Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Do you believe in magic?

I remember when I was around seven, I told my mother that I did not believe in Santa Claus. Thinking I was too young to be a nonbeliever, she sicked my grandmother on me. My grandmother, a wonderful story teller, sat me and my older brother down and wove the magical story of Santa back into our little realities. She was grandma. She never told a lie. We believed again...for a little while longer. Eventually though...we could tell that Santa had the same handwriting as Mom and that was it for me.

Since I have become a mother I have wondered over this topic a lot. Especially since the Easter Bunny just visited our house, I have really wondered if perpetuating these myths, lies, whatever you want to call them is good. How far should I take it? How old should I let my kids believe. I have known some kids to believe until around 12 years old. Is that too long, or do we make our kids grow up too fast by wising them up too soon?

Another friend I have, goes by the motto: "if you believe you receive." Which means that if you don't, you miss out on the presents. So...all her girls, 16 and down just don't talk about not believing although I am sure the older ones don't.

Sometimes I feel like I am lying. Here is this little human being who hangs on my every word to be true and I am talking about these "people" as if they are real when they clearly are not. I even go as far as sneaking around the house to set up everything to look as if this person visited our house and brought us presents. I make sure everything I say never gives him a hint that it is all a lie. It can really be such a production that I also wonder if it is worth it. Hmmmm....I just don't know. I need your thoughts on this.

Do you let "magical people" grace your home? How long? What do you do to keep the fantasy going?
Do you consider it lying or just encouraging imagination?


Roeckers said...

Growing up my Dad lost his job. I was old enough to have a job and my belief in "magical people" was renewed! Every holiday for 16months our home received gifts and have no idea where they came from. I believe it is more important to teach our children to give than to focus on the "magical people". I tell even my now four year old that the Easter bunny, or Santa Claus asked us to to help him out by giving to so and so. They get so caught up in helping out there is little time to question the reality.
As for playing the game or telling a lie, it is all giving, since when is giving bad? They aren't complaining!

Spring said...

I hear you Delia! Everyone says it's just for fun but I can't help but have that gut feeling that I'm about to tell a lie when they say, "Mom, it the Easter bunny real?". My hubby thinks I'm a ruining the magic but it makes me feel bad lying to them. I gave in with the Santa Claus because hubby really wanted to say Santa Claus is real. But, when my 5 year old asked if the tooth fairy was real and if the Easter bunny was real I thought about it for a second and said, "No, they aren't real but we pretend they are. It's a little game we play for fun!". She seemed to be happy with that and still enjoyed all the festivities. Personally, it simply wasn't fun for me to tell them they were real, it made me feel bad, so I didn't. People who grew up with Santa Claus being real seem to think it was a lot of fun though. Delia, did you resent Grandma for saying that to you? That's what I wondered about.

Jessie said...

My kids aren't really old enough to understand the concept of Santa and the Easter Bunny (though they're getting there), but when they think about it enough to ask questions, I plan on talking about the Spirit of the seasons, rather than focusing on the people--and talk like Roeckers (above) said--about giving, and the importance of the spirit of the seasons. I personally believe in the spirit of Santa (aka giving), and I hope my kids will feel that way, too.

JeriLynn said...

My hubby's pretty strict about this. Do we believe in these people? Big Fat NOPE! Makes it easier on us since we don't have to worry about the stories and the lies and the gifts that eventually turn into junk. Yes, I'm cynical about it. Also, I'm lazy.

I admire those who are talented/determined enough to pull this kind of thing off. A part of me is also sad that my kids won't partake of that magic, but oh well.

Jared and Delia said...

To answer your question Spring...I don't resent my grandma. I never did. I didn't even lose respect for her either, when I found out it was all made up. I don't know why.

Another question I have, is if your kids go to school (if homeschooled when they go to socialize with other kids) how do you plan to deal with some kids believing and some not?

Doesn't this seem more complicated than it should be?

Erin said...

