I was reminded today of a news story from a couple of weeks ago, wherein a teacher in Nanuet, NY - just across the Tappan Zee Bridge from where I sit typing this right now - took it upon herself to inform her entire elementary school class that there is no Santa Claus. Predictably and correctly, outrage ensued and heads were called for. In the current economic environment, I find it difficult to advocate for anybody short of an actual criminal losing their job, but it sure wasn't hard to understand where the anger was coming from.
Likely, you've heard all about this by now. I didn't post about it in this series when it was current because 31 Holi-Days was young then, and I had no interest in starting it off on such a negative note. Sarcastic and/or funny like Erin McKeown's album/live show is one thing, but cruelty is quite another. And, yes, I think that what this teacher did in her classroom could be classified as cruel. At best, it was completely callous. Everybody likes to prattle on about bullying these days, but how should we react when the bully is the teacher?
Or, for that matter, the public: in a quick perusal of the surprisingly divided comments that follow the Huffington Post article linked above, one really stood out to me: What is the problem with children knowing the simple truth. Where does this custom of beginning your relationship with your children with a lie come from? Although it may sound a tad cold at first blush, it's actually a fair question. Allow me to answer it.
There is no problem in you, as a parent, deciding to let your children know "the simple truth", although I'd suspect you'd quickly discover that said truth is not as simple as it might have initially seemed once your child begins asking questions that they may not yet be emotionally old enough to deal with the answers to. If that is the path you choose to take as a parent, there isn't a thing in the world wrong with it; it is your right to raise your children as you see fit. What you would not have the right to do would be to go next door and tell your neighbor's children the same thing. Your right to make such a choice extends only to your own family, and it ends at your front door. What this teacher did was inflict her own child-rearing views upon those who may not have wished to take that particular path, and that's an entirely different matter than a decision made by and for a single family.
Then there's question number two: Where does this custom of beginning your relationship with your children with a lie come from? Well, riddle me this: is Santa really a lie per se, or is the Santa story just a way of making an intangible idea - the spirit of familial love and general benevolence at the holidays - more understandable to a young, still-developing mind? Obviously, the big dude with the reindeer isn't flesh and blood. But the concept of giving and caring that he symbolizes is real, and is a state we should aspire to whether it's December or not. Speaking solely for myself, I don't think that presenting that concept to children in a manner they can easily comprehend is a lie. I think it's a fine, fitting introduction.