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[P]
Santa and Other Myths

By QuoteMstr in Op-Ed
Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 09:39:14 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

When a parent takes his child to the mall to tell Santa their wishes and to take a picture with him, or when a parent turns on the news and shows his child the news anchorman reporting on Santa's approach, most people would think it is cute and relatively harmless. I propose that we have not thought sufficiently deeply about the consequences of portraying Santa as a true person who really does personally deliver gifts to each good child.


Children are impressionable people. They often do not think critically, and have not had the formal education they need to have a base from which to question beliefs. They have not heard of Occam's razor, and, in the words of Provost Zhakarov (from the game Alpha Centauri), they "believe what [they] prefer to be true rather than what the evidence shows to be likely and possible." That is, they are idealistic, open-minded, and not in the least cynical or skeptical. This is the innocence of childhood. To take a child's innocence and abuse it by telling the child a story that, in our eyes, makes him seem "cute" is on the same level as cockfighting and bear-baiting, sports society has long renounced. Both passing myths off as truth and animal fights have the quality of abusing the ignorance of the participants for the amusement of the audience. Society has given up animal fights; why would we not give up lying to our children? We should --- it's about time.

There are many reasons we should do that. Firstly, the purpose of childhood is to teach about and to prepare for adult life, no? If we go with this premise, then we must assume that a given childhood experience should not inhibit this goal, if it doesn't outright further it. One goal is to teach children morals, and one way to do this is through storytelling. Children love to hear stories, and we gladly tell them to children. jabber made a good point in a comment posted to the previous version of this story --- myths have value. For example, the myth of the Emperor's New Clothes teaches a lesson about herd mentality.¹ The stories of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy (which I will collectively refer to as "Santa-Myths") are also myths, but are unlike the other stories told to children, and are overall detrimental to a child's upbringing.

What effects do these stories have on the development of a child? None, intrinsically. Unlike normal childhood stories, Santa-myths are passed off as literal truths, rather than as the symbolic truths of, say, Aesop's fables¹. Santa-myths also contain no intrinsic moral lessons. There is no lesson taught by Santa visiting houses, nor in the Easter Bunny bringing baskets full of candy. It is simply stated that they do so in quantities varying with the "goodness" of the child. That is not to say, however, that they have no effects at all. There are other external factors that have no relation to the content of the story, but its form and presentation. When children discover that Santa-myths are false, they realize their parents lied to them by presenting these myths as literal truth. Children tend to imitate their parents, and when they realize that their parents lied, they might also be more inclined to lie. I do not believe that any individual has been made a compulsive liar by the revelation of the falsehood of Santa-myths, but I would suppose that it would make the truth less important to uphold.

However, lies to children are often justified by a need to simplify the world for children. It is acceptable to tell lies to children (which they are, in actuality) when it makes the world easier to understand for a child's immature intellect. For instance, the classic image of a stork bringing babies defers discussion of sex, and sugar-coating of death can make a loss of a family member easier². I agree with the statement, "the world is a complicated place, and we can only expose kids to the level of complexity which corresponds to their age, knowledge, and experience"³, but I think kids are certainly able to maturely handle the types of activities Santa-myths conceal. If a lie and the truth will serve equally well, the truth is always preferred. Parents' gift-giving is not something that needs to be hidden from a child. Gift-giving is a very basic aspect of human culture that should be learned early and well, and without interference from myth and magic.

Not all of the effects of Santa-myths are negative, however. Bright children will take away a few lessons from the revelation that Santa-myths are false°. They include "don't believe everything you hear," "question information from even trusted sources," and "the majority isn't always right," and, of course, Occam's razor. However, these lessons are learned in spite of, not because of, Santa-myths. Do we publicly embarrass our children to teach them the lesson in "The Emperor's New Clothes"? The point of a story like that is to teach the lesson without the reader having to learn it "the hard way." Learning what can be gained from Santa-Myths *is* the hard way; these things would be better taught by conventional methods. Saying Santa-myths teach these things is like saying being wounded in a knife fight teaches one to avoid knife fights.

After examining the effects of Santa-myths, one must ask why otherwise-reasonable people continue to perpetuate them. The reasons for maintaining these Santa-myths are varied. When I asked parents, I received responses such as "it makes [the children] excited," or "99% of other parents do it." These answers are not precisely reasons, but they do hint at the actual reasons. Firstly, children literally believing in Santa-myths look "cute" and endearingly childlike. A child earnestly going to bed believing Santa is coming during the night is "cute," due to the naivety that such behavior demonstrates, and makes adults nostalgic about the innocence of childhood. This reminiscing is what the adults desire, as it gives them a pleasant emotional feeling as well as the assurance that what they once did, their offspring will do (and thus a connection to the parents' own childhood.) Continuity of culture is important to many people.

Secondly, the "99% percent" response indicates a strong peer pressure component of the whole exercise. Parents and other adults often feel pressured to tell their children about Santa-myths because they fear that the other children, whose beliefs are fed by their own parents, would make children who don't believe in Santa-myths into exiles. Some parents who try anyway receive angry calls from other parents pressuring them to tell their children the right way and not "ruin their childhood." One interesting tale I heard some time ago from vsync of #kuro5hin is that one father told his son that Santa Claus did not, in fact, exist. He went to school and began telling the other children about this, who complained to their teacher. The teacher told this child that his _father_ was lying to him, and to stop telling the other children these lies. Another, more recent, news item is that a teacher in Austalia was fired for telling her class of six year olds that Santa did not exist. This indicates that even if one enlightened parent wants to dissent and break tradition, he will catch hell, so to speak, for it.

A third reason, unspoken, is a pragmatic need for discipline. Consider this scenario: If a parent tells her child that if he is good, Santa Claus will bestow presents on him, then the child believes he has an incentive to be "good," at least to an extent. Some parents go further by claiming they have a {Santa Claus|Easter Bunny} hotline. They sometimes threaten, "clean up your room or I'll call Santa Claus and tell him to bring coal!" The child, believing this, cleans his room not out of rational realization that he must (or for a reward), but under threat only. Many children I've spoken to believe in it simply "because," not for any rational reason, including these threats by parents. Why should parental discipline be hidden from children by mythology? Why say, "Santa will punish you" instead of "I will punish you" except for a selfish desire to deflect the source of the resulting ill will? There _are_ other methods of discipline, the highest being to convince a child to be self-disciplining. There is no need to use Santa-myths to do it.

These reasons indicate that Santa-myths have been firmly embedded in our society's culture. It is politically correct to perpetuate Santa-myths as truth. The news and discovery channel create fake programs to report on the progress of Santa, for instance, and a great deal of money revolves around symbols spurned from Santa Claus and other Santa-myths. Slowly changing the attitude of, "we must portray Santa-myths as literal truth" to "we will portray Santa as a symbol of what is good about Christmas, but not as literal truth" will be difficult, but it must be done. Doing it that way instead of simply eliminating it would preserve the economic machery that depends on Santa and preserve it as part of our culture, but eliminate its damaging effects on children. I think we, as a society and as a species, have advanced far enough to be honest wherever possible with people as important as our children.

¹ http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2001/4/14/22127/3736/52#52
² http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2001/4/14/22127/3736/30#30
³ http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2001/4/14/22127/3736/22#22
° http://www.kuro5hin.org/comments/2001/4/14/22127/3736/92#92

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Poll
Is it right to portray Santa as literal truth?
o Yes 29%
o No 70%

Votes: 87
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Kuro5hin
o http://www .kuro5hin.org/comments/2001/4/14/22127/3736/52#52
o http://www .kuro5hin.org/comments/2001/4/14/22127/3736/30#30
o http://www .kuro5hin.org/comments/2001/4/14/22127/3736/22#22
o http://www .kuro5hin.org/comments/2001/4/14/22127/3736/92#92
o Also by QuoteMstr


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Santa and Other Myths | 78 comments (72 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
It's Santa (3.00 / 9) (#2)
by joecool12321 on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:04:34 AM EST

Lighten up.

--Joey

No shit (4.00 / 1) (#27)
by jayhawk88 on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 03:38:21 PM EST

They sometimes threaten, "clean up your room or I'll call Santa Claus and tell him to bring coal!" The child, believing this, cleans his room not out of rational realization that he must (or for a reward), but under threat only.

As if you could expect most children to go clean their room by rationally explaining the reasons they need to. Face it: half of what kids do they do because a) They think they'll be rewarded for it or b) They know they'll be punished if they don't.

