ControverSunday: Oh, the holidays

The Bear asked me the big question this past week. “Is Santa real?”

I eyed her up. Was it that time already? She’s only four. Then again, she has been watching the movie, The Polar Express.

“Um, do you think he’s real?” I asked cautiously.

“Well, yes,” she responded. I exhaled. “But I don’t exactly understand how it all works.”

I don’t like making up lies – especially ones that I have to brief MJ on so we have our story straight. But I also respect that part in all of us that believes in life’s little mysteries – in a story, in the possibility of the impossible, in the divine. And I desperately want to nurture that in the Bear and Banana. In fact, I believe that this is part of slow parenting – devoting plenty of time for stories that fuel the imagination and avoid reality. Slow parenting is about nurturing a creative generation.

“Well,” I responded carefully, “I believe every story has a little bit of truth and a little bit of untruth.” The Bear leaned in. “I think everyone believes stories differently,” I explained. “Some people think a story is all true, some people think a story is completely untrue, and some people think a story is somewhere in the middle.”

I hesitated. Was I really going down this path with a four-year-old? Could I boil down elements of narrative theory in a child’s language? The Bear wasn’t going to understand this.

“Sort of like Jesus,” said the Bear.

“Uh, what about Jesus?” I asked, wondering where the curve ball had come from.

“Like some people believe in the story of Jesus, others don’t believe it at all, and others think that Jesus is a little true and a little not true.”

“Exactly!” I exclaimed happily.

“Well, I believe Santa is completely true,” the Bear concluded.

“And I believe the Santa story is a little true and a little not true,” I confessed.

Today the Bear and Banana visited Santa. They sat on his lap and the Bear told him what she wanted for Christmas. She even coloured a picture for Santa and gave it to him proudly when it was her turn. I had thought the Bear’s skeptical side had started to grow. But after seeing her with Santa – a story that she believes is completely true – I realize there is a lot of magic left.

These holidays, I will do my best to not lie about Santa but whole-heartedly contribute to the uncertainty of his existence. After all, doesn’t every story have a little truth and a little bit of untruth?


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ControverSunday is a collaborative blog meme, whereby the goal is to share, discuss and hear out different perspectives on parenting, society and other stuff that matters. All those who participate bring to the table a unique perspective and approach others with mutual respect. Participating is a way to build community, to learn something and to reflect and evaluate our own choices.

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14 Responses to “ControverSunday: Oh, the holidays”

  1. 1 Ginger December 6, 2010 at 7:47 pm

    I love this post–your honest, yet child appropriate answer, and Bear’s sweet belief in the magic of the story.

  2. 3 clara December 6, 2010 at 11:21 am

    Ha – I could have had that conversation with my own son. What a great chat. And knowing what you thought, she was comfortable to think what she wants to think. So cool.

    I love the little mysteries in life.

    • 4 Mama Tortoise December 7, 2010 at 5:31 am

      THanks Clara. We’ve been having THAT discussion too – it’s okay to think/believe something different from Mom and Dad. I’m only worried that I’m priming myself for some difficult teenage years!

  3. 5 amoment2think December 6, 2010 at 5:20 am

    Oh I so love this post. I have nothing else to say except you are awesome.

  4. 7 Perpetua December 6, 2010 at 1:03 am

    That is such an awesome response! Helping her already see that things aren’t just black and white is a good call on your part, I think.

  5. 9 patientpenguin December 5, 2010 at 6:46 pm

    Oh I have been in exactly the same boat with my daughter. Some pretty specific questions about Santa: Why does he only come at night? How do the reindeer fly? How does Santa visit every mall? etc. On the practical side we’ve clarified that Santa has a lot of helpers- like random men that dress up as Santa to help spread Christmas magic. The other questions I have somehow avoided. Definitely not ready to bust that story yet. But, I really have a hard time lying. On the more philosophical side I have tried to explain that Santa represents ideas like giving, sharing, generosity, and joy. These thoughts have sailed over her head. But I’ll keep trying.

    • 10 Mama Tortoise December 7, 2010 at 5:28 am

      Patient Penguin – I thought about the whole ‘lots of helpers’ thing but it doesn’t feel right. I’m hoping the Bear can draw her own conclusions in the coming years. I am, however, attracted to the ideas of what Santa represents. But you’re right, it’s too figurative for little brains. Keep at it!

  6. 11 Michelle December 5, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    We’ve been getting a lot of Santa questions around here, too. Fortunately, none as pointed as Bear’s. We usually respond with “what do you think?” or ” Nobody knows for sure, but maybe this is what happens…” For now, it works. Children only believe in the Santa magic for a few brief years…I love the imagination and trust they have in it.

  1. 1 grow Trackback on August 27, 2015 at 7:36 am
  2. 2 ControverSunday: The holiday edition | Trackback on December 6, 2010 at 5:03 am

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