I've never really thought twice about it. My kids aren't old enough to understand it yet, but when they are I think we will just do what we have always done with our families growing up. I don't think we will focus a lot on magical people because we try to focus on the real reasons for the holiday, but I really don't think it does any damage to believe. It's part of the magic of childhood I think. It's not for everyone I guess, but I don't think it hurts. I really like Spring's idea about pretending though! That's a good compromise I guess.

Kelly A. said...

I do the whole Santa/Easter bunny thing at my house and I've never thought twice about it either. I agree with Erin that it is all part of the magic of childhood. That said, I do think it is important to teach your children the TRUE meaning of holidays and the spirit of giving. It's important to me to separate the commericalness of holidays from the real reasons we celebrate them. I've kind of always thought that when my kids start asking, I will probably tell them that I believe in the spirit of Santa Clause etc. and kind of leave it at that. I don't see myself saying "Santa isn't real" We'll see how things pan out when I actually get to that stage in life! :)

Megan said...

I too agree with Kelly and Erin. I think it is part of the magic of being a child. However, like has been stated in previous comments, I don't want my children to focus on the material reasons for the holidays. I know that can be a little harder for little kids who get bombarded with advertisements for toys and things, but I want them to know the true meaning of Christmas, and Easter. I also like the idea from one of the above comments about Santa being about giving, and not necessarily about receiving. I think that is something we all hope to instill in our children, that it is better to give than to receive.

Kara said...

I think as parents we should play along until children start asking. I think when my kids get old enough to wonder I will ask them what they think. Then I will go with what they say and if I feel like it is the right time to tell them, they are made up I will. What makes me mad is that older sibblings tell the younger ones before they start wondering so it doesn't make it as fun. I like the concept of telling them that we like to play make believe and imagine these people are real because it makes life more fun!

Chris and Laura said...

I think I'm with Kara on this one. I have no problem playing along with the stories while my kids are little, but I don't plan on going to any great lengths later on if they start asking. I think there is something to say for the magic of being a little kid, and I think it in some ways will make it easier to explain Christmas and whatnot if there's an easy story to tell. But, when they know, they know.

I'm not worried about lying. We all tell stories to our kids. Even fairy tales... as adults, we know they are not true, but young children spend a long time believing they are real. Eventually, they figure out that they aren't true. To me, Santa Claus is the same. He's a fairy tale that is fine to believe in for a while, then eventually, the truth comes out and life moves on.

Tannie Datwyler said...

I've thought about this a lot since you mentioned it Delia. I thought about my childhood... and this is what I came up with.

I didn't believe in Santa Clause - I remember when I was 3 my dad told me, for some reason, that he wasn't real (I think it had to do with my older sister). I always felt rather badly that I never got the chance to believe.

I never believed in the Easter Bunny, at least as far as I remember, but that to me isn't a big deal.

I know I believed in the Tooth Fairy for a while, and it was fun. I also thought it was awesome when I figured out that she wasn't real! I thought I was clever and told my mother that she didn't have to fool me anymore, because I figured out the secret.

I am just reminded of the movie "Miracle on 34th Street." I think of that little girl Susan who never had a chance to believe or even pretend and how she kind of yearned for that. I want my kids to have an imagination and part of being little might be believing in something fun like Santa Clause. I don't think it has to take away from what is important (Christ) but it can just add to the spirt of giving (I love what has been said about that already).

So here is what I think I will do (like has been said, everyone is different). I will encourage belief in these "so called" imaginary figures. But, when my children start to not believe then I won't lie to them or go to great lenghts to retain the belief (although I agree about the older sibling thing, that is annoying). Perhaps when I'm asked I will say, "what do you think," and we'll talk about it (I also liked the, "it's a game" idea).

All in all, I don't think it is a lie. I also don't think I'm hurting my kids if I let them believe for a little while.

This has been such a fun topic! Thanks for bringing it up Delia.

Jared and Delia said...