This kind of thinking reminds me so much of parents who refuse to spank or yell at their kids when they're throwing a fit of some kind. You see them sitting there, trying to rationalize with the kid, tell them how they don't need to be crying or throwing a tantrum, perhaps threatening them with "time out" when they get really upset. Meanwhile the kid just keeps screaming.

Children aren't rational; they aren't adults. They don't necessarily need to be treated like adults. Millions of us were told Santa was real, were threatened by our parents to "be good or else", and we eventually found out it was all bullshit. We weren't scarred for life, we don't secretly hate our parents for lying to us or manipulating us.

Why, then, should we grant government the Orwellian capability to listen at will and in real time to our communications across the Web? -- John Ashcroft
[ Parent ]
A few points (3.50 / 4) (#3)
by rebelcool on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:10:16 AM EST

The teacher wasn't fired, she was 'counseled'. Apparently it was a high school teacher substituting in a elementary class for some reason.

But anyway. I think the Santa thing started out much like the various Germanic fairy tales - be good and get a gift. Be bad and get coal! Though the german tales were usually a bit more gruesome (at least in their original stories)

Today Santa has more relevance to youth than Little Red Riding Hood or Hansel and Gretel. Every child knows these stories, but knows they're not real. But every child is familiar with Santa, and indeed, most believe in him. There is relevance in their lives. Might it persuade naughty children to be nice? Maybe.

Is belief in a lie good or bad? Depends. I dont think anyone was scarred for long after discovery of the unreality of Santa. Maybe christmas loses a bit of its magic though. Is that bad? Whos to say.

There are many untruths and myths in adults as well (such as the idea of the soulmate or that you'll find perfect love and live happily ever after...this subconscious western myth has probably a hand to the high rates of divorce in western society)

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

The Santa Land Diaries (4.66 / 6) (#4)
by lucidvein on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:19:19 AM EST

I recently heard this on NPR and found it very humorous. It contains many of the same points regarding the parental expectations of the Santa myth and consumer force it has become. A big part of the Xmas pressure is to achieve that picture perfect family with toys better than the neighbors rather than celebrating a Winter feast together.


http://www.thislife.org/ra/47.ram

TAL : At 5:00 - December 20, 1996 - Episode 47
Stories about the intersection of Christmas and retail, including David Sedaris's story "Santaland Diaries," which was first broadcast on NPR's Morning Edition several years ago in a much shorter version. The diaries are about David's two Christmas seasons working as an elf in Macy's Department store on New York's Herald Square.
from http://home.pacifier.com/~paddockt/h-work.html

I agree about separating myths from culture. Moral lessons should relate to your surrounding world. How does the big red man teach us about charity when the consumer mantra is BUY, BUY, BUY! We need to update our myths. Teach children what you want them to believe. Let them adapt the traditions to suit their lifestyles. Heck, we can even teach our parents if we work at it...

Each one, Teach one.

Ah yes.. Santa... (3.75 / 4) (#5)
by BigZaphod on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:27:16 AM EST

It just seems very wrong to get a kid all worked up to believe in something totally on faith and then to destroy that faith just when they are getting old enough to fully develop those sorts of higher-minded ideas. If you plan on raising a religous child, then a blow early in life could possibly be a real problem later.

I suspect the Santa stuff also affects things like trust in parental wisdom, and personal responsability later in life. By blaming Santa or using Santa as a scapegoat, the kid may learn to do the same him/herself later in life by blaming others for his/her own faults or mistakes. Also, it can't be good that the parent's word (which is LAW to a kid) can be wrong and can lie. It suddenly makes it much harder to believe anything the law is saying!

Of course there are good sides to the eventual discovery of truth. Basically, it teaches that not all laws/rules/facts are right. It can also imprint the idea to question authority, which isn't all bad.

There's a lot of possible things going on with the Santa myth, and its of course really hard to figure out what's true and what isn't in terms of long-term effects. I've been thinking that I might try to avoid the Santa stuff if I ever have kids of my own. It just doesn't seem right. Of course it also doesn't seem fair to the kid to make them suffer socially in school and such. Besides, maybe something like Santa can spark greater use of the imagination? Maybe there are ways to get the best of both worlds, but that would probably assume you have faith in the intelligence of your child--which is something a lot of parents seem to grossly underestimate.

"We're all patients, there are no doctors, our meds ran out a long time ago and nobody loves us." - skyknight
-1, too long. And you misspelled Australia (4.00 / 2) (#6)
by suick on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:31:50 AM EST

I just thought I'd bring up a point which many people overlook--children lie, and are quite manipulative when it comes to getting what they want (moreso than parents are with the whole "clean up your room or else" line).

Personally, I'm inclined to doubt your assertion that children believe in Santa "just because," due to the fact that those children polled are most probably lying and don't want to justify themselves (well, I'm mainly doubting it because I think you blatantly made up that "fact," but whatever). When I was younger I was well aware that the myth of Santa was a lie, but because I was instilled with the belief that Santa gave out all the presents, I told my parents every year that "of course he exists" (undoubtably this belief came from the fact that every year on TV, in the comics, and in my own home "Santa" is the one who distributes gifts--quoting "Santa" there of course because these same mediums pandered to the conflicting view that Santa was really your parents sneaking downstairs). It's this mentality of trying to ride out the whole Santa thing that brings us to the real lesson learned by children, which, incidently, has nothing to do with "not believing what you hear." Rather, the lesson has everything to do with learning to ignore the guilt you feel at lying to family members (something they will undoubtably need to be good at when they eventually become teenage prostitutes looking for their next hit).

order in to with the will I around my effort sentences an i of more be fuck annoying.
Ah yes, starting to get that christmas cheer. (4.50 / 4) (#9)
by suick on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:45:04 AM EST

I'm reminded of a story of my childhood, which begins in the second grade. And ends in the second grade. Because it's a fucking short story.

In class I was diligently working on my studies, when across the room an argument broke out between one girl and the rest of the members of her "group." Apparently she still believed in Santa (ludicrous at the time), and the rest of the group was harassing her over it. At the request of the teacher, this slow-witted girl explained what the situation was, which resulted in a good laugh [at her] for all. Naturally we all avoided her for quite some time (I think until she started putting out in fifth grade), and, even though the teacher sided with her, we all knew she stopped believing that day as well.

Ah, the joys of social control.

order in to with the will I around my effort sentences an i of more be fuck annoying.
[ Parent ]
You know (1.77 / 9) (#7)
by qpt on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:35:02 AM EST

Santa Clause is not real.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.

Heard of Santa Fangs? Santa Claws' cuzzy! (3.25 / 4) (#8)
by ragnarok on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:40:16 AM EST

Once, when I was boarding with a solo mum, I thought I'd get my back on the entire Santa Claws mythos, and replace it with something a bit closer to reality.

So I told the solo mum's daughter - with the solo mum's connivance - about Santa Fangs, Santa Claws' evil cousin - from the Fangs branch of the family, not the Claws side -, who rode in a sleigh drawn by wolves, chasing Santa Claws. But always arriving too late.

So in retaliation he drops down the chimney and beats up any naughty kids, and so on and so forth. Rudolf got his red nose from being bitten by Santa Fangs after Santa Fangs had had the misfortune to fly through the radioactive leaks from Chernobyl, or was it Three Mile Island? Or maybe Moruroa or Bikini?

After the child got seriously frightened, we spilled the beans. Only problem was that she told her cousin, and told it so well that she had to be cautioned by her aunt never to speak the name of Santa Fangs again, or face typical childhood sanctions ...

Fun while it lasted though! Perhaps you should try that - a set of counter-mythos tales that send them up skyhigh!


"And it came to healed until all the gift and pow, I, the Lord, to divide; wherefore behold, all yea, I was left alone....", Joseph Smith's evil twin sister's prophecies

Further Application (2.50 / 2) (#10)
by joecool12321 on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:51:51 AM EST

Hah! I like it. But it could be even more usefull.

"Tommy, did I ever tell you about Santa Fangs? I didn't?! Well, that's Santa Claus' evil twin! He's so jealous of Santa Claus that he follows behind him every Christmas, on a sleigh pulled by wolves! Now, Santa Claus always escapse from the evil twin, because reindeer are faster. But Santa Fangs doesn't like it! So he waits around for small children, who wake up too soon! If he catches them, he bites them on the nose, just like he did to Rudolph! So if you don't want a red nose, don't come to the Christmas tree before the sun is up, or Santa Fangs may get you!"

Parents will never be woken at 6 a.m. again (Sorry, Calvin (of the cartoon)).

