This anecdote happened 10 days ago!
There I stood while “the question” lingered like a swarm of bumble bees gathering to go in for the sting, while two Kindergartners examined my every move; for a twitch, a turn away of the eyes, a pause before hearing how I would answer “correctly.”
“Is Santa Claus real? She asked me, pleading with her big brown five year old eyes. ‘Please big wise adult, please straighten him out!’
Her table partner’s parents had obviously done their parental duty setting their son straight with the truth about real and not-so-real silly beliefs of the foolish.
What is your answer?
Do you sit in that uncomfortable spot squished by that big RED elephant which logic labels as the Christmas LIE to all little children of the world?
I know this is a very sensitive subject but I am about to set your heart at ease, but only if you really want to know!
My credentials: I am a child whisperer.
I have a Masters degree in Santa Claus.
You think I am wink-wink kidding, right?
But perhaps after you read you will understand that this is not wink-wink stuff but actually supported scientifically and psychologically and that I do know a little about this subject…
Fact 1: Children’s brains and adult brains are vastly different! In fact most adults do not know that our brains are not completely developed when we are born. Our heart is complete, but our brain is still in the process of completion until adulthood!
(Adults have a VERY difficult time with this concept)
We often hear adults say to children ages 0-18, “Stop acting like a child!” When that is very much what they are!
Brain development is somewhat like a cookie recipe. Brand new baby cookie brains are still kind of in the mixing bowl when they come to earth, learning by gathering ingredients through sensory/motor development which will make them the kind of cookie they will turn out to be, but 0-3’s have millions of more brain cells than adults do. This is the fastest growing time of the human life span! In fact after a child turns three they lose over 40 percent of their brain cells alone!
HELLLLLOOOO…we are talking about Santa here not brains! But this is important to know about the Christmas lie subject!
Fact 2: The finished adult brain, like the cookie has had time to heat up, and cook which has allowed their brain to process and understand. The adult brain has critical components that the child’s gooey not-yet-cooked (unfinished) brain has not grown into yet…let me repeat the child’s brain HAS NOT YET GROWN INTO! These adult components are called abstract reasoning and logic. A child’s brain simply does not have those ingredients, yet. No matter how hard adults want them to SEEEEEEEEE or Think or Act like an adult, children’s brains are just children’s brains and not adult brains, period! This is often why children drive adults absolutely crazy!
Children’s brains develop at rapid rates and have vast learning capacities, but developmentally growth comes at individual baking times and takes TIME and PROCESS to bake into hard cookie adult brains. In fact it takes about 18 years! So no matter how much you desire for children/tweens/teens to think like YOU DO, They just can’t! You cannot hurry the process.
Many adults do NOT want to believe this!
Fact 3: The stage from 2-8 is what I call the golden age of enchantment. This is also known as Jean Piaget’s pre-operational stage of development which includes some key points which support the belief around Santa Claus. Believing in Santa is not bound by these younger ages, this stage is the explanation of when delight and fascination begins…not ends. Here are the points to ponder for those troubled about the LIE:
Children are Egocentric: This means learning is an “internal process and the child brings meaning to their world and not vice versa. Children use their senses or intuition to make judgments. Their logic is unpredictable, [rigid, strongly influenced by appearances,] and they frequently prefer to use magical explanations to account for what is happening in their world” (Charlesworth, Math and Science for Young Children, pp. 57). Everything they think and do comes from their perspective because that is all they know and understand. This is not egotistical thinking or wrong. It is how they need to process the world to learn…the time they need to cook. Adults often giggle when they hear children’s thought process’s about life:
“Do you know my grandma?” Well why wouldn’t you because I know her, so you must too!
“Chickens lay eggs and pigs lay bacon” (57).
“The sun follows me when I take a walk” (57).
Children in this stage are one dimensional and do not have the brain capacity to understand abstractions. They often mimic adults to know how to act (better take a closer look at your bratty whiner) or rote memorize what adults want them to regurgitate back but their brains only comprehend what they view from their own eyes and experience with their own movement or senses, literally. Although most misconceptions about truth and fantasy can be corrected during this stage, other little brains must WAIT for more advanced thinking to develop before they can grasp advanced concepts. Children cannot be pushed, pulled, or dragged through developmental stages. The goal is to support the development of children at their present stage and support their thinking about abstractions when THEY are ready (57).
Children at this stage are animistic in their thinking which goes along with egocentric. This is that inanimate objects are real to them. For example if they feel tired then the poor moon feels tired too. Or you can’t get rid of my blanket, it is my friend! This is a very important time for “play” when things have symbolic representations and is a process which helps their brain to understand things around them and grow. It is pretend time. It is imagination time. Blocks become real structures, the play tea pot has pretend tea, or the stick is a sword or light saber… Adults do not realize that imaginative play is a very critical component to children’s holistic growth and development. Imagination develops creativity and problem solving, and so many more positive learning processes which will be productive throughout their lives. Great inventions were started with simple imaginative thought and play… (Play is a subject that is being studied because in this century pure child-centered play is becoming extinct and this is very serious!)