Thank you for all of your great comments. I have a few questions to add:

Many of you have commented about how you want your children to understand the real reason for holidays and focus on giving. I agree with this concept. I think you would be hard pressed to find a parent that doesn't make this their goal. you not give anything to your kids and make them give away all their toys? I would venture to say likely not. So...what do you do or plan to do to make sure that holiday gifts don't get out of hand and your goals of helping your kids appreciate giving are achieved? I am hoping for specific examples because I definitely need more tips in this area.

As my son has reached an age when all this matters more, I have let the excitement of the holidays creep up on me and without realizing it, I have let all the festivities get out of hand.

With gifts from grandparents and the little things I want to give my son that I remember getting when I was young, our house practically turns into a toy and candy store. OK so I am exaggerating but I ALWAYS feel like there is too much, too much candy, too many toys, too much junk! - even if it isn't as much as so and so gave their kid. We play "Easter Bunny's helper" and "Santa's helper" to help instill giving, but I would love more ideas. one has addressed my question from earlier. What about when your child interacts with other children that may not believe or that do (if your child doesn't).

I also don't think that fairy tales are harmful, but are they helpful.

Please don't think I am for or against. I am in fact still very much on the fence about how I FEEL about it, BUT plan on continuing with the mythical creature production since that is what I have already started, it is what I grew up with, and I don't really want my child to be left out of the fun or be the kid that spoils it for everyone else. much to think about.

Tannie Datwyler said...

:) I think that when peers start to talk about the validity of an imaginary figure it is okay for your child to hear it. If they still want to believe, I think they will. If they are ready to know the truth, then then will also. Some kid might "ruin" believing for your child, but at the same time, maybe they are just giving them the next step. Does that make sense at all?

Specific ideas for giving.... Around Easter that is hard. You could have him help hide the eggs for Reid (like you said, Easter Bunny helper). Most the ideas I have are for Christmas... try this. :)

- Have Christmas morning be CALM. I always feel like Christmas morning turns into a present frenzy at my dad's house (there are 7 children not counting inlaws and grandkids, so it is no wonder....) But I feel that the spirit of giving is lost in all that chaos.

One thing my family did for a few years taht I loved was "gifts from the heart." We made a gift for each sibling and it didn't have to be anything big, but it did have to mean something. This was our favorite part of those Christmases, and most of the time the gift wasn't expensive.

Your son is old enough to understand giving gifts to neighbors and friends. Make sure he's invovled with you give away your Christmas treats to neighbors.

Sub for Santa or Angle trees are also a good idea. :)

Those are my ideas.

By the way, I don't think anyone thinks you are against this or that you are an ogre. :) I never did at least.

Tannie Datwyler said...

HAHAH, angel trees, by the way. I promise I can spell.

Jessie said...

Kelly - Thanks for taking the time to enter in my photography give-away!


Fisher Fam said...

I have been thinking about this alot, and here is what I came up with from my personal experiences...We do celebrate the holidays, including the imaginary parts. Like a lot of other commentors I agree that it can get out of hand at times. It's easy to get caught up, but I enjoy the smiles and excitement that they can create.

I'll start with the Easter bunny, since it is fresh on my mind. To separate Christ and his sacrifice from the bunny, we actually have the bunny come on Saturday, so that Sunday we can spend a bit more reverantly. We go all out on Saturady with the egg hunt and baskets, but the kids get just a few things (mostly from the dollar store) and then a couple of books each (I only have two that are little so it isn't hard to impress yet). My parents will usually send a family gift (typically a movie or game for the whole family and an Easter outfit for the kids, so I don't have to worry too much about that part). It may seem excessive, but it's something that I like to do. If it isn't fun for you, your kids will pick up on that and it's probably better to do something else you can all enjoy. Then on Sunday we can do the whole Church with new Easter clothes and big dinner thing (although we skipped that this year and had some good friends over instead). It gives us time to be with each other without all the hassle of egg hunts and baskets.

