In our LV Moms' Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money and parenthood. These views are theirs, not ours, but we look forward to opening up the floor for discussion.
Last time, we introduced you to two moms who shared their views on working while having children and being a stay-at-home mom. This time, one writer shares why her dad came clean about Santa from the beginning, and why she's so glad he did, now that she's an adult.
Aside from the financial burdens of the holiday season, it's a cheerful time of year. I love the smell of Christmas trees and gingerbread, the sound of children laughing and playing with new toys, and the authentic joy that comes from being surrounded by the people you love most. I find it all magical.
Well, all except for that magical creature parents everywhere tell their kids about: Santa Claus.
In fact, in a recent poll, 69% of parents said that children should believe in Santa.
My dad would beg to differ.
The Truth Comes Out
The first year I was able to understand the concept of Christmas I was about 4, and my mother tried valiantly to sell me on the idea of Santa. She pointed to our non-working fireplace and said, “Santa is going to drop down from there with presents for you.”
My father stood quietly behind her, shaking his head. That night when he tucked me in, I asked him how Santa would fit down our broken chimney. “Yeah, your mother seems to like that story," he said, simply.
I didn’t have to ask what he meant—from then on we both knew that I knew the truth.
Would You Tell Your Kid Santa Doesn't Exist?
What side of the Santa debate are you on? Would you consider telling your young child the truth?
Dad wasn’t a Grinch or a Scrooge, but he did have a no lying policy that he took very seriously. I was glad that my dad's policy extended to telling me Santa didn't exist. That way I never had to deal with the disappointment of finding out that he didn’t. Knowing from the very beginning actually made Christmas mornings even better. And, a year or so later, we let my mom in on our little secret, too.
The year I was 6, I remember waking up to find a big, beautiful dollhouse—and I didn't labor under the delusion that it had been constructed by elves, or express-shipped via sleigh. I knew my parents had stayed up all night making it just for me ... and all that effort on my behalf made me feel loved.
Why No Santa Made Sense to Me
And there was another reason not believing in Santa hit close to home.
I grew up in the Bay area, and we didn’t have a lot. What my parents did have was divided amongst me and my three older brothers—but, even so, we still had more than some of my friends.
One example was my friend Jason. He lived just down the street from us, and our parents were friends. Jason's mom worked at the local corner store and his father was disabled, so the family really had to scrimp.
To keep him in line throughout the year, his mother used to say to Jason, who was a nice, well-behaved boy: “Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good!”
The same year I received my big, beautiful dollhouse, Jason got a puzzle and some clothes his mother had sewn by hand. After returning to school from break, I watched as he watched our classmates show off all the things they’d asked for and received from Santa.
I don’t know how he rationalized a biased Santa in his mind—one who gave him more meager gifts than his wealthier classmates, even though he was a good boy—but it did teach me something: I was glad I knew that what arrived on Christmas morning had little to do with a mythical man deciding whether I was bad or good. I think Jason might have had a different picture of Christmas if he knew, too.
A Different Take on Christmas
These days, I look around and see parents nearly killing themselves to buy all the things they want their kids to have, then turning around and giving the credit to a guy who doesn't exist. I'm left wondering: Does this minimize a child's ability to connect gratitude to where it belongs, with their family?
My experiences with Christmas growing up gave me an understanding of the value of a dollar, and the amount of work that goes into making it. Sure, I wished my parents had had more money so I could have had more stuff (what 6-year-old doesn't want more stuff?), but I appreciated their sacrifices and was grateful for what we did have, and especially all the effort they put into making me happy.
We may or may not be actually harming our children by letting them believe in some highly materialistic fantasy, but especially in this economy, reality is a much-needed thing. Being realistic about the sacrifices being made in order to celebrate is a gift in itself.
I believe there's great value in placing the focus where it belongs during the holidays—on charity, love and family. When I have children, I intend to debunk any myth that suggests otherwise, whether it's Santa ... or the Easter Bunny.
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Aja Cooper is a 30 year-old publicist from the San Francisco Bay Area. She works at a social marketing and education firm located in Oakland, California and is a Graduate of San Jose State University.