--Joey

[ Parent ]
i agree (3.00 / 2) (#12)
by lucid on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 02:27:52 AM EST

This reminiscing is what the adults desire, as it gives them a pleasant emotional feeling as well as the assurance that what they once did, their offspring will do (and thus a connection to the parents' own childhood.) Continuity of culture is important to many people.

Parents tend to do the same thing in other areas as well. I think there is a link between the Santa Myth and the Jordan Myth. Both are just examples of the many tools available to parents to encourage social conformity.



Santa is the reason... (3.50 / 10) (#13)
by DeadBaby on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 03:45:02 AM EST

I could never believe in god... I mean I grew up being told there was a Santa and a GOD, when I was about 7 I figured out the first part of it.. the other followed pretty quickly.

Once you realize the world WILL lie to you, even if you're a child, it's hard to get on my knees so JESUS and his father can give it to me.


"Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
because children are enjoying it (4.40 / 5) (#14)
by jesterzog on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 03:55:46 AM EST

Okay, I'll bite and go against what seems to be the mainstream so far. :) I don't quite follow this.

I received responses such as "it makes [the children] excited," or "99% of other parents do it." These answers are not precisely reasons, but they do hint at the actual reasons. Firstly, children literally believing in Santa-myths look "cute" and endearingly childlike.

You seem to be taking an argument about how the child feels but your counterpoint is talking about the adult point of view. How do you translate the "hint" into this "actual reason"? From what I've seen, most of the children do get really excited and some parents actually want their children to feel good. For heaps of young children I've seen, christmas is a magical time of year for them because it's like they're in a fairy tale, and lots of children with developing minds grow up wishing they were part of fairy tales, whether they believe they're true or not. How many young children do you think are out there at the moment playing games about being at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry?

My personal view is that it's irrelevant whether children look cute or not. They're really enjoying it, and I've always figured that that's why so many parents are quite happy to let their children believe in santa for a while. As children get older and their brains develop to accept the world and process information more rationally, they're never going to enjoy something in that way again. If you've ever glanced at child psychology (admittedly I haven't in much detail other than a quick look), there are recognised steps that children's minds go through at different ages when they're developing and how they process information.

And sure they outgrow it, and they'll find out that santa's not real. And they might or might not take this out on the parents. Or maybe they'll start learning that lying is good. (I'm sure they wouldn't pick that up elsewhere in the real world.) If you'd prefer to let developing children grow up in a conforming, rational world that makes sense then I won't try to stop you, but you might have trouble stopping your childrens minds from going off on their own in some other direction anyway. I can sympathise with parents who choose to let it happen. Sure some of it's lying, and I guess you should weigh discipline/rationality with enjoyment on your own scale and make an individual decision.


jesterzog Fight the light


We didn't lie to our daughter (4.63 / 11) (#15)
by katravax on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 03:56:56 AM EST

I'm posting this only to tell anyone that might care that there are some people that have put not lying to kids into practice, and that it absolutely can be done.

Our daughter is now eight. My wife and I made the decision early on not to lie to her at all, including the bits about Santa, the Easter Bunny, etc. Our opinion was that how could we expect her to tell us the truth if we didn't do the same? Any discussions that we thought were best left until she was older were deferred with something like "We'll explain that when you're older," or "There are other things you'll have to know first; we'll work up to that one." Those were few and far between, so she didn't feel like they were an excuse not to explain something (and we followed up on all of them). For the record, we also decided to home school, though that got put off until third grade because she wanted to go to school. A twisted evil witch of a third-grade teacher changed her mind.

Lots of decisions we made brought complaints from some family members, including that we were "abusing" our daughter by not telling her Santa was real. I never understood how that was abuse. We made sure to tell her that most parents told their children that Santa was real, and she should probably keep it to herself around kids her age (though we didn't insist). When she asked why other parents told their kids that, we had to answer honestly that we weren't sure why something like that became commonplace.

It's worked well so far. Not only do we have a clean conscience, but our daughter is truthful with us even when it would be easy to lie to cover up something she's done wrong. I don't think, of course, that the Santa thing in particular is the reason, but the policy in general. We've struggled with how to explain some more complex things to her rather than to spin them or lie about them, but she's accustomed to learning things she doesn't like, and it's gotten easier for all of us as she's gotten older and has more base knowlege to understand deeper explanations.



I agree with the relatives. (1.33 / 3) (#33)
by fradolcin on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 02:17:59 AM EST

Of course, people can bring up their children almost any way they want. I suspect that it's pretty sick, though, to not tell "the lie" of Santa Claus and especially to extend your freshness seal by homeschooling her; especially since it sounds by your post that it wasn't really her decision, even after the third grade. Interaction with other kids is an important part of growing up; having shared stories like Santa Claus is most likely just as enriching, despite the fact that telling it involves "lying."

I don't know if everybody I met was lied to about Christmas and Easter, but I think people tell stories fairly constantly; stories to themselves and about themselves. Since lying constantly is a basic human trait, which you and your daughter probably do already, what's wrong with one more historical story about a jolly elf?

BTW, it's probably pretty psychotic to want to know every secret your daughter harbors.

[ Parent ]

telling stories (none / 0) (#37)
by kubalaa on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 08:10:14 AM EST

There's a difference between telling stories for enjoyment and presenting something as the truth, which many adults seem to not have learned either.

[ Parent ]
Part of a bigger pattern (5.00 / 1) (#49)
by pkesel on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 12:21:16 PM EST

The lying regarding Santa is essentially the same kind of lying and delusion that comes with religious faith. It's an idea that is supported on a societal level because it's told so much that it's easier to perpetuate the falshood than it is to reject it. The Santa falsehood comes apart though because the veracity is tested at a var lower threshold than religion. At some point the individual must be responsible for his family's participation in the falsehood for it to continue. The illusion falls apart.

Religion is a similar socially supported falsehood, but its premises cannot be tested except through death, and then there is no way to prove contrary to the premises.

Look at one of the famous biblical incidents where Jesus walked on the water. We all have years of personal experience with water, and we know very well what happens when a man tries to stand upon it. There is nothing in our experience that suggests that the biblical story can be any more true than the Jack and the Beanstalk fable. Still, Christians around the world live the lie.

I think we should teach our children, and adults as well, to resolve the ridiculous notions of religion with the truths that govern their lives every day. Truth cannot be contradictory.

Why do people accept arguments from religion that would not stand up to our personal scrutiny? Would you believe that your daughter's or wife's son was born without spoiling virginity? Would you refute the chemist's claim that there is no way to turn water into wine? Alchemy went out with the dark ages. Why does a 2000 year old story make people forget their simple reason?



[ Parent ]
Whatever (5.00 / 1) (#74)
by katravax on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 05:51:16 AM EST

Of course, people can bring up their children almost any way they want. I suspect that it's pretty sick, though, to not tell "the lie" of Santa Claus and especially to extend your freshness seal by homeschooling her; especially since it sounds by your post that it wasn't really her decision, even after the third grade.

Define "sick". It was also her choice, for your information. We gave her the choice, and she wanted home schooling. She's always had the choice, and has always known she's had it. She can also return any time she wants, and we'll honor that decision. You and other people that have never spoken to my daughter assume we have her locked up and are drilling whatever twisted view of the world you imagine we have into her head. You're wrong.

Interaction with other kids is an important part of growing up[...]

Since you're an expert on growing up, tell me, is it also an important part of growing up to witness the generic cruelty and detachment that is commonplace in schools? Is it also important to see the bullies beat up the other kids and then have them turn on you when you try to help the person that got beat up? Is it important to make straight 100% test scores, win the state-wide art competition (all grades), be in gifted classes in first and second grade, and then in third grade be placed in the "slow" group where they're still reviewing first and second grade material? If so, we've deprived her of that as well. We're so awful. If ballet lessons, home-school P.E. at the Y with two-dozen other kids, and her other friends aren't enough interaction, then I guess she'll get to tell her therapist all about it when she's an adult.

Since lying constantly is a basic human trait, which you and your daughter probably do already, what's wrong with one more historical story about a jolly elf?

You sure do think you know us. Just because lying is commonplace in your circle (and I'm assuming it is, or you wouldn't think it's commonplace everywhere), doesn't mean that it is okay, nor that everyone accepts it. Instead of whining about everything that's wrong, my wife and I decided to do something right. It's tough to do that sometimes. Trying to never lie is a small thing to do, but it makes at least a small difference in how I feel when I go to bed. For whatever other crappy things I've done that are on my conscience, at least that's not making it worse.

BTW, it's probably pretty psychotic to want to know every secret your daughter harbors.

