnies dig holes, it could be possible. Was the Easter Bunny a boy or a girl? I am not sure I ever learned where the Easter Bunny comes from, and I do not think I learned how the Easter Bunny was connected to the resurrection of Jesus. Probably did not matter, because all I remembered about Easter was wearing a hideous “Easter” dress from my grandma, going to church, having brunch, and finding our easter basket. A regular Sunday, except for more candy, and a poopy Sunday dress.
Now the Tooth Fairy. I assumed the Tooth Fairy was a girl, probably out of the process of elimination that a fairy was never a boy when I was a kid. I had a hand-me-down tooth pillow, that I put under my pillow when I lost my tooth. I never found it odd that the Tooth Fairy had to lift my head to get the pillow, remove the tooth, and leave my half-dollar, all without my waking up. I have heard very different accounts of what friends received for a tooth, but we got 50 cents in the fancy form of a half-dollar. Calculating that I have 28 teeth, not counting the four wisdom teeth pulled a few years ago (I know everyone might have different amounts), that equals $14 on me. Of the three fictional characters I would say the Tooth Fairy wins. Over the course of a few years of my life, they only spent $14. If there is only one Tooth Fairy, then how come other kids received $20 a tooth (about $560 total). Does the Tooth Fairy play favorites?
I digress. I started this blog to discuss whether to lie to my future children or not. The verdict is still out. I know I sound like a heartless future mom, but I have strong beliefs about not lying to my children. I wonder if I can find a way to go along with the charade, while also telling them the truth. Tell them it is make believe and we can play along together.
Yesterday I was remembering an Easter Sunday from my childhood. Before I tell you what happened, I need to give you a bit of context. Each Easter we were given three Easter baskets (we knew our individual baskets based on the color ribbon tied on the top). Before we were allowed out of our bedrooms in the morning, my parents (a.k.a. the Easter Bunny) would hide our baskets and we would be set free to go and find our baskets before breakfast. There was also always a “family” basket that sat on the center of the kitchen table.
Easter 2013 egg decorating (w/niece + nephew)
Since we grew up in Indiana, it was generally cold outside, and depending on how early or late in the year Easter fell, we might even have snow. Due to the weather, our basket hunt was always somewhere in our house.
This specific year I remember finding my last basket next to a sliding glass door behind a heavy drape. Once I found it, I looked down and noticed it looked fairly black. Bending down to pick it up, I screamed. Not out of fear for what I saw, but because I knew there was no way I would be allowed to eat the candy inside my basket. My basket was covered completely with ants. Gross right? In the ten minutes it took for my parents to hide the baskets and for us to find them, the ants had completely ransacked and attacked my Easter candy.
I was mortified. To assuage me, my parents let me know that for that Easter I would get to share the “family” basket with them. I cannot remember if that was a treat for me, or not. All I can remember is that ants took over my basket.