It’s getting close to Christmas! You know what that means – debates about Santa! Every year there are those who claim telling kids about Santa amounts to lying. It’s year I encountered someone who took that idea even further and said all pretend playing is lying and so she will not play pretend with her children or encourage them to do so. Now, besides the fact that imaginative play is very important and beneficial, a life without magic strikes me as very sad. I’m currently reading The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with the kids, and I cannot help but equate this person’s views with those of Harold and Alberta; a childhood like Eustace’s doesn’t seem better for the absence of fantasy. Of course, children will play pretend whether encouraged or not, but if it isn’t encouraged, or even downright discouraged (this person said her children would learn that if they wanted her attention they must do more practical things), I can only think that that creativity will be squelched.
The person in question also said she wouldn’t engage in pretend play because it was beneath her as an adult. How sad to take oneself so seriously! I am sure the Apostles thought it beneath Jesus to have the children come to Him, but He said otherwise. Playing with my kids rips me out of my own bubble, forces me to be less selfish, humbles me, and helps me to know my kids better than I otherwise would. For when they play pretend, they express their interests, fears, hopes, and dreams. Participating in that means I get to know about those things far more than I would by just having a conversation over dinner (which is also important). I can also learn a lot from listening to them play with each other, but that is magnified when I engage in the playing with them.
Please note I’m not saying that those who don’t engage in pretend play with their kids are bad or anything like that. I’m simply disagreeing with the premises that pretend play is de facto lying and beneath a parent.
And what of the original objection, that telling kids about Santa is lying? I can understand objections to the commercialisation of Santa, but rejecting that bit doesn’t necessitate rejecting him as a whole. Yesterday was St Nicholas Day. My kids excitedly awoke to find their stockings filled with treats from St Nicholas. Kieran talks about St Nicholas coming again on Christmas. We talk about how some call St Nicholas “Santa Claus” (whether people admit it or not, Santa is derived from St Nicholas), and so we also talk about his life and why he secretly gave gifts. Now, Kieran knows I put the things in his stocking without me having told him that, and he knows we give, and receive, gifts to remember God’s gift to us in Jesus. But we still have the magic and fantasy.