I would agree. No one that I'm aware of wants to know her secrets. There's a big difference between telling the truth and telling your secrets. I'm not sure how you confuse the two. My daughter has the right to say something is private or she doesn't want to tell us something. As long as it's not something where someone is being harmed or potentially harmed, that's her right, and we respect it. She's also openly responsible for her own behavior. Are you responsible for yours?

For your information, and everyone else accusing of of stealing our child's "childhood" whatever that is, listen closely: you are wrong, and if you knew our daughter you would know that. She has a very rich fantasy life, and enjoys the thought of fantasy creatures as much as any other little girl. Sometimes she's Sailor Moon, or Laura Ingalls, or that girl from Dragonball Z, or on the GhostWriter team. She reads comic books and novels and makes paper dolls. She does flips on her trampoline, rollerblades in in the street, plays games on her computer, surfs the Internet, and overfeeds her fish. She wears dress-up clothes, leaves her room messy, flies paper airplanes, picks flowers, is still confused by bicycles, and watches TV. She has a great sense of humor, and is one of the most outstanding artists I've ever seen, even at age eight. And that's been HER doing, not ours. She's that way because that's what she likes. If you think I like Sailor Moon and hearing the details of Digimon or that the fish is doing the exact same funny thing he did the last six days in a row, you're wrong. She likes that stuff, and we let her do it.

If you want to know what steals childhood, then look at what you are doing. Jerry Springer comes on right after cartoons. Your kids beat the crap out of other kids because they're weaker or different or refuse to participate in mocking those that are. Creativity and any thought that even slightly diverges from the mainstream are punished. K-Mart sells lingerie in the kids section and JC Penney sells high-heeled shoes in child's size one. You dress your little girls up in makeup and parade them in beauty contests. You get them so concerned about their appearance that they're binge dieting in fourth grade. God forbid you actually just provide healthy food to start with. You curse at their coaches and referees for fair calls. You lie to the cop that pulls you over while your kid watches. You cheat on your taxes, you cheat on your spouse, and wonder where you went wrong when your kid cheats on a test. You laugh at the commercial where the kid lies to his parents to get to go to McDonalds, and then punish your kid for lying about not brushing his teeth.

And you call me abusive because I dared to tell my daughter that Santa Clause was a fun story, just like Digimon or The Hobbit, but not real. You call me abusive because my daughter reads high-school science books for fun and I continue to provide them as long as she's interested. You call me abusive for standing up for her when she's been maligned, or docking her allowance when she skips cleaning her room for four days straight after being reminded several times a day. I'm right, and I know I'm right, and my happy, kind-hearted, well-adjusted, funny, smart daughter is proof.

I have proof this way works well for my child. I can point to my daughter and there she is, exactly as I've described. Where's your evidence that your way is right?



[ Parent ]
Disconnection from youth (3.50 / 2) (#43)
by MicroBerto on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 10:56:38 AM EST

The problem I see here, and this is not at all verified, is that there seems to be a growing separation between your child and other youths. You tell her things that contradict the "knowledge" of other children, and although she might know the right thing, she now also may think that she's smarter and better than other kids her age.

I know that it's good to have confidence and be proud of yourself, but it shouldn't be taken to a level of arrogance, so when telling kids things that other kids don't know, keep an eye on it.

And then, needless to say, she's home-schooled.

If it comes down to it for me, I'd rather lie to my child so that he can communicate with other kids well rather than raise him in this elitest adult culture that we try to fashion.

Berto
- GAIM: MicroBerto
Bertoline - My comic strip
[ Parent ]

Not disconnected at all (none / 0) (#73)
by katravax on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 04:54:09 AM EST

If it comes down to it for me, I'd rather lie to my child so that he can communicate with other kids well rather than raise him in this elitest adult culture that we try to fashion.

Okay, then go ahead. Since you don't know me and you don't know my daughter, you're in no position to judge. I think lying is wrong, period. I don't care how approved some lies are, they're still lies. If you want to lie to your child for whatever reason, so be it.

And then, needless to say, she's home-schooled.

If you have a specific complaint, share it. Otherwise, what was the meaning of this comment?



[ Parent ]
an exercise in self-denial (4.27 / 11) (#16)
by gibichung on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 05:49:58 AM EST

I propose that we have not thought sufficiently deeply about the consequences of portraying Santa as a true person who really does personally deliver gifts to each good child.

The answer to this question is obvious enough that anyone who doesn't see it should perhaps turn their attention inward for a moment and ask themselves how they could have missed it. Parents "lie" to their children because they can. The author has demonstrated that he understands this, but he ignores the reason "why?".

To understand why, we should start with a old concept central to entertainment: suspension of disbelief. No matter how advanced the medium, an adult has to consciously ignore the obvious if they want to enjoy fantasy. Unfortunately, the capacity for suspension of disbelief fades with age. Children, because of their lack of experience and unfamiliarity with abstract thought, are more easily absorbed in imagination. And they get more out of it; children "feel" more. And Christmas makes them feel good. So the answer to the question "why do adults present fiction to children as fact?" is "because they can" and "because children enjoy it."

To return to what I see as the real insight to be gained from this story, we should ask "Why do some people take it upon themselves to challenge Santa Claus?" Just as Santa Claus exists because of an emotion as simple as "joy," I've found those who seek to destroy him are motivated by an emotion just as basic: jealousy. In my experience, people who don't understand Santa Claus have missed out, either because they were never introduced to him as a child or they've simply forgotten what it was like... they don't really understand and they resent it.

To those of you who have missed out one way or another... just try to remember what it was like to be a kid, and let others have fun.

-----
"No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we require him to obey it." -- Theodore Roosevelt

because children enjoy it (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by kubalaa on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 08:06:38 AM EST

I disagree with you because I see no indication that reality cannot be just as interesting and just as enjoyable as anything we can make up. "Those who seek to destroy him" are motivated by the desire to teach people to take pleasure from the real world around them. Indeed, I think it's much more fun to suspend disbelief when that's what you're doing, as opposed to having the wool pulled over your eyes by someone else.

I don't believe in Santa Clause and I can't say I feel any worse because of it. You seem threatened by the idea. Which of is is really more jealous of the myth?

Come on in, the water's fine.

[ Parent ]

Exactly! (4.00 / 1) (#53)
by QuoteMstr on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 03:43:37 PM EST

I think it's much more fun to suspend disbelief when that's what you're doing, as opposed to having the wool pulled over your eyes by someone else.
Yes, exanctly, and I supppse children would be best at learning to suspend disbelief. I do like Santa, I just don't like it being told as if it were _literal_ truth. Many people, in various comments, have said that children enjoy believing in Santa. That would be well and good if they had a choice! If it's told as absolute truth from parents, given how trusting children are, they'll believe it not out of any earnest enjoyment they gain from it, but from the instinct they have to listen to their parents.

[ Parent ]
Troll? (1.14 / 7) (#17)
by gromgull on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 07:05:41 AM EST

Surely he cannot be serious, and he should seriously consider taking up a hobby to make the xmas holidays go, rather than writing far, far, faaaar too long stories for K5.

-1

--
If I had my way I'd have all of you shot

What's the problem? (4.63 / 11) (#19)
by John Thompson on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 08:33:13 AM EST

When my daughter was ten, she came up to me and confessed "I know there's not really a Santa Claus, daddy." And then she went on" "But it sure is fun to pretend!"

It's like rain on your wedding day... (2.66 / 3) (#21)
by enterfornone on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 12:09:38 PM EST

complaining about people telling their children about a mythological character who punishes you if you are bad and rewards you if you are good, at Christmas time.

--
efn 26/m/syd
Will sponsor new accounts for porn.
Make up your mind, willya? (4.66 / 3) (#22)
by j on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 12:11:01 PM EST

[...]why would we not give up lying to our children? We should --- it's about time.
[...]
However, lies to children are often justified by a need to simplify the world for children. [...]For instance, the classic image of a stork bringing babies defers discussion of sex, and sugar-coating of death can make a loss of a family member easier.

I'm partly with you on the death thing. I do think that death should be explained as gently as possible. Lying about it is not a good idea, though. Santa Claus is a pretty inconsequential part of life; I don't feel bad making up stories about him. Death, on the other hand...
I have a three-year-old daughter. The reason we talked about death to her was that we wanted her to know that running into a street or jumping out of a window can lead to things that a Band Aid(tm) won't fix. She took the lesson without getting overly paranoid.
Of course, that doesn't compare to having to tell her that a relative died. We once took her to the memorial service for a friend who had died in a car accident. It was quite beautiful. Of course she wanted to know why all the people were crying. What were we supposed to tell her? She took the explanation quite well.