There are many other components to this tender, delicate stage of development which evolves into other stages, still baking but these are roots which support the Santa question. The most wonderful and sweet thing about this is that Japanese, Russian, Polynesian, Australian, Guatemalan, Iranian, American, Chinese, and all 2-8 year old children around the world go through this exact same cognitive and emotional developmental process. Their brains are in that progression of cookie baking that is not anything near the adult hard completed cookie brain.
“BUT, I AM NOT GOING TO ALLOW MY CHILD TO BE TRICKED BY ALL THIS MUMBO- JUMBO-CUTSIE MAGIC AND ENCHANTMENT NONSENSE, BY GUM-BY-GOLLY MY KID IS SMARTER THAN THE REST AND IS GOING TO KNOW THE ABSOLUTE TRUTH ABOUT THE ENTIRE WORLD FROM THE BEGINNING!”
YEY for you!
But they will bake at this rate and play this way no matter what you tell them…
Six year old Zach invited the army men for dinner. What do you do?
Seven year old Travis exclaimed, today is Snowy’s birthday, Mom! We need to have his party tonight! What do you say?
Four year old Sammy crashed the block into the tower he built. “My monster truck crashed the mountain down!” How do you respond?
Ten year old Pepper asks “Really mom, does Santa come to our house?” Well, does he, mom?
Imagination, magic, enchantment is all a part of growing. We can correct children by giving a long explanation about the truth. The army men are invisible and they are not coming to dinner, Snowy is a stuffed bear and is not real and cannot have birthdays, the block is certainly not a monster truck and the tower is not a real mountain, and for heaven’s sakes Pepper, you are ten years old, really? Can’t you figure this out?!”
Why do we need to do that to them, when they developmentally believe this is so?
These are not lies, this is a part of figuring out life with play. And making mistakes, and crashing down towers, and experimenting with tangible things which have meaning to them help children of all ages sort through and learn about truths.
It is wonder and delight that nourishes the child’s cognitive, emotional, physical, social, and spiritual development. How we respond, encourage and support this development is teaching the child respect, kindness, and care.
Too many parents are so eager to slap that nonsensical magic right out of that child’s heart like the gentleman who wrote the “Santa is Dead” article in the ‘Real Simple’ Magazine article, that they rush to answer with, “Oh I am so sorry I have lied to you all these years, I beg your forgiveness. Shhh it will be alright! I promise not to do it ever again!”
The child has no idea what you are talking about, most of the time! Snowy is real! The army men are coming to dinner if you set places for them or not! And he watched the mountain fall so that monster truck did crash into it!
When we nourish and support the enchantment of childhood we are giving permission for children to think like children and be a child for as long as they need to be. Life is not hurrying the child to grow into adulthood, it is allowing them to be a child and bake for as long as they need. One day, they will be done!
Pepper stands at the threshold. She obviously still wants to believe or she would not have asked. When children of any age still ask if Santa is real, they are asking for your permission to believe. They are asking for you to acknowledge their belief, they are desirous for you to stand with them and support their wish for enchantment just a little bit longer.
Childhood does not last forever. There will be a time, using wisdom, when you can take the hand of the child who is ready and lead him/her into an even more precious secret to this magical realm. But more often there is no need to because the child figures it out herself. And wisely will transform into the more grown up understanding of, yet still believing, but now participating in the understanding with a more clearer view. They officially become initiated in the Santa Club, the tooth fairy guild, the Easter Bunny organization, the invisible friend society, the fairy house alliance, the great pumpkin association or host brownies and elves in their private dwellings. These are wise people throughout the world who spread the magic of believing and include themselves as enchantment helpers not Christmas Liars.
Santa Clause is a symbol of goodness culturally spread throughout the world in a variety of ways.
Is this not incredible?!
He comes when senses are bursting with experiences of sounds, smells, lights, tastes, touching and joyous giving. The very essence of how children learn.
Christian’s Christmas is about celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth, and belief in Santa Claus invites every single believer to feel involved with the excuse to spread this LOVE from God and share in the gift giving as Christ is the pure gift.
And whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do good is of me; for good cometh of none save it be of me. I am the same that leadeth men to all good; he that will not believe my words will not believe me–that I am; and he that will not believe me will not believe the Father who sent me. For behold, I am the Father, I am the light, and the life, and the truth of the world. (Ether 4:12)
There was no flinch, or pause. I knelt down to look deeply into those dark brown eyes, and I whispered with all the conviction of my heart. “I believe in Santa Claus!” Then I lingered… looking directly into her soul. Her worried expression turned to a grin and the tension was broken. Nothing more was said.
I did not lie to this kindergartner. I don’t believe Santa Claus is a Christmas Lie. His enchantment is real to me and I will believe forever.
I choose to carefully nurture the innocence of childhood, spread the magic of believing, and desire to help bake the best cookies…
Touch magic, pass it on…