Do we lie to our kids about the Festive Season?

Isabelle had her first tooth fall out.  I (I had to correct that from we ….. yeah moving along) hyped up the entire tooth fairy thing, and she hid her tooth under her pillow as part of the very clear instructions I gave her which would help the tooth fairy find the tooth.

{yes this photograph is taken inside the vegetable aisle at Pick ‘n Pay}

Isabelle_tooth

I gave her a large envelope as well — I figured scratching around for the tooth in the dark is going to be less fun than say just feeling for an envelope.

I wrote a letter from the Tooth Fairy – I spent some time sprinkling glitter on her face and on her hand and left her to find the letter in the morning.

She was really thrilled when she woke up.

She told me she has another 5 teeth that are loose.

At which point are we lying to our kids to keep a myth going or is it all done in the spirit of magic, mystery and keeping our children’s imagination alive?

toothfairy-01

I came from a home where there was no “lying for special occasions” and very little in the way of making them special in any way.

We were sort of trapped in the in between space of having no religion, and having a sort of rough far off sort of belief system, which we did not practice, nor understand, or follow —- except it seemed to be the reason that everyone else was super happy over Xmas and Easter and we sort of stood there shuffling our feet slightly embarrassed, trying to avoid any questions around who got what and who got nothing.

I think that if you are in a religious group and you all believe the same thing, then there is a certain connection you have with the group.

Sure you might not be able to do everything you would like, but you are part of a religious group and you gain some sort of joy from that – or at the very least some sort of safety in numbers.

In our case, as kids, we were stuck in the “no man’s land” of religious beliefs.

My mom had a loose sort of belief system which seemed to exclude more than it included.  Because we were not really part of any “formal” religious group we were unable to “share our lack of Xmas, Easter and all the other celebrations with anyone.”

It was really embarrassing (I will not talk for my two brothers and will only talk on behalf on my own experiences) to return to school following the Christmas Holidays and have everyone ask “What did you get for Xmas?” “What did Father Xmas bring you?”

Er.  Nothing. <shuffles feet>

penguin

Of course you did not say nothing, because that would mean you had a shite home situation and no one loved you enough to give you anything.  I would either deflect the question or mumble something imaginary item that I had received.

The same can be said for Easter and any of the holidays that ran around.

It made school a really uncomfortable place after returning from school holidays or a weekend where there was a “celebration” of some kind.

At some point I would blurt out “we don’t celebrate that..” and in the stunned silence usually reserved for just the moment where you are just about to be totally osterisized from the group some kid would go “But why?”

I would be faced with a dozen or so sets of eye balls looking at me, waiting for this pearl of wisdom to drop to explain why I did not do the things they did …… er ja about that.

The problem is I had no pearl.

We adhered to certain parts of a religion that we did not practice.  Even at a young age I could see the hypocrisy in this, and how unfair it was on us as children.

{This post is not about the choices my mother made and how those religious choices affected us — I know that is how this is sounding, but it is not that.  I have got over that and moved on.  This is about my choice to practice certain customs at home for my kids, because I want them to have them —- I have no connection in many cases to the religious behind-the-scenes belief, and in most cases I am fairly well read on the origins of many of these customs we celebrate …….}

Not being able to afford presents, eggs and all the other stuff is hard enough to digest as a child, but to stand there going “no I didn’t get anything ….. nope, we don’t celebrate Easter …… no I am not quiet sure…….” was really a traumatic experience that repeated itself over and over in my school career.

Fast forward.

I decided as an adult that my kids were going to have whimsy, and imagination and were going to get swept up in the Easter Bunny, Father Xmas and any other frivolous celebration that does the rounds.

I can stand and argue how they originate in pagan holidays and and and ………… or I can just say “pass me the glitter please” ………. I opted for the latter.

I always realise that moment when my child has “realised” that a certain fantasy creature does not exist – that the Easter Bunny is not real, that there is no Father Xmas or what ever.  You can just see it in their eyes.  They know.

But.  Here is the truly cool part.  They keep the fantasy going for the younger children in the family.

Connor is 100% past believing in any of the fantasy of holidays, but he still loves hunting for Easter Eggs on Easter Sunday.  He does not spoil it for the girls.  He hunts his eggs like a Selous Scout gone rogue!!

I think Georgia might be on to certain things, but her head is so filled with whimsy any way. I think she is going to just leave it and believe in the Tooth Fairy and Father Xmas and any other bits of fancy that comes her way.

I recall a while ago overhearing an adult comment on that fact that as parents we are lying to our kids, and how terrible that was – because these kids would be crushed when they found out that all our lies were …. well lies.

I felt a bit offended ….. for about 12 seconds …… then I thought I would rather my child live and enjoyed the fantasy of fairy dust and being in bed so that Father Xmas does not see you, than giving them the bleak truth that none of it exists.

Adulthood is a rather sober place.  You get to find out too much information then, let them have the fantasy now.

holiday_spirit

Everything is about what is real and what we see and can touch.  We have lost the magic that is found around us in everyday things.

Except of course if you are Tim Burton —- there is a man where adulthood has in no way got in the way of his imagination and whimsy.

tim_burton

A few years back Connor and I were sitting near some trees and we sat and watched a murmuration of swallows {or starlings – I am not sure}—- it was without a doubt the most fantastic thing I have ever seen.

