Why Lie To Children?
I have to say, I don’t really get the whole ‘Father Christmas’ thing. I don’t understand why parents will spend years convincing their children that there really is a fat old man who comes down the chimney and leaves them presents – only to tell them later that they were lying, and have the children heartbroken.
When I was young, my parents never told me that Father Christmas, or Santa, or whatever, was real. They didn’t say he wasn’t, but it was never a conversation we had. Any mention of him was in a jokey, “Oh, Father Christmas, right..” *nudge* kind of way.
I asked the mother person about this the other day, because my friends were sharing stories (mainly of how devastated they’d been when they found out it wasn’t true), and she said they’d done that deliberately. Because they were always telling us that Christmas was about Jesus, they didn’t feel it made sense to tell us it was about Father Christmas too. After all, if Santa then turned out to be a lie … what would we think about Jesus?
And that’s a fair point.
I started thinking about this in more depth. With Father Christmas, you’ve got this whole ‘naughty or nice’ thing, like only the good kids get presents. (Though in reality, it’s more like only those who can afford it get presents, due to buying things requiring money.) That’s kind of the opposite of the whole Jesus thing. If you believe what it says in the Bible, Jesus was sent because we were all naughty and we all screwed up.
He was sent because none of us were nice enough.
You know, people teach their kids that you only get presents if you’re good and that’s fair enough: they’re just trying to give them a motivation to behave. But isn’t unconditional love a better message to send? If you tell your children they’ll only be rewarded if they get it right, and they’ll be punished if they mess up or make mistakes, they’re going to be afraid to admit to you when they do something wrong. If you tell your children they get presents whatever happens because you still love them, surely that’s a better message to send?
I see so much stuff in real life and on the internet every day, where people just can’t talk to their parents and can’t have a conversation because they don’t feel accepted, where people are cut off from their family because they chose to take a different path from what their parents wanted, where people don’t have a family who cares … and it breaks my heart. Yet we’re sending children the message that that’s what life is like.
You get presents if you’re good. You get coal if you’re bad. (Another thing my parents never told me; it was only recently I heard that part of the story.)
You get presents if you make the right decisions, but if other people lead you astray, you take the blame too. You get presents if you do what your parents think is right, but you get nothing if you stray from their expectations, even if they’re actually wrong, if they’re narrow minded or mistaken.
There are conditions.
That’s what we tell them. To be loved you must fulfil conditions.
So, thinking about this, I came to a decision. I’m not yet seventeen, and it’ll be a long while before I have children, if I ever do (which, given by how much babies freak me out – they have. no. bones. WHAT – is looking somewhat unlikely). But if I’m ever bringing kids up, I don’t intend to lie to them. I don’t intend to tell them that there’s a fat old man who gives them presents, if they’re good.
I intend to tell them that I’ll give them presents, even if they do mess up and make mistakes or stupid decisions, because it doesn’t matter to me, because I still love them. And I hope that they then won’t have the moment of heartbreak that children who believed in Father Christmas have when they realise he’s not real. I hope they’ll grow up thinking that they can admit it to us when they screw up because that won’t change our opinion of them.
I think unconditional love, and truth, is a more powerful message than the shallow lies surrounding Christmas that so many kids are brought up on.
But I do sort of still believe in the tooth fairy.