Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On Santa, Sandy Hook, and Staying Straightforward

Last Friday, I wanted to share this article about "The Santa Lie", which posits the following:

We raise our kids to be truthful. We teach them about the laws of physics. And then we tell them that nine flying reindeer pull an immortal fat man and his sleigh through the sky so that he can deliver gifts to millions of kids around the world one night a year.

Is it bad that we lie to our kids about Santa?

Santa is something I've struggled with, moreso now with the kid on the way. Much like having to handle the whole god thing in a house with parents (Ann & I) who are atheists and grandparents who are not, the Santa thing is a little complicated for a lot of reasons, and can be a learning experience at the same time.

Then, with the Sandy Hook shooting last week, it seemed both pithy and also provided another learning opportunity for me as well as handling the real world in the future.

What prompted it was a Facebook post from a friend who homeschools her daughter. She was talking about how she could pretty much frame it as she wanted, noting just that someone far away did something very bad. It's sensible, after all - she knows her daughter's ability to handle what comes at her, and how to process, and part of the basic point of homeschooling in general is being able to tailor information and learning to the needs and capabilities of the child as opposed to a more one-size-fits-all-ages approach.

Honestly, Sandy Hook left me at a loss in a lot of ways beyond the pure horror and national conversations. It makes you wonder what you're thinking in bringing a kid into a world where such senseless things happen, it makes you wonder if I'm making the right choices in safety for my own family, and so on. But it also makes me wonder how to approach these sorts of issues with my own child. Sandy Hook isn't going to be the last significant tragedy that happens, and if I want to raise a well-informed child, I'm not going to be able to shield him or her from everything. I know every parent deals with this. I just want to get it right the first time.

One thing I had to cope with growing up was my parents hiding bad things from me when the truth probably would have done better. I don't fault them for trying to do their best for me in this regard at all - after all, "your uncle is sick" is a lot easier to deal with than "your uncle has cancer" - but when you become a teenager and they don't want you to know the extent of what's up with your grandmother, it can be frustrating regardless of intent. Again, no fault, no blame - just not what I want to do.

There's an extended post in me regarding religion and how Ann and I hope to deal with it coming down the pike eventually. But with Santa being the good thing that we acceptably lie to children about with no real ill effects, it's difficult about how all these different things intersect. I doubt my child will need to know the worst of the worst any earlier than they can handle it. I'm sure that, if Ann and I decide to go along with the Santa thing, that we'll handle the eventual reveal with the same type of respect and dignity as we would anything else.

It's simply interesting to me how the events of the last few days speak to the increasing complicated issue of honesty with kids. It feels completely wrong to connect the tragedy with something as innocuous as Christmas, but the way it speaks to the same idea is a strange one that I wasn't expecting.

And, certainly, part of that guilt I'm feeling is knowing that, for many of those parents from Sandy Hook, they're not going to have that opportunity anymore. It makes me want to fast forward to March and give our little spawn a big hug and be thankful that he or she is in our world at all.

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