Starlings Sturnus vulgarus flocking before roosting this shape making in the sky is known as a murmuration Gretna Green Dumfries Scotland December

Starlings Sturnus vulgarus flocking before roosting this shape making in the sky is known as a murmuration Gretna Green Dumfries Scotland December

swallows02

swallows03

It went on for about 20 minutes.  We were both sitting there pointing and going “did you see that?” — it was genuinely unbelievable.

I realise that this opens the other side of the discussion that there is enough wonder and amazement in nature ….. there is.  Nature in itself is more fantastic than anything we can come up with.

But no matter how many thousands of Starlings get together, they are not going to come “Trick or Treating…”

I love the fact that my children embrace fantasies and silly characters.  And still can sit and watch National Geographic.

Do I think they are harmed and horrified when they realise that the Tooth Fairy, The Easter Bunny and Father Xmas is not true?

I hope not — if the other two are anything to go by, they will smile at the joy it has given them, they will smile at their younger sister and the joy it still gives her, and they will continue this pagan practice, which we have grown to love and to cherish as part of what we do as a family.

Do I think I am harming my children in some fundamental manner?

No I don’t —- but I could be wrong and some children could react quite badly when expecting the glitter of the tooth fairy, only to wake up and find their dad in his underpants and vest leaning over their bed.

Sure, I think that could be traumatic.

Is Father Xmas still alive and well in your home?

father_xmas

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9 Comments

  1. We don’t do the easter bunny – dad has diabetes and they know that too much sugar is bad for you. The “tandemuis” is alive and well. The kids know that there is no father xmas, and for the last 4 years we haven’t done any xmas decorations. Last year the resort where we went for holiday held a father xmas gift distribution. We had to choose between getting gifts they didn’t know about or make sure we are not there when this event took place. We ended up buying the gifts without their knowledge. They were so surprised by the gifts that Hubby decided to do the same again this year. I’m still not putting up a tree though!

    Reply
  2. I really enjoyed this article. I agree with you; adulthood is oppressive enough without having a crushing, reality-laden childhood to match it. My stepson believed in Santa, and even though he no longer believes now, I can’t seem to sense any underlining cases of psychological trauma, so, you know…

    I think, as parents, who are stuck in the daily grind you outlined in your post, it’s refreshing to see magic again through the eyes of our children. I think days filled with mortgage payments, dishes, laundry, cooking, and other tedious adult expectations deserve to glimpse a little bit of excitement and wonder once in a while.

    Reply
  3. 1 out of 3 still believe in Father Christmas but I am sure the youngest @10 is well aware he’s a myth but plays along anyway

    Reply
  4. Alexandra

     /  November 20, 2015

    P.S. Rise of the Guardians is such a brilliant movie

    Reply
  5. Alexandra

     /  November 20, 2015

    My husband grew up with similar holiday experiences to you. And although he thinks I tend to go overboard with celebrations, he won’t stop me because he wants his children to have that magic in their lives for as long as possible.

    My daughter (8) suspects the truth but it is a slow realisation and doesn’t seem to have traumatised her in any way.

    Reply
  6. As a child we didn’t really celebrate those either in the way it’s supposed to be celebrated. I come from a different religion but my parents always made sure that we knew about all of them. We did go out for Christmas lunch or Easter lunch. We did go Egg hunting with our friends that celebrated Easter. Or gave gifts to those who celebrated Christmas. But we never had a Christmas tree in our house.
    So coming here to the States and becoming a mom, I do all these things for my kids. I guess I’m trying to relive my childhood with them. And, and I’m loving it🙂

    Reply
  7. Oh yes! Santa (or what ever you want to call him) Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy are alive and well in our house! I have 2 much older sons (10 and 12 years older than their baby brother). Since the ‘laat lamekie’ aka ‘pension pincher’ aka ‘favorite child’ was born 11 years ago they have played along with our games! They fully support and participate in our crazy rituals which I hope they will carry on with their kids! They even write the letters from the Tooth Fairy encouraging flossing and brushing! They sprinkle mini chocolate Easter eggs down the stairs before Easter and make reindeer bites in the carrots we leave out for Rudolph! I do suspect that ‘mommies favorite who can do no wrong’ has caught on to the game but has secretly been warned by the two older boys that he must play along or risk not receiving cash, stockings full of treats and Easter eggs. I don’t think it is lying it is all a bit of magic and fun!

    Reply
  8. We are not religious, and we celebrate everything. On Christmas I even read to them the Jesus birth, but in the same way that I read other fantasy stories to them. The oldest have now asked about the tooth fairy because the kids at school told her it’s not real, but then decided the tooth fairy only goes to certain houses. I’ve forgotton twice where I had to improvise and leave a letter, and glitter at the front door. (Letter saying tooth fairy couldn’t find a way in, here is money, please leave the tooth in the envelope)

    Husband hated Christmas, and didn’t want to do anything, but even he is getting some Christmas cheer for the kids, and said he wants his kids to have a magical Christmas, not grow up like he did.

    For Christmas we leave all my favourite snacks out for him. I think he even got a glass of wine last year😉

    Reply

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