It's similar for Christmas. We do have Santa (and I love that!) but we spend time Christmas Eve talking about the Christmas story and gifts that we can give to baby Jesus. Things like changing ourselves to be more like him and setting goals to become more that way. We also will read a Christmas story of some kind (since my kids are still little, this ends up mainly just my husband and I for now, but they get included as reasonable for their age). I also do the nwighbor gift exchange and have my kids help with that as they can. It's fun for them to help cook something that they can give away (include giving something to their friends as well, like rice krispie treat snowmen or something simple and inexpensive). I also had Logan pick out something to give to Harlee (she's too young to do this yet) and he was sooo excited for her to open "his" present. The Angel tree is another amazing way to get your kids invloved! Our ward actually did one for a senior citizens center here and it was great for the kids in the ward as well as the adults to focus on giving rather than receiving.

About fairy tales, I use them as a form of teaching. They will almost always have some lesson to be learned, so just make sure to discuss that after the story. Kids have imaginary friends and it's perfectly normal! Fairy Tales are just one more way to stay away from TV all day, and expand imagination.

Before my kids came along I taught second grade and by then most still believed, yet a few were questioning things. When they came to me to ask my thoughts, I left it up to them. I asked them what they thought, and what their parents said. I reinforced that people think differently and it doesn't make it wrong, just different. That usually settled things down and everyone stayed happy with what they thought.

Now that I have rambled on, thanks for this - it made me think about what I really want for my kids!

Jared and Delia said...

Great ideas. They have given me a lot of help and a lot to think about. Thank you!

Courtney said...

I feel like I would be breaking a society cardinal rule if I didn't introduce and encourage such things with my children. I am with Spring when it comes to not wanting to encourage believing in "untruthful" things. Just this last Easter my husband and I talked about this very issue again. He thinks I am ruining the fun of it and while I agree with him I still don't want to perpetuate the inevitable “let down” if you will. Sorry if this sounds dramatic here…=0) I agree with Fisher Fam when it comes to focusing on the true meaning of each seasonal message...that being Christ in most cases. We are still debating this very topic in our house. I loved that you posted about this Delia!! I am still in a quandary about it…

On The Go Family said...

I can totally relate to Delia's feelings about having the house turn into a toy/candy store around every holiday. It drives me nuts!

No matter how much I try to simplify the gift giving and encourage grandparents to give ONE gift instead of handfuls, it never works out that way. Of course, we can talk and share our feelings with family members about toning down the presents, but the main thing we can CONTROL is what happens in our own home.

One thing we started doing at Christmas is simplifying the Santa routine. We hardly talk about him at all -- no mall visits, no pictures, no "be good or Santa won't come" threats, etc. He does stop by our house Christmas Eve, but it's not the central focus. When he comes, he leaves ONE gift for each kid, along with filling the stockings. (I also know families who give three Santa gifts to each kid, representing the three gifts from the wise men to Jesus.)

I grew up getting an entire couch full of presents from Santa on Christmas morning, so this is a big departure from the norm for us, but it's worked great so far -- our kids are 4.5 and 2.5 I think the key is starting small because things only seem to get bigger and bigger as the kids age.

As for Easter, we do the Easter bunny bit, but again, it's no big deal. The kids get one or two candy items and one or two spring toys (I generally spend $5 or less on each basket) like sunglasses, bubbles, sidewalk chalk, etc. We do baskets the day before Easter (I think someone else mentioned this above) so that on Easter Sunday, we can focus on the true meaning of the day. We also dye eggs and do egg hunts on days other than Easter Sunday as well.

My 4.5-year-old talked about the egg hunt and the Easter basket for about five minutes total after it happened. She's been talking about the crucifixion, the resurrection and the Atonement for WEEKS in comparison.

In sum -- I think you can relax and have fun with some of the secular celebrations while still teaching your kids the importance of the Savior and why we really celebrate each holiday. I've found that since we started studying scriptures every day as a family together (2 yrs now, going strong), we have a nice framework and gospel dialogue going that helps our kids know what's most important to us. As holidays and events come and go, they can add that knowledge to the gospel framework they're already familiar with from our daily conversations about Christ.