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We never started out with any deliberate intention of being anti-Santa parents. But when we arrived at my parents’ house to celebrate Christmas last year, we realized we were presented with a choice: what role will Santa play in our kids’ Christmases?

My mom has had the same decorations for decades. Among them is a 3ft tall Santa. Quite a high tech one at that. When plugged into the socket, he waves with one hand and adjusts his sack of gifts on his shoulder with the other. Anyway, my boys – twins, two years old at that time – were instantly taken by him and his jolly red suit. Their reaction upon first noticing his presence was so cute – they went over and bear-hugged him. In the way that two year olds do, they named this new person literally as he appeared through their eyes, “The Little Man.” My mom looked at me. I giggled at the cuteness. Her eyes implored me to correct them, educate them, bring them up to speed.

But I hesitated. In that moment, a series of pros and cons flashed through my mind. Actually, to be honest, mostly cons. Like the cautionary tales friends had shared of losing entire days, and enduring epic meltdowns, while lining up at Macy’s or ABC Home to secure 1:1 time for their kids with the big guy in red. It just sounded like a joyless ordeal to me, and not how I wanted to spend precious weekend time with my lovebugs. But more than that, there was something about the dissociation of gift receiving with the effort of the gift giver that irked me.

And so, in that moment, I did not interject and replace the vernacular of “The Little Man” with that of Santa Claus. Absent any intervention from us as parents, the name stuck. Each morning during that visit in the week leading up to Christmas, the boys would come downstairs, say all of their hellos to Mom, Dad, Grandma and Pop-Pop, and then happily chirp “Hello little man!”.

As the holidays loom this year, and the boys are now three, my husband and I again discussed whether we would introduce the concept of Santa Claus. Does this mythical being who accepts wish list letters and then magically delivers the requested items under the tree on Christmas morning have a role in our family?

For now, at least, my gut is saying that so much other magic exists around Christmas that we don’t need Santa.

My husband presented a few worthy points for consideration:

  • Firstly, the opportunity to warn that Santa’s visit may be cancelled if bad behavior were displayed. My reaction to that argument is that I don’t believe in using “naughty” as a label for a toddler. In our household we avoid using threats to enforce desired behaviors, instead putting great effort as parents into role modeling, requesting and lavishing attention and praise on desired behaviors, while largely ignoring undesired ones. We try hard not to suggest outcomes that we are either unlikely to enact or would adversely affect us as parents.
  • Secondly, he questioned whether it was sad for us not to recreate for our own children a tradition that played a fun role in our own upbringing? Essentially, why fight the societal norm? Would our kids feel left out when Santa is a hot topic among their friends? Or will they spoil the fun for their friends?

Maybe experiences I will face as a parent of four, five and six year olds will affect my outlook. Perhaps in years to come I will net out downplaying Santa rather than shutting him out altogether.

For now, at least, my gut is saying that so much other magic exists around Christmas that we don’t need Santa. My husband and I will create our own Christmas traditions as a family that make sure it’s a magical time to look forward to each year. It will always be when we take our annual trip to Australia (where I grew up). We’ll count down to the excitement of getting on that airplane, spending two weeks of uninterrupted family time together free of the distraction of work. We’ll build sandcastles on the beach everyday and bask in the affection showered upon us all by my wonderful parents. We’ll bounce on friends’ backyard trampolines and bake yummy treats together and feed the kangaroos at the wildlife park. We’ll wish it were Christmas everyday, but for an entirely different set of reasons than waiting for excessive gifts to be delivered by a stranger.

And in years to come, if they ask who Santa is and whether he comes to our house? Maybe I’ll throw the question back to them and ask what they think? Maybe I’ll say, “What? The lovely gifts that mommy and daddy bought for you aren’t enough?”

Am I mean? Am I overthinking it? Am I alone in my point of view? I’m interested in starting a conversation with others who have pondered this.

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