Here comes Santa Claus
As a child I was terrified of Santa. I had nightmares: a red-gloved hand clawing at my window, glass breaking downstairs while I hid under my bed. Who wouldn’t be scared of this creepy, omniscient stranger who was judging, ever judging? At the mall, he would demand that I sit on his lap and tell him my secrets. Then, once a year, one fateful night, he would break into our house. Sure, there were presents at the end of the ordeal, but who could say if it would end there? Would he then sneak upstairs and kill us all? I already knew my parents were buying some of the gifts, so in my mind, Santa was a psychotic intruder who took my peace of mind in exchange for a couple of trinkets.
I was a strange and anxious child.
Eventually, to my great relief, I found out that Santa Claus wasn’t real and that if someone was breaking into my house, I could call the police and not just offer him some cookies and listen to his giant scary laugh. Then a year later, Henry was born. (See what I did there!)And when Henry became old enough to appreciate the magic and wonder of the Christmas season, did I clue him in to the cold, hard facts? Did I protect him from the nightmare of St. Nick?
Of course I didn’t.
In my defense, I would (probably) give him the full scoop if the idea of Santa scared him as much (even a little bit as much) as it did me. Apparently he’s more secure than I ever was, and the idea of a jolly old guy a-tumblin’ down our chimney fills him with delight, not paralyzing terror. He thinks Santa Claus is his ally. He doesn’t want to sit on his lap, though, and that’s okay by me.
But really, how could I tell him the truth? First of all, if you tell a five-year-old that Santa doesn’t exist, you create the Preschool Party Pooper of the Year. He would bring all of his classmates to tears with his brutal arsenal of facts. I can imagine getting the call from his teachers. “Please pick up Henry, and don’t bring him back until after the holidays. He’s a a total buzzkill.” Playdates would be canceled. Numbers would be changed. I’m just looking out for him, is all.
So I continue to weave Santa stories, much to his delight, and hope that he doesn’t hate me for it someday. Fortunately, psychologists say he’s not being warped. (That is, at least not with this.) According to child psychologist Bruce Henderson of Western Carolina University, “Santa is just one of the many fantasy figures that exists in a preschooler’s world…Adults might just be wasting time trying to get a child at that age to give up on such a warm and fuzzy character to accept adult realities.” (Obviously they didn’t know the Santa who stalked me in the seventies.)
But enough about me. What do you tell your children? Are you for or against the Santa story?Published December 21, 2007. Last updated December 15, 2010.