Today Mary at The Accidental Natural Mother wrote about whether or not she should start introducing the magical tales of the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus to her daughter. It is an interesting topic and it made me think about how we arrived at our own decision.
I was not raised with a belief in Santa or the Easter Bunny. When other kids at school talked about getting presents from Santa and candy from the Easter Bunny, I assumed they were joking. In fact, I looked down on them for their talk and excitement about something that I knew was just pretend. And I was confused that their parents would go along with such a stupid game.
And I wasn't missing out on anything--we got lots of presents at Christmas and sometimes we got candy or chocolate at Easter. It wasn't an issue for me--I knew my gifts were purchased by my mother so I didn't expect her to tell me they came from a magical holiday figure. And I wasn't missing out on fantasy-play either--I was still interested in playing dolls and Barbies long after my school friends had moved on to makeup and nail polish.
With my own children, the issue for me was less about Santa Claus and Easter Bunny and all the lying and manipulation that goes along with introducing those ideas. It was more about the consumerism, the culture of 'more' and the Candy Culture that I was allowing into our home. (For more on how Partner-Guy and I deal with the issue of candy, go here.) I wanted my children to know that when they received any gift from their parents (or anyone) it was just because of the joy of giving something we knew they would enjoy.
Our children received gifts of candy at Easter 2007, 2008, and 2009. But it was in the summer of 2009 that we able to accurately determine that sugar, colours, flavours and preservatives were a significant factor in Jasmine's severe eczema. That was the final answer for me: No candy is good candy for any reason.
I don't feel at all that my children 'miss out' by not engaging them in fantasies about the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus. When someone asked five-year-old Holly if she got lots of presents from Santa, she answered matter-of-factly "No. My presents come from my mom and dad."
And fantasy-play is born out of any opportunity, which does not depend on an adult introducing a contrived, nonsensicla idea. Last summer, Anna and Holly made up a story about a silly monster-ghost-cat named Gogheaded who lives behind the fence in our backyard. This story has gone on for months and we play along and make up funny new chapters in the ongoing saga of Gogheaded. When their teenage cousin was helping us in the summer, the girls even involved her in the story and sometimes she wrote down their narrations in their drawing books so that we could always remember the silliness. It was great! And much more interesting than the boring same-old-same-old stories about Santa and the Easter Bunny.
Just one final note about how we have chosen to exclude magical-holiday-figures from our family lore: My children don't go to school, so there is no pressure from their peers to act a certain way or believe in a certain thing or want a particular item. Anna and Holly know the stories about Santa and the Easter Bunny and for them it is nothing more than a story. Not having to deal with mainstream peer-group influences affecting our family values was one of our main reasons for keeping our children out of school.
There are those who would say, "What good is it to teach your children values and then prevent them from even having to use them, by essentially keeping them out of the 'real world'?"
We don't look at it like that. In our minds, it is unfair to send children out 'into the world' before their values are firmly established. Adults join political groups or religious organizations for precisely that reason--to be around people who share their values because it is a lot of pressure to always have to defend what you stand for among people who disagree with you. Maybe we are 'protecting' our children now, but we are confident that they will be confident, authentic young people when they do take on the world. In a mainstream culture where young people and teens are best known for their poor choices, their inability to stand up for anything and their total obsession with appearance and acquisitions, I think we are making a good choice to keep our children out of that environment.
So. No Easter Bunny. No Santa Claus.
Just good old fashioned homemade fun, fantasy and the occasional cookie.