Honesty is something that I try very hard at, especially with my children. I want them to know that they can always trust me and believe what I say is true.
A couple years back, though, it slapped me in the face . . . my eldest son, who at the time was just six years old, came running in from playing with a friend and told me that I was growing poison in our garden. He was adamant that my newly sprouting cilantro was poisonous because his friend told him that it was. I told my concerned six-year-old that, no, in fact, it was not poisonous and was an herb used in food and cooking. He was determined and informed me that it was poisonous. I finally got him to stop yelling at me and told him that no, it was not poisonous but not only that, I would never lie to him, and he can trust me.
Immediately Santa popped into my head. I will never lie to you . . . unless it’s little fibs about Santa.
I knew in my heart of hearts that I didn’t want to tell him any tall tales about Santa and wanted him to form his own opinion on the matter, but I also didn’t want him to miss the excitement of Christmas morning and see the tree packed with neatly wrapped presents and the ever-exciting new bike sitting by the fireplace ready to ride. So, I started answering his questions with an open-ended question: “What do you think?” I would nod along, never affirming or denying his thoughts. But after that poisonous cilantro incident, I became much more aware of being honest with my children. I want them to trust me and know that they can come to me for honest, real answers. When they ask me about Jesus, I want them to know that He is real and everything in the Bible happened, not just a tall tale that someone made up.
A friend of mine shared her experiences with her parents and Santa and I will never forget it. She was very much like my oldest son: quick, smart, keen, observant, and literal. Her parents always told her about Santa and how he would deliver presents to good girls and boys, how he would fly around the world quick as light and would eat everyone’s sweetly decorated cookies and drink the cold glass of milk . . . oh and don’t forget about the reindeer! They always enjoyed their carrots, too! But when she found out the truth, she started contemplating everything her parents had told her . . . “Well, if Santa is fake, is Jesus? Is Mary and Joseph? What about Adam and Eve?”
Boy, that hit home. I don’t want my kids to think that I fib and tell lies to them and exaggerated truths. But again, I wasn’t quite ready to throw Santa out to pasture either.
Last summer, my then seven-year-old asked more questions about Santa. Honestly, at this point I was ready to just sit him down and tell him the truth. I was tired of the litany of questions and smiling and nodding and just going with it. Yet again I asked him, “What do you think?” To my surprise he said, “I think moms and dads leave the presents under the tree and say that it is from Santa.”
This time I replied, “You’re right, dear.” He wasn’t shocked, disappointed, or upset. He simply replied, “I thought so.”
I began really contemplating Santa and the Elf of the Shelf . . . why do we do all of this as Christians? Christmas is not about Santa or the Elf on the Shelf . . . it is about God sending His Son to earth, born in a manger to one day take our punishment for sin on the cross. Yet Santa and the elf get almost an entire month of fanfare when Jesus gets one day. We tell our kids to “watch out” because the elf will relay info to Santa . . . how about they just be “good” because we are watching and God is, too? And not only are we just fibbing about Santa one time – it is drawn out to such great extents: moving the elf daily, dragging out about how Santa is watching, leaving cookies and milk . . . I’ve done it, too! I even wrote a letter from Santa to my son! But again, this has been a work in my heart, and we felt moved as parents. And to continue to do it just because it is a “tradition” just doesn’t fly with me anymore. My kids will have a wonderful and joyous Christmas regardless . . . and Santa doesn’t get any of the credit for the awesome gifts they receive (haha!). I took my boys to get pictures with Santa this year for the pure sake of lining up the photos to see how they have grown, but not because of belief . . . and honestly, this is probably our last year.
I want to remind my children that Jesus came as a baby, held tightly by his mother, to save the world from sin so we may live in Heaven with God forever. In addition, this verse hits home: “The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”
The Bible is true. Jesus is true. God is true. Everything that we read in the Bible happened and it is real.
I want my children to remember that when we read the Bible, that it is real. That it is true. I want what I say to matter to my kids. I want them to know that mommy tells the truth. So, when they ask the hard questions, even if it is awkward or hard to say aloud, I will say it. I will tell the truth because that is what they need. The world is sinful and already full of mistruths and lies. I want them to know that they can come to me to feel safe and secure. By lying to them about the little things, I am not being the example that I want them to be to others one day. So, when they ask if a shot is going to hurt, I say, “Yes, it will. But it will be temporary and won’t hurt for long.” One day, when they ask about where babies come from, I will tell them the truth and use the actual words of the body parts. I will have the uncomfortable discussions because I want them to come to me to find the answers instead of asking their confused cilantro-is-poisonous friends.
Not for one second do I judge ANYONE for doing Elf on the Shelf or Santa – this is just something that has been on my mind, and I wonder if you will pray about it yourself. We can still enjoy Christmas and all its magic without believing that Santa is the one providing it. If we say that Jesus is the reason for the season – than let’s act on it! Let our homes, our actions, the way we live show that we are Jesus followers, not the worlds. No judgement here – I promise! I share all of this with you to just stir some thoughts and questions that stirred in my heart: Why do we still do Santa? The Elf on the Shelf? Is it purely because of tradition? The kids will be sad? Christmas won’t be as “magical”? I can attest, after not doing Santa last year and now this year that Christmas is so much more magical, special, humbling, and awesome. Jesus is awesome!
May you all have a very blessed Christmas!