As for the stork, I have to disagree completely. Just yesterday, my daughter told guests at our little christmas party "I growed in the belly of Mama, and then I came out and then I was a baby". I was very proud of her and I don't see how replacing this knowledge with the myth of the stork would benefit anyone. Is sex really such a horrible thing that we can't talk to our children about it?
I know a decent number of kids and it seems like they have one thing in common: They don't tend to ask for information that they can't handle. That goes for sex, death, food allergies and pretty much everything else.

By the way, have you ever asked yourself whether kids might actually know the truth about Santa Claus and whether they are just playing along to humour us grown-ups? Sometimes, I do wonder...

playing along (3.00 / 1) (#35)
by kubalaa on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 07:59:41 AM EST

From personal experience, I know the desire to indulge in patently false beliefs doesn't end at childhood. Kids are really smart, but they're not THAT smart, and they're dumbest in knowing when to trust their brains over their feelings.

[ Parent ]
ask for information (none / 0) (#39)
by kubalaa on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 08:22:25 AM EST

They don't tend to ask for information that they can't handle.

Or consider something slightly different: if the kid can't figure it out themselves, then they're not ready for it. This is obviously the natural limiting factor; what if parents just let it work?

[ Parent ]

Let them figure it out? (none / 0) (#44)
by j on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 11:23:06 AM EST

Or consider something slightly different: if the kid can't figure it out themselves, then they're not ready for it. This is obviously the natural limiting factor; what if parents just let it work?

Sometimes, it works. The best example for where it fails would be traffic safety. The little ones figure out running around long before they could figure out by themselves that running around on a busy road can be detrimental to your health.

And would you still try to make them figure it out themselves if they specifically ask you. Won't fly. Trust me on this one ;)

[ Parent ]

Much better (4.00 / 1) (#25)
by Highlander on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 01:35:08 PM EST

Much better try than the last time, QuoteMaster.

But to discuss the topic: Children are impressionable people, so isn't it really bad to show them the anchorman on TV and to pretend the anchorman is a real person ?

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.

Huh? (none / 0) (#56)
by blaine on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 04:33:04 PM EST

How are these two things even remotely related?

Santa is a fictional character. He does not exist. He is based upon a once-real person who died a long time ago. Claiming that he is living now, and flies around the world giving presents to the good children of the world on Christmas Eve is a baldfaced lie.

An anchorman on television, on the other hand, is a real, living person. Just because you are viewing their image which is being broadcast via television doesn't make them any less real. Watching them on television is no more real than having them sit in front of you and report the news, excepting that the image is being broadcast. Exactly how is it a lie to claim that he is a real person?

[ Parent ]
How the anchorman isn't a real person (none / 0) (#66)
by Highlander on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 07:29:25 AM EST

The anchorman isn't a real person because he is a normal person playing the anchorman.

You would be surprised if you asked the person playing the anchorman what his real opinion on a news item is.

Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
[ Parent ]

Err, huh? (3.00 / 1) (#72)
by mold on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 03:31:26 AM EST

The anchorman is a real person, and is the anchorman. Anchorman is an occupation, not a character. I don't play a programmer; I am a programmer.

And besides, no opinion is supposed to be portrayed by the anchorman. The anchorman is only supposed to announce the news, and the viewers are to gather their own opinions.

---
Beware of peanuts! There's a 0.00001% peanut fatality rate in the USA alone! You could be next!
[ Parent ]
Different strokes (4.00 / 3) (#26)
by I am Jack's username on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 03:12:13 PM EST

Personalities differ. I'd say that most people (those with the Myer s Briggs personality types of esxx (specifically esfj)) enjoy Santa-myths, both as children and adults. Many intxs (the typical programmer) dislike logical fallicies and lies, even if others think it inconsequential - fibbs.

Disclaimer: I'm an inT*p.
--
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell

Parents undermine relationships when they lie (4.25 / 4) (#28)
by grout on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 04:02:36 PM EST

My sister had taught her son that Santa was real. Some schoolmates clued him in; he told my sister. She asked him whether he believed his friends. His reply? "Of course Santa is real. You wouldn't lie to me...."

What a loss in their relationship ... and so unnecessary!
--
Chip Salzenberg, Free-Floating Agent of Chaos

Kids and Santa (3.50 / 4) (#29)
by Tatarigami on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 04:48:43 PM EST

Have you spent much time with kids?

Maybe you should try it. Sit down with a few pots of water-based paint and a big blank sheet of paper. Before long you'll find the kids telling you made-up stories about fairies and trolls and their bigger, more respectable cousins.

If you want children to grow up without any conflicting input about mythological critters at the poles, you'll have to cut them off from all media, not just their parents. Give them a few textbooks and lock them in a closet.

Incidentally, what's your position on zero-tolerance in schools? Do you agree that drawing a sketch of a gun is just as evil as shooting a classful of fellow students?

Does childhood have a purpose? (4.60 / 5) (#30)
by zakalwe on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 05:15:15 PM EST

Firstly, the purpose of childhood is to teach about and to prepare for adult life, no?
Unless you're also going to tell me what the purpose of life is, I don't think you can make any claim as to the "purpose" of childhood. Its just as reasonable to claim that the purpose of childhood is to "enjoy a period on innocence."

Even if we accept your premise, surely one of the best possible lessons (though admittedly a rather harsh one) is to show them that even the people they love best will lie to them for something as trivial as a tradition - and that even being lied to doesn't necesserily imply harm.

Personally, I agree with your conclusion, but not your argument. If I ever have children, I don't intend to perpetuate the myth of Santa - but for the simple reason that I don't want to lie to them, not any real damage I think would be caused either way. I don't intend telling other parents kids, and may even ask my own not to bring it up with them. I think its a silly, and possibly even a slightly bad tradition, but there's more harm in going against the prevailing culture than just individually ignoring it.

The Purpose of Life (2.50 / 2) (#31)
by SPrintF on Wed Dec 26, 2001 at 06:13:30 PM EST

A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.

--- Samuel Butler

You're welcome.

[ Parent ]

Children (3.00 / 1) (#32)
by scanman on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 12:33:55 AM EST

I do not believe young children (less than 5 or 6) can truly be classified as people. They are incapable of rational thought. They are incapable of even seperating truth from falsehood and fantasy from reality. They cannot reliably make logical deductions. They are prone to self-delusions and blatant lying. They are well known to blatantly lie under oath. They can be easily made to tell the most preposterous lies imaginable. In that particular case, children testified under oath that a man killed elephants and giraffes in their preschool, and also killed and sodomized several children. In conclusion, it really doesn't matter what you tell children, they are too stupid to seperate false from true anyway.

"[You are] a narrow-minded moron [and] a complete loser." - David Quartz
"scanman: The moron." - ucblockhead
"I prefer the term 'lifeskills impaired'" - Inoshiro

until they grow up (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by kubalaa on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 07:55:52 AM EST

The point is that, while I think your characterization is harsh but true, things children learn during this period will continue to effect them even after they have left it. So while telling a child Santa is a myth won't make them any more introspective as a 4 year old, when they hit 7 or 8 the memory of it might.

[ Parent ]
Everything you say (none / 0) (#41)
by theR on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 09:32:24 AM EST

Beyond the first sentence, everything you say is true for people of any age, not just children. So what's your point?



[ Parent ]
the game (4.00 / 1) (#38)
by kubalaa on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 08:20:02 AM EST

I've posted agreeing with the author a few times, so I may as well try the other side. Santa is a game. A puzzle. Let me try a stretched analogy. People say communication in relationships is good. But haven't you ever had a relationship where half the fun was not communicating? Where you weren't sure if there was something there or not, or what the other person felt for you, but guessing and hoping and dropping hints made it so interesting that you wouldn't want to know?

That's what Santa Clause is like. Any smart kid knows what he does is impossible. But it's fun to make a game out of it, like how far can we stretch the idea and play it out without giving up the secret? With my mom we always had these great traditions where we'd put cookies out for santa, and carrots outside out for the reindeer, and in the morning we'd see he'd left some crumbs and the reindeer would leave carrot stumps and some candy. And we'd get presents from the Elves, and from Ms. Clause, and from Santa, but from each other too.

One time when I must have been 9 or 10, I knew perfectly well that Santa didn't exist, but I went outside and there was a reindeer print in the mud by our door, and it was so cool. I spent a while trying to figure out how it was done, and a couple years later I actually found the implement (carved out of wood). But it was still fun to suspend disbelief.

So that's really the thing, is I think the ideal would be to let kids figure it out for themselves. Don't say anything that's an outright lie, but don't totally rob them of the chance to do their own learning. After all, that's the fun of being a kid, is learning things yourself; it's no fun to have everything spoonfed.

