It was with great amusement this morning that I caught up on my email, over coffee and leftover pie, and discovered a lovely note from a reader about my recent Christmas blog. This particular reader’s beef with me had nothing to do with politics, religion, or how my feminist views were going to cause the downfall of society as we know it.
No, this reader was upset that I had mentioned that Santa is not real. He accused me, even, of ruining Christmas for countless children who may be reading my blog. Let me make this perfectly clear. Children young enough to still believe in Santa should not now, not ever, be reading my blog.
Why children would want to read a blog written about life by a middle-aged woman, I can only guess. Since my topics are often relationships, divorce, parenting, politics, war, suicide, gender, and even vaginas, I would say it’s not a good idea. Children should not be reading the Bangor Daily News or ANYTHING online without adult supervision. So, dear reader, if your child is online, unsupervised, reading my blog, shame on you! You are going to have far greater problems on your hands than the kid finding out that Santa is not real! Turn off the computer and hand the child a nice book!
If, however, a child does stumble across my words, I hope they pick up on a few themes that I have spent the last 3 decades sharing with my own children; honesty, fairness, kindness, resilience, forgiveness, sharing, giving, sacrificing and above all else that it is always, always okay to just be you, whoever you happens to be!
But sadly, no, Santa is not real. Don’t get me wrong. I love Santa! Santa is fun! My children and I enjoyed the fantasy when they were young. However, like many things sold to us on TV and by department stores, Santa is pretend. Pretend is good, but getting pretend mixed up with real can cause problems, especially during this season full of pretend.
Too often this time of year, countless folks suffer from seasonal blues, depression or anxiety. Very often, this is related to trying to make our holidays look like the picture-perfect holidays of families we see in the media. We stress about money, we stress about gifts, we stress about meals and decorations and get-togethers with family. We stress about it all because we want it to look a certain way, feel a certain way and if it doesn’t, we feel we’ve failed.
For many the stress can be overwhelming. I remember when my children were small, how hard some years it was to afford even a modest Christmas and feeling so bad when other kids got gifts that I couldn’t even begin to afford. Yet, my children don’t remember that. They remember the thoughtful gifts they did get; things that they always loved and that had meaning. They remember the homemade gifts from their step-father, and the visits from Grammie. They remember the meals we all cooked together and the tree we went out in the woods to find. They remember decorating the tree with ornaments that all had memories, or that they had made themselves, and the stories told from year to year. They remember their Grandmother reading them “The Night Before Christmas,” every single year, even as they got older, and even the year we had my son on speaker phone from Iraq. She still reads it to all of us. Even though they are all in their 20s, they still insist on it.
Christmas for them didn’t have to look like it did on TV and I learned long ago to stop stressing over what I could and couldn’t do. No, I couldn’t afford huge gifts, and no, I couldn’t give them a set of parents who weren’t divorced but what I could give them, was more than enough. We had our own memories, our own traditions and we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Sadly, at some point, they all found out that Santa was pretend. I don’t think it did too much damage. As they got older, they also learned about divorce, death, the price of college, war and countless other things I would have preferred never touch their lives. They learned that their parents are human and make mistakes too. They learned that people can be mean. They learned that politicians and lovers both lie sometimes and they learned that nothing, almost nothing, is the same as it is on TV.
They also learned that the bond our family shares can survive anything. They learned that love is real and worth it, every single time. They learned that they are strong, that they can survive. They learned that often their mother laughed to keep from crying, but its the best way to keep going! They learned that they are capable of great things and of helping others accomplish great things as well. They learned that things will happen in life that they never expected both good and bad.
The holidays, just like life, are much better when they don’t work out according to plan. Being open to the unexpected, to the non-traditional, to joy and even struggle and pain, are the only ways to negotiate this ride we are all on!
They learned that fantasies are fun and TV is great for entertainment, but that real life is so much better. My son even thanked me recently for all the times I made him get off the computer or turn off the TV, in order to engage in real life, our life. No, it wasn’t perfect, and no it never will be. It doesn’t have to be and they’ll know how to make the best of it.
And when the time comes, they’ll know to never, ever, let the grandchildren read my blog! ; )