He never believed in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, either. There are three important reasons why Daniel and I decided, before Nicholas was born, that we were not going to pretend that any of these characters were real.
The first is that we didn’t like the idea of lying to our child. We felt that claiming these characters were real, when we know they aren’t, would kind of make us feel bad. Our child should be able to trust us. Now that we’ve met the individual child we got, we know he’s a very analytical type who easily figures out what’s going on and demands full explanations of processes. He was hard to confuse with things like Piaget’s famous conservation experiments even when he was a toddler. The first time he ever saw a stage magician, he immediately started trying to figure out how to do those tricks. If we’d presented the fables as truth, we’d have been interrogated with years of questions about exactly how those reindeer fly to every house in one night, where the bunny gets the eggs, etc., etc.
The second reason is that we wanted him to appreciate, from the very beginning, that holiday magic is something we all make for one another. Christmas gifts aren’t brought by a guy in a sleigh to whom money is no object; we spend hours choosing or making gifts for our loved ones, thinking about what each person would like, as a way of expressing our love and respect for each other. Easter isn’t about a magic bunny who brings us candy for no apparent reason; Easter is about Jesus and the springtime renewal of the world, and Grandma likes to send us some candy. Losing a tooth is an exciting step toward maturity that is honored with a little treat, and there is a traditional routine for collecting this treat from your parents overnight using a special marsupial (Tooth Beary) crocheted by Grandma.
The third reason is that I wanted to teach my child my religion. (Daniel does not belong to an organized religion, so the deal was that I could take Nicholas to church and teach him my faith until such time as he might tell me he didn’t believe it and didn’t want to go. By age 3 he had decided he definitely wanted to be an Episcopalian, and he was baptized.) If I told him Santa Claus was real, and he then found out otherwise, he would then logically doubt what I’d been telling him about God being real. After all, the invisibility and super-powers of God are not all that different from what people attribute to Santa. As I mentioned last week, Nicholas has shown no signs of doubting the existence of God but has remarked on the oddity of people believing in these other entities while not believing in God.
So, without Santa or the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, poor Nicholas has had a really dreary, cynical childhood, huh? Read more…