Some opposing views (5.00 / 3) (#40)
by jd on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 09:32:03 AM EST

First, let's take the question of whether it is "lying" or not. In a purely mechanical sense, you can indeed argue that it is. There is no "Santa Clause" from Lapland (or the North Pole), flying around on a sled, powered by reindeer.

However, symbology forms 99.9% of all human communication, so maybe we need to look beyond the mere mechanics, and take a look at the symbology of this "myth". Santa Clause represents the acts of unconditional acceptance and unconditional giving. (The idea of "bad kids only get coal" is a relatively recent perversion, and certainly merits the title of child abuse.)

Then, there's the history that lies behind the myth. St. Niclause was a very real person, who did his utmost to ensure that the needy had the means to survive the harsh North European winters. This devotion to the care and needs of others is infinitely more worthy of remembrance than half the designated days in the British or American calendars.

Can we truly say that this story, told in it's purest symbolic form, is harmful? IMHO, no.

But, can we say that the twisted and corrupt versions which exist are harmful? Certainly! Manipulating and deceiving a child, in order to get them to do what you want, is abuse. Pure and simple. And it really should be treated as such.

It is one thing to tell a story, with the purpose of enriching their lives and reinforcing the values of caring for others, by means of a "heroic/fantastic" role-model. It is another to terrify a child into obedience, through threats.

Society, if it is EVER to come to terms with real people and their real limitations, must FIRST come to terms with the fictional super-heros and super-villains that they create from those people. This is not just about Santa, either. Which matters more, in the grand scheme of things - whether Jesus fed 5,000 people with 3 loaves and 2 fish, or whether he preached a message of tolerence, kindness and compassion? If you see only the food, and ignore the message (and PLENTY of churches see only the blood, and ignore the message), then does that nullify him or your view of him?

The same is true of others The media LOVES to rip into celebrities, ignoring what each has given the world, in the obsessive madness of showing every speck of dirt in the celebrities' past, under the most powerful microscopes the media can obtain. Sooner or later, nobody is going to BOTHER doing anything of any significance. The price is getting to be too bloody high. What's the point? Nobody enjoys being disemboweled, for the pleasure of the gore-loving creatures that blacken the name of humanity.

I'm sure that if you REALLY worked hard to get past your prejudices, you'd even find that guys like bin Laden are really just fairly ordinary people, who breath, eat, and go to the bathroom, just like any other person. Ordinary people, sure, but under very extraordinary stresses. Nobody is born with a fanatical hatred. Except maybe of anchovies on pizza. Each and every person alive is shaped and moulded by their environment, and in turn, the environment is shaped and moulded by each and every one of us.

Whether we make someone a super-hero, or a super-villain, then, has nothing to do with the person. That is a label WE add on, for OUR purposes. Beneath that label, there is a real person, with a real story to tell. Sometimes, as with Santa Clause, society is probably not mature enough yet to grow out of seeing the label. Perhaps it never will. Each time I see someone campaign to rid the world of the story of Santa, I see that the ethos of sharing, rather than hording, of looking beyond the "me", is simply not there, yet. Some day, maybe, we can do without the pretty packaging.

Until then, see what's inside before throwing it away.

correction (none / 0) (#69)
by saytan on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 11:38:41 PM EST

i agree with most of your argument, but you have a major factual error. saint nicholas was from asia minor in the fourth century and had nothing to do with northern europe or harsh winter nights. he is known for giving three bags of gold to three unwed maidens so that they could be married, saving them from a life of prostitution. the sentiment of the story is the same, but i thought that you should probably have done a bit more research before you said that. this page gives a little information on him. he's also the patron saint of "seafarers, scholars, bankers, pawnbrokers, jurists, brewers, coopers, travelers, perfumers, unmarried girls, brides, robbers" and children.

saytan

[ Parent ]
Santa: a real threat :-/ (none / 0) (#71)
by SocratesGhost on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 12:18:36 AM EST

It is one thing to tell a story, with the purpose of enriching their lives and reinforcing the values of caring for others, by means of a "heroic/fantastic" role-model. It is another to terrify a child into obedience, through threats.

How is Santa threatening anyone? He's basically saying, if you're good you'll get a reward. If you're not, you don't.

More importantly, should you--as a parent--reward your child unconditionally or do you "threaten" them by not getting them something when they are bad (and are therefor abusive according to your argument)?

-Soc
I drank what?


[ Parent ]
The Purpose of Childhood (4.75 / 4) (#42)
by PresJPolk on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 10:08:10 AM EST

The purpose of childhood is no different from the purpose of the rest of life.

Biologically the goal is survival for mass procreation. But, as humans, children don't have to be limited to that. So, their purpose is whatever they end up wanting.

And, it turns out many enjoy Santa Claus. So, as long as they enjoy it, let them have it. It's up to the parent to figure out whether they're enjoying it or being harmed by it.

Refutations (4.60 / 5) (#45)
by tjh on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 11:34:43 AM EST

1. 'The purpose of childhood is to teach about and to prepare for adult life'

Why? IMHO, the purpose of childhood is whatever you want it to be.

2. The 'Santa' myth and the 'emperors new clothes' myth serve different purposes (you seem to be confused about this):

Emperors new clothes - Instructive fable
Santa & Easter Bunny - Enjoyable tale
Tooth Fairy - Helps ease the pain and discomfort of losing teeth

3. You seem to be saying that children don't really enjoy believing in Santa.

This is not true. I cite my experience as evidence: when I was young Santa made my Christmases magical, and many times more enjoyable.

Thus your argument is based on three false premises:
1. That the purpose of childhood is instruction
2. That all myths and tales serve to instruct
3. That no child enjoys believing in Santa

Merry Christmas.

Purpose of childhood (going off on a tangent) (none / 0) (#55)
by Macrobat on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 04:25:39 PM EST

Please be precise:
IMHO, the purpose of childhood is whatever you want it to be.
I suspect you don't really mean that. Who is the "you" of that sentence? The parent? Does that mean the child can be a sex object, or slave labor, or just a talking punching bag, if the parent wants it to be? Or is childhood whatever the child wants it to be? That way leads to spoiled children and uncontrolled temper tantrums.

Now, I don't imagine this is what you mean. If I'm right, and you don't, then I suppose you would agree that childhood does require some--perhaps a lot of--purposeful instruction. Whether or not the Santa myth interferes with this I don't know, but I think the notion of childhood as an arbitrary period where children don't need to prepare for later life only prolongs their period of dependence and naivete, and makes the transition between childhood and adulthood that much more difficult.

Like I say, I don't think you really mean that, but I've heard some people use the "children must be children" story as a way to avoid dealing with unpleasant situations, (e.g., divorce, drug abuse in the family, etc.)--enough that I'm always suspicious of anything that sounds like it.

Counterbalancing that, I think there are levels of detail that are appropriate for a child's emotional and intellectual development. What those are, I'm not sure (and this post is getting long anyhow). Also, I think training for adulthood most assuredly does not mean losing a sense of wonder, giving up the ability to play and have fun, or a host of other things that people mean when they say "acting like an adult."

So I think it's fair to say that childhood at least involves, among other things, preparation for adulthood. And I think that's what QuoteMstr's getting at.


"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

I don't intend to lie (4.50 / 2) (#46)
by pkesel on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 11:51:53 AM EST

I have a son who will soon be two years old. Next year he'll be old enough to start understanding the Santa myth. I don't intend to propagate that myth in my family, but I also don't intend to undermine whatever others wish to do with theirs.

I intend to tell my son that Santa is for those families that need him. He may visit other families, but our family doesn't need Santa's help. I do intend to keep the tradition of unknown presents on Christmas day, and the content of those presents will be based on behavior just the same. I think that the idea of my judging his behavior will be a stronger influence than the idea of Santa's list. He lives with me every day.

FWIW, I am also a rehabilitated Catholic, and my family does not practice any religion, so Christmas is a purely social holiday. It's a celebration of the family. Just as I don't wish to propagate the myths of Santa, I also don't propagate the lies and myths of religion. I personally believe that the lies and deceit of religion is far more damaging than Santa.



Be prepared (none / 0) (#75)
by katravax on Sat Dec 29, 2001 at 06:01:24 AM EST

People will claim you're abusing your son or stealing his childhood. Read the responses to my post to see what you'll be dealing with. You'll hear those same accusations from family who have never bothered to speak two words to your child.



[ Parent ]
I'm guessing... (3.33 / 6) (#47)
by psychophil on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 12:05:54 PM EST

That you don't actually have any kids yourself.

