Monday, December 20, 2010

Convictions and Controversy (Part 4)

The UPS man came today.  To deliver the girls' Christmas gift from their Grandfather.

The delivery guy said to me apologetically "It has what it "is" labeled on the box..... I'm sorry...... "
To which I replied "Oh, that's fine!!!  Not a problem at all."
His response was that of obvious relief- the poor guy may as well have wiped the sweat off his brow,
"Ya.  It's really tough being Santa Claus right now...."
( I hear ya, buddy!)

Well? This is the final installment of "Convictions and Controversy".  Here's the whole reason I started this set:

Santa doesn't come to our house; and our girls know it.
We've told them the "truth" from the get go.   Ok.  Not really.  We never told them that Santa wasn't the bringer of gifts at Christmas time.  We simply told them that God had blessed Mommy and Daddy with the ability to get gifts for them on Jesus' birthday- as a way to remember the amazing gift that God gave us... His son.

Here we are- the "ab"norm- on yet another subject, and up until this Christmas season- we've only had to fend for our right to "teach our kids what we want to teach them" among our family members.

Up until THIS Christmas season, our 5 year old Zoe wasn't in a kindergarten class full of Santa Clause believing peers, and up until THIS Christmas Season- we didn't realize just how strong minded our amazing little girl really was on  the subject of "truth" and "not the truth".

Zoe's class began prepping for their Holiday Cheer and they were all talking about Santa. Apparently our daughter decided that they were all crazed loons for believing that Santa was the bringer of their Christmas gifts,  and she wanted to remedy their illusions by announcing what all parents fear for their children to hear:
 "Santa. Is. Not. REAL!!!"

The email I received from her teacher went like this:

Mrs. Anderson,

I have something that I wanted to address with you. I know this can be a very tough subject, but I hope for your understanding. 

Today we began doing special activities with the students for the holidays and Zoe was very adamant to announce that Santa is not real. I asked her to please keep comments like that to herself but as the day progressed she continued to announce that he is just a made up person. 

By no means am I asking for Zoe to believe or for your family to believe a certain way, but there are so many students that do whole heartedly believe in Santa Clause and are devastated at this age when someone announces something like that. 

Could you help me with talking with her about this subject? I respect everyone’s beliefs when it comes to the holidays and find the importance of all of them with every family. However I would just like for Zoe to be able to enjoy these activities with the class without upsetting others. I really hope that you understand. Thank you so much."

I love this teacher.  She's a perfect match for our Zoe.  And because Zoe loves her so much, this was, indeed, a tough subject.  Not because we didn't agree that Zoe could keep her "Santa Truth" to herself, but because Zoe (I feel the need to repeat- age 5) was NOT okay with keeping the truth to herself.

My (careful) response was this:

" I sincerely appreciate and respect your concern.  Per Zoe's strong will and spunk, I'm not surprised at all that she is announcing "what she knows".   Zoe has a "black and white" personality.  She has no gray area.  

It's such a tough subject; we have talked to her about how other kids really like to believe in Santa- and that it makes other kids sad when she tells them that Santa isn't real.  We've asked her to make better word choices such as "I believe that Jesus is the reason for Christmas" and we've asked her to leave the part about Santa not being real out of her words.

We told her the story of the real St. Nicholas; and Lord have mercy, her questions were slightly tough.  She asked if he was 'dead now' and we said "Well, he lived a long time ago, but he's not alive anymore'.  And now- she's saying that Santa is dead.   It went from bad to worse.

Sigh.  I don't quite know how to handle this.  She believes what she believes and she says exactly what's on her mind.  She's not trying to be mean or disrespectful.  It's just a part of her personality and the temperament that's ingrained in her.  

When she was 3 years old her doctor asked her if she was ready for Santa Clause to come and bring her presents, and she didn't even blink before she announced matter-of-factly 
"Nope.  Santa isn't the reason for Christmas.  It's because of Jesus."  

One thing I can't do is ask her to keep quiet about what she believes; I can ask her to make better word choices as to not hurt other people's feelings.  I've went over it and over it, and I can't figure out another way to remedy the situation without going against what we hope to teach Zoe; to say the Truth, to speak up about what she believes in.

She was pretty emotional about it when I talked to her; she said it "wasn't right because Santa is not real and everyone keeps saying he is"- and she was pretty upset when she said,  "My teacher keeps saying that Santa is real when he's really not".

I think another idea would be for you to take her aside and make it a "big secret".  Maybe you can explain to her that you know that Santa isn't real, and she believes that Santa isn't real- and that's okay- but that you and her need to have it be a big secret from the kids that believe Santa is real because they all like to be surprised on Christmas day....   or something to that effect.

Her teachers response went like this:

pulled Zoe to talk to her this afternoon. 

I told her how much of a big girl she was to understand the true meaning of Christmas. 
I then told her how much I would love for her to share what she knows about the true meaning of Christmas with the students.
 I then told her that so many people her age truly believe that Santa is real. She immediately said “but he isn’t.” 
I told her that was true but we don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by telling them that he is not.

 I said she was such a big girl to understand but that others didn’t quite understand yet. I did tell her that it was our secret and that we did not want to hurt anyone by saying those things. 

She then asked if Mrs. H knew that he was not real. I told her that she knew and that it would be ok for her to talk about it with her as well. She seemed very understanding, and I really feel like everything has been taken care of. Let me know if she has anything to say this afternoon. Thanks!

And the remedy of all remedies occurred after this amazing teacher took the time to work with our precious daughter to ensure that she was comfortable, and secure- despite her controversial beliefs!!!

This was NOT the norm in these types of situations.  Most families get angry and offended when a child announces what "they know" about Santa.  My youngest sister, as a matter of fact- who's baby is 9 months old,  contacted me about the situation and clearly announced that
"If your kids tell my daughter that Santa isn't real- we're going to have a big problem.....".

Ouch.  That hurt. (And my sister and I are close, too!)
But it's not the first time a family member got upset regarding what we teach our children.
And the sting of it didn't burn for very long.

It's not easy to live by what you believe.

We don't think it's necessarily BAD to do Santa.  It was just our personal conviction NOT to.  Our choices were based on a thought process that said this:

We want our children to believe that everything we teach them is The Truth.  We teach them about a Living God, and a Savior, and we tell them Bible stories, and we explain that it's "real".
We wanted to stick to a "The Truth Only" path.  So that later in life- there isn't a question about what was 'real' and what was 'not'.

Interestingly, our 7 year old has decided that she "wants to believe that Santa is real...." and pretend like he comes down the chimney and brings her presents.  


We said "sure" to her desire to pretend, with a reminder that Santa was "actually really truly NOT REAL".... and a bit of confusion in our self about whether it was "ok" to pretend or not.

She asked us if it would make God sad for her to pretend, and I said to her with complete humility
"Baby, I have no idea.  Let's just pray about it- and if you feel like it's okay to pretend, then I think it'll be fine..."

We don't have all the answers.  That's WHY we have to follow our convictions.

Controversial or NOT.

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