First there was a Man. Then a Woman. Then in quick succession, two cats, a confused dog beast, and two kids. I stay at home with them. I'm the Man

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Santa Vs. Death

Nagging, niggling, jiggling guilt. Not a ton. Not quite a paralyzing amount, just the amount that chews out curling up space in the back of your brain or waits quietly, pressing between your shoulder blades. That's my Santa guilt. I never thought I'd have it. Santa is fun and we believe that fantasy is good for children and lord knows everyone lies to their kids at some point, even if they don't think they're doing it.

I have guilt because the following is the Peanut's belief system, and the responsibility for it rests on my wife and me.

"Marina and I were at school today." Marina is her best friend at school. They talk a lot." Marina and I were at school today and we were talking about what happens when you die--

"You were talking about when you die?"

"Yeah and we think that when you die that's it you're just dead and there is just nothing."

"What? You guys were talking about death and you think when you die there's nothing?"

"Yup that's what I think. I think you die and then *shrug*, that's it."



This is pretty much verbatim the conversation I had with the Peanut as we took advantage of a particularly sun spalshed afternoon to make a stop at the playground on the way home from school. Certain and unfazed by the absolute end, the Peanut hangs lightly by her legs from the monkey bars.

At first I allowed myself to wonder whose ideas these were. Is my little fairy princess the existential boogeyman of kindergarten room 8 or was it her friend Marina?

That question was answered for me a few days later when she told me that in school that day during recess she had been spreading her secular gospel of the damned throughout her class. She had told Alexis and Velma  about the end of existence. The lack of eternity. And, "we all agreed." And lo the Peanut spoke from the monkey bars on high, and proclaimed that death is final, and saw that it was good. And the people followed.

Meanwhile, the existence of Santa has been confirmed.

"Sometimes Marina and I talk about the Grinch and we wonder if he's real."

I shrug. "Oh yeah?"

She grins. "Yeah. Nobody knows. But Santa is real though."

So there you have it. The afterlife is a dream, but Santa is definitely coming and, in the Peanut's head, he's probably part fairy.

And I feel guilty about this in part at least because I'm an atheist. Let me qualify that a little. I'm not anti-god or even anti-religious. How can I be? I'm an atheist. I can't be anti something I don't believe in. I mean I could, but what's the point? Religion isn't evil and it isn't divine, it's human.

And that belief, along with our willingness to talk about god in an objective way, to sing prayers during Rosh Hashanah and Chanukah, to answer "We don't know, nobody really does," when the kids ask what happens when you die, to believe in Santa and fairies right along with them, says to me that we leave room for faith, we don't deny them it. Nor would we. If they do end up atheists (Deniers of Gawd!), I'd rather it was something they came to themselves rather than for the reason most people have a given religion . . . because their parents do.

Yet there it is. Faith Denied. So it really feels like lying when I play up Santa. Really really. Who am I to derail my tiny philosopher from her search for truth with my silly, mythical bullshit?

I'm her dad, that's who. And I guess if I've thus far failed her in terms of allowing her the room to experience religious faith, the least I can do is give her the space and encouragement to believe in a magical fat guy with genius Elven slaves and a sleigh that travels at near light speed solely through the power of reindeer farts.  And also fairies are real. And the Glass Ceiling isn't.

Merry Christmas Everyone!




  1. That is too funny. I love the way kids think. Years ago when my nieces and nephews were little, my husband would get a Santa suit and deliver presents to them which were actually from their grandmother. One nephew lived an hour away, and we didn't make it to his house. The next day at Christmas dinner at Grandma's, as the kids were babbling about Santa having come to their homes, the boy who hadn't been visited said, "There is no Santa." and then as an afterthought added, "There's an Easter Bunny, though!

  2. Liked this a lot. Thought provoking, and a little bit soul-searching, both things parenthood should inspire in us. Cheers.

  3. I don't go to church. Refuse to. Unless there is a funeral or a wedding. I can't. But I believe. I enjoy believing the whole lot of it, the magical conception, the miracles, the whole shebang. It simply gives me comfort, warmth and joy. I know the catholic myth is as solid as that thermos and aliens story another cult prays to. I don't care if its stupid, silly or plain naive. I believe because it's a cool story, and generations upon generations have told the stories over and over and have re-written them so we could understand them. Every time I go diving I take an instant to pray upon meeting a mermaid. Because that would be so cool. So rad. And so my camera is always ready for meeting her. Because it's fun to believe in magic. And its great that we have Santa to remind us once a year it's ok to allow our minds and hearts to welcome silly beliefs simply because they make us smile and feel good.

  4. So. (grumble-grumble because Blogger threw my comment away like dishwater)

    Believing in something magical is cool. It's what allows a kid to remain a kid. I would so cringe at a parent who immediately shun away all that is part of our belief system on principle of "I will not lie to my child" how about the principle of "I will allow my child to dream and believe". To this day, every time I go diving I pray for the appearance of a mermaid. I know (in theory) they don't exist. But, in my beautiful world of denial? They exist and they do underwater dancing and they're beautiful and friendly and are waiting for me. There's enough harsh reality in life. It's ok to dream and believe in mythical fat guys who give us gifts and make sure we stay nice all year. Actually it's the same principle as god. If we're not good we won't get the sweets afterwards. It keeps us on our toes. Well, at least those who believe. ;)

    I believe the fairy tales told by the bible simply because they're pretty nifty stories. But I would NEVER EVER go on and on about the goodness in the catholic church. It is after all the biggest greedy pedophile club ever invented by MANkind. Jerks. My beliefs are my beliefs, I choose some of them simply because they make me feel good inside. But I don't believe all of them.

    We all need a little magic in our lives.

  5. I like this, and the Peanut sounds like a cool kid.


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