Not a valid sentiment, really (5.00 / 2) (#52)
by broken77 on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 02:56:24 PM EST

Who cares if the author has kids or not? It was clearly stated that there are actual parents that believe the same way as the author. I worked with a guy that had 5 kids, and told me that the way he approached the subject of Santa was to tell his kids the truth, but supplement that by saying that other people play this "game" because they think it's a lot of fun, and the kids shouldn't spoil anyone else's fun. I also don't plan on teaching my kids the Santa myth, just as I plan on teaching them to avoid fighting whenever possible, and be courteous, and so forth. The fact that I have kids or not now does not change that sentiment. If you're a responsible parent, I think you're going to make up your mind how you're going to raise your kids before it happens, and not by the seat of your pants...

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

Actually (none / 0) (#62)
by psychophil on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 08:34:57 PM EST

I think it is a very valid sentiment. I have 4 kids and it amazes me to no end the number of people who believe they are child rearing experts and know the perfect way to handle every situation with a child. Fact of the matter is these people have no idea what they are talking about and have never so much as changed a diaper. These are generally the same people who believe boys and girls act the same until they are 'programmed' with the toys they play with. My 2 yr old son likes to play with barbies as much as my daughters... he just prefers to rip their heads of and run them over with the tonkas. Like I've said before, everyone is welcome to their opinion. All I'm saying is that its very easy to identify the child rearing opinion of a non-parent since it just doesn't quite fit into the reality of rasing a child.

[ Parent ]
My point (none / 0) (#68)
by broken77 on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 01:28:40 PM EST

We're talking here about instituting values and beliefs into children here. We're not talking about how we're going to react when they throw tantrums, how we're going to buy clothes for them, how we're going to deal with bullies at school... Raising our kids with/without the belief of Santa Claus is like raising our kids in the Catholic church. We know beforehand whether or not we're going to do this. It is a belief system and a philosophy. So again, it matters not if we have kids.

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

and again.... (none / 0) (#76)
by psychophil on Sun Dec 30, 2001 at 02:03:36 AM EST

You are talking about how you will act in a situation you have never been in. You assume that your ideals will have a certain desired effect when implemented. Truth of the matter is that you have no idea what the results will be until you are fully involved. The greatest lesson I took out of the Marines was the reliazation that I will have to improvise and adapt to every situtation. When you are confronted with the reality of the situation and you see the way the kids react, you will modify your ideals. Basically, you will lie to your child to get them to shut up for 15 minutes so you can eat dinner without going insane.

[ Parent ]
and again... (none / 0) (#78)
by broken77 on Wed Jan 02, 2002 at 06:28:51 PM EST

I respectfully disagree. I suppose I'll just leave it at that, or this could go on forever.

I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
[ Parent ]

You are correct (5.00 / 1) (#54)
by QuoteMstr on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 03:44:43 PM EST

But why does that suddenly invalidate my opinions?

[ Parent ]
Invalidate? (none / 0) (#61)
by psychophil on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 08:23:37 PM EST

Hmmm... where did I ever said your opinion was invalid? Your opinion is your opinion. All I did was surmise, based on your opinion, that you did not have any children.

[ Parent ]
Correction (4.50 / 2) (#48)
by Anonymous Brave on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 12:16:16 PM EST

«cockfighting and bear-baiting, sports society has long renounced. Both passing myths off as truth and animal fights have the quality of abusing the ignorance of the participants for the amusement of the audience. Society has given up animal fights» I hope this would be true. In my own country (Portugal) there are still bullfightings, probably one of the most stupid, cruel, coward, irrational and grotesc shows out there. And even if only 20% of the Portuguese people supports it, I still can't stop feeling ashamed by my country having this abominable tradition. And this problem is getting even worse as in one village the bull is actually dealed till death. Some friends of mine organize manifestations in front of some shows, but only get insulted. I guess there's no solution when stupid people is envolved...
correspondente.net - reflectir e discutir em português
OT - Bullfighting (none / 0) (#67)
by defeated on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 01:11:07 PM EST

Just curious, what do you mean by this:

"And this problem is getting even worse as in one village the bull is actually dealed till death. "

Do you mean that they fight the same bull several times? I've always read that matadors refuse to fight a bull that has been hazed or fought before because the animal starts figuring out what's going on and is better able to plan its attack. Which always struck me as pretty darned cowardly. And I always thought that a bull that managed to kill his matador should receive a pardon from death.:)

As an aside, last year I met an imported Lusitano stallion who had been used for bullfighting in Portugal, and he was absolutely magnificent. I've never seen a horse that was more impressive. You may be ashamed of the tradition of bullfighting, but your country has developed a superb breed of equine that sprang from that tradition.

[ Parent ]
The Little Prince, Chapter 7 (4.25 / 4) (#50)
by Waldo on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 01:01:22 PM EST

On the fifth day, again, as always, it was thanks to the sheep, the secret of the little prince's life was revealed to me.

Abruptly, without anything to lead up to it, and as if the question had been born of long and silent meditation on his problem, he demanded: "A sheep; if it eats little bushes, does it eat flowers, too?"

"A sheep," I answered, "eats anything it finds in its reach."

"Even flowers that have thorns?"

"Yes, even flowers that have thorns."

"Then the thorns, what use are they?" I did not know.

At that moment I was very busy trying to unscrew a bolt that had got stuck in my engine. I was very much worried, for it was becoming clear to me that the breakdown of my plane was extremely serious. And I had so little drinking-water left that I had to fear for the worst.

"The thorns, what use are they?"

The little prince never let go of a question, once he had asked it. As for me, I was upset over that bolt. And I answered with the first thing that came into my head: "The thorns are of no use at all. Flowers have thorns just for spite!"

"Oh!" There was a moment of complete silence.

Then the little prince flashed back at me, with a kind of resentfulness: "I don't believe you! Flowers are weak creatures. They are naïve. They reassure themselves as best they can. They believe that their thorns are terrible weapons..."

I did not answer. At that instant I was saying to myself: "If this bolt still won't turn, I am going to knock it out with the hammer."

Again the little prince disturbed my thoughts. "And you actually believe that the flowers..."

"Oh, no!" I cried. "No, no no! I don't believe anything. I answered you with the first thing that came into my head. Don't you see, I am very busy with matters of consequence!"

He stared at me, thunderstruck. "Matters of consequence!"

He looked at me there, with my hammer in my hand, my fingers black with engine grease, bending down over an object which seemed to him extremely ugly...

"You talk just like the grown-ups!" That made me a little ashamed. But he went on, relentlessly: "You mix everything up together... You confuse everything..."

He was really very angry. He tossed his golden curls in the breeze.

"I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: 'I am busy with matters of consequence!' And that makes him swell up with pride.

"But he is not a man, he is a mushroom!"

"A what?"

"A mushroom!" The little prince was now white with rage. "The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them? Is the warfare between the sheep and the flowers not important? Is this not of more consequence than a fat red-faced gentleman's sums? And if I know, I, myself, one flower which is unique in the world, which grows nowhere but on my planet, but which one little sheep can destroy in a single bite some morning, without even noticing what he is doing, Oh! You think that is not important!"

And the point is? (none / 0) (#57)
by Canar on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 04:34:46 PM EST

I've never been good at dissecting allegorical literature...

I don't mean it sarcastically, but, what's the point here? Is this intended to be a simplification/redirection of the main topic?

-=Canar=-

[ Parent ]

The Point (none / 0) (#58)
by Waldo on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 04:50:27 PM EST

Here is the key bit:

"I know a planet where there is a certain red-faced gentleman. He has never smelled a flower. He has never looked at a star. He has never loved any one. He has never done anything in his life but add up figures. And all day he says over and over, just like you: 'I am busy with matters of consequence!' And that makes him swell up with pride.

"But he is not a man, he is a mushroom!"
Raising children without imagination is little better than raising mushrooms. Children are not accountants-to-be, or mere minature adults. They are an entirely different creature, feeding on equal parts food and creative energy.

-Waldo Jaquith

[ Parent ]
Or at least, they are now. (4.00 / 1) (#60)
by ghjm on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 05:56:55 PM EST

Post-renaissance, this is true, but for most of history children really have been, in essence, smaller and less sophisticated adults. In an agrarian society, children start working as soon as they are physically able to do the jobs. Four year olds can work at useful jobs under supervision, and six year olds are quite capable of taking on personal responsibility for simple tasks. Feeding the animals, for example.

In the modern era we have an idea that childhood should be an innocent time, free of adult responsibilities. This is a recent innovation. Not that I'm saying it's a bad thing, just that it's a new thing.

-Graham

[ Parent ]
How dare you! (3.50 / 4) (#51)
by CrazyJub on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 01:27:51 PM EST

Santa a myth? That is blasphamy!

How could you say that about our divine lord? Here at the church of Santa Claus, we take great offence that you "claim" there is no Santa Claus. Prove it!

It says in the holy text:

"He knows when you are sleeping,
He knows when you are awake,
He knows when you've been bad or good,
so be good for goodness sake."
Santa Claus is Coming to Town, 11-19


Don't you know that by spreading these lies about Santa, will ensure that you will not recieve any gifts next Christmas? The shame.


Maybe what the world needs now is for more poeple to hear the truth and miracle of Santa, instead of praying to thier heathen gods.




I think the danger lies in the secret, not the lie (4.50 / 2) (#59)
by Wing Envy on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 04:59:46 PM EST

The idea of exposing young children to a situation that could be harmful in other circumstances, if not in these, is what I find to be troublesome. During Christmas, children are encouraged to engage in activities with total stangers, i.e. Santa, that at any other time would be frowned upon. A child, sitting on a strangers lap, keeping secrets, and promised gifts if they are "good" could become a problem if the child thinks that interaction to be normal. Personally, I think "Santa" is the perfect part-time job for pedophiles, and even if "Santa" didn't do anything, it opens the door for trust in children. Besides, at certain ages, if you don't know what innocence is, how will you know you lost yours?


You don't get to steal all the deficiency. I want some to.
-mrgoat
Couldn't disagree more (5.00 / 1) (#63)
by baseball on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 11:23:56 PM EST

To begin, I think you are way over-analyzing this. Having said that, I'll now do the same.

If I am reading your post correctly, you offer three general reasons why the so-called "Santa myth" is bad: (a) it is means by which parents abuse their children by ridiculing them for believing in Santa; (b) it does not aid children in developing into productive adults and in fact does the opposite; and (c) it involves lying to children which will either encourage them to lie or cause them to resent their parents for lying to them. I don't think any of these "reasons" provides adequate support for refusing to allow children to believe in Santa.

First, I don't think many parents encourage their children to believe in Santa so that they can laugh at their children for being so naive. I know that's not why I encouraged the "Santa myth." To the contrary, I think most parents tell their children that Santa brings the gifts because they love their children, it makes the children happy to look forward to Santa's visits and the gifts he brings, and it makes the parents happy to see their children happy. I'd really be interested in having insight into what causes you to have such a remarkably cynical view that parents use Santa maliciously against their children.

Second, I doubt that whether a child believes in Santa or doesn't has any impact at all on how that child develops as an adult. First, with or without adult encouragement, all young children form beliefs for a time that have no basis in reality. My young nephew firmly believed for a time that someday he would be an adult and I be a child. No one encouraged that idea; he came up with it on his own and wouldn't accept it when we told him it was incorrect. He's perfectly normal and doing well. Second, one could argue that teaching children that a perfect stranger devotes his life to doing nice things for them might be useful in teaching children about the basic goodness of mankind and about the rewards of doing something for others without demanding compensation. I found it quite touching when my son, when he was four, decided on his own that he was going to leave a gift for Santa. He insisted on wrapping as best he could his favorite Michael Jordan basketball card and leaving it for Santa. I think he learned something about generosity from the experience and I think that's a good thing.

Finally, I don't know how other children react to learning that their parents had "lied" to them about Santa. I know how my kids reacted. By the time they were old enough to understand that Santa did not exist, they were also old enough to understand that their parents where the ones who were generous enough to give them gifts at Christmas without asking anything in return and that their parents had them believe in Santa because the kids enjoyed it. I also don't think they regarded the Santa myth as encouraging lies since the lessons they learned about that during the other 364 days of the year were quite clear. Finally, I think kids who are old enough to figure out that Santa doesn't exist are also old enough to know that not all "lies" are bad and that everyone tells white lies sometimes. If an overweight person asked you how she or he looked, would you say "overweight" or worse, or would you tell a white lie to avoid hurting the person's feelings for no reason. Even children learn to tell "white lies" from serious ones.

Help me, I'm signature challenged!
Bush is a liar, Rumsfeld a war criminal.
What are you saying? (none / 0) (#64)
by hedgefrog on Thu Dec 27, 2001 at 11:27:10 PM EST

Santa brought me some really nice things this year.
slashdot is to linux what osama bin laden is to islam - a pimple on the arse - Eviltwin
Why go only half the way? (5.00 / 1) (#65)
by schrotie on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 05:12:13 AM EST

Hi,

assuming that childhood is really about learning to be an adult (I agree on that), what's wrong with Santa? It's just the thing to make little noncritical consumers. To hell with morals or truth. Give them all they never needed and something to believe in. Could there be a better preparation fo life in our society?
Thanks to Coke for bringing us Santa - for those of you who don't know: the whole red and white outfit was developed by the brand with that same colors.

A really strange posting, yours. Why go only half the way? Why lie about sex, death or illness? Children can take it - often better than the spoiled hypocritic grown ups they usually become sooner or later.
What do you think will happen when you - just for a try - don't lie to them? They don't break. They get no shocks. They handle the concept of sex great and the concept of death still better than you. Well, they might get used to being told the truth though.
And once they are grown up they might even expect truth in business, politics or private life.

What's your problem people? I know the way we live sucks big time. We get fat and others starve. A quarter of all girls (and a tenth of the boys? forgot the statistics) gets raped before they become adults. And then they are swallowed by the system and made cute little uncritical consumers. They will usually have significant problems to talk about sex. And yet worse problems to even think about death. But well, they work somehow. And yet more important, they buy.
Never change a working system.

Regards

Thorsten

best reason to keep the santa myth... (none / 0) (#70)
by SocratesGhost on Fri Dec 28, 2001 at 11:53:53 PM EST

is because no one has ever really been harmed by it. C'mon. Really. Raise your hands if this myth hurt you personally. (one, two, three... ok about 5) Ok, now raise your hands if this myth was fun and without harmful consequence. (two, four, six, uh... wow, i can't keep up with all the raised hands!). In my book, whether something is worthwhile is best measured by comparing the good that is caused by the harm that is invoked by a specific action. In this case, the reasons for the myth may seem misleading, but the world is a much poorer place without it. Some day in the far future when the rationalists have won out, researchers will be gathered over an e-book on 20th century folklore and comment on how special those myths were to the children of that day and they will long for a similar happy vision to believe in. Modern day poets still rely on ancient dead mythologies because our own--or more specifically the lack of our own--don't have the potency to evoke the same level of thought and consideration. Another great reason for the Santa myth is that there is a pragmatic advantage to having the reward come from something other than the parent. If the parents are the only ones from whom the bounty of gifts come, then the child need please only the parents. By creating a Santa Claus, children become accountable to something larger than just the immediate family, and also to their friends and classmates, children on the playground and a whole world of people who will never be able to report back to the parents. Also, children are perfectly capable of self maximizing behavior, they will do what it takes to get things done to make them happy. At an early age, they know which parent is more likely to say "yes" to having another cookie or to play a little longer, the other parent becomes immaterial in such matters. By keeping Christmas localized, the child will take advantage of that. When they learn that the myth was all a fun little fantasy, they may be sad because they would have wished it to have been true (if there's no Santa Claus, then maybe now I won't get as many presents!), but it's rare that they'll be resentful. Furthermore, they may be harmlessly conditioned to think outside the family. I would seriously ask for an honest survey of "were you hurt by the Santa myth, or did you enjoy it"

-Soc
I drank what?


What the hell? (none / 0) (#77)
by Dphitz on Mon Dec 31, 2001 at 12:37:13 PM EST

So we should not lie to children about Santa and use the threat of Santa giving coal if they are bad? Maybe the same could be said about God and the threat of eternal damnation. Just a thought, don't everyone attack me.

The author of this piece is assuming that children are rational and logical beings. "Many children I've spoken to believe in it simply "because," not for any rational reason". Well there IS no rational reason for Santa, it's called fun, tradition, childhood.

"they realize their parents lied to them". OK, raise your hand if you or anyone you know of grew up hating their parents, became a killer or suffered in general because they found out Santa wasn't real. OK, anyone without a serious mental imbalance. While this was an interesting read, it really didn't illustrate any detrimental "effects of Santa-myths". I'm gonna need some case studies before I'm convinced.



God, please save me . . . from your followers

Santa and Other Myths | 78 comments (72 topical, 6 editorial, 0 hidden)
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