As I’m sure most of you have heard, many parents / carers have been encouraged to lie to their children regarding the identity of a fast-moving light in the sky on Christmas eve. If we manage to spot it, what we will see is not Father Christmas but the International Space Station (ISS). Rather than discuss with children this incredible project begun in 1993 with the first component put in space in 1998, resulting in the largest artificial body in orbit being visible to the naked eye from space on Christmas eve many parents will tell their children that an obese, judgemental trespasser is wibbling past on his reindeer-powered sled.
I’ve spoken to some people about this and they’re surprisingly defensive of this cover-up and indeed the Father Christmas myth in general. Don’t worry, I lied to my children too, so you can trust me (hmm). To compound problems, many people tell their children that ‘Santa’ gives all the presents. I should note that I wasn’t brought up like this, in my house he only delivered the things which he choose to leave on the end of my bed, wrapped in my mum’s old tights (not weird, eh?). So what’s wrong with him giving all the presents? Doesn’t that make him super-duper generous? Well… the practical upshot of this particular pack of lies is that unavoidably the wealthier the family, the more he gives to their children. In the cases of the poorest families the children may be totally ignored. Why would he do that? I’ve always found children to be very logical, perhaps more so than adults, and at some point this inequality will be realised in their brain (perhaps just subconsciously) where it will sit along with all the other confusing things in life such as why our parents sold our milk teeth for 50 pence to a mythical creature. In effect Father Christmas is a sort of anti-Robin Hood, OK, he’s not stealing from the poor, but he’s giving to the rich and neglect of the poor is hardly a kindness.
Getting back to those defensive parents. Forget your past, and imagine now a choice: You can have a jolly annual celebration with time off work and an exchange of modest (or not) gifts along with an excess of food and drink, OR you can have all of the above plus you get to pay bizarre homage to a religious icon you likely don’t worship or really believe in, lie to your children about the provenance of their presents and then be pressurised by the media and your peers into layering more and more nonsense on the initial guff to the point where we ignore a chance to gaze upon one of our greatest technological achievements. After some time, typically 7 or 8 years, your children will be plenty smart enough to recognise you for the confusingly selective charlatan you are (no offence, I’m one too) and will then have to try to come to terms with the confusion, disappointment and unnecessary nature of what they’ve just been through. A realisation of long-term deception causes trauma – ask any psychologist. Amusingly we usually see this particular trauma as part of ‘growing up’. What children really love is seeing their family, sharing presents and time together, eating, having time off school and being able to completely and utterly trust their guardians. They enjoy all of the good stuff naturally, the rest of the stuff is what they’ve been trained to believe they enjoy – so why bother? Children don’t actually like being lied to. No one does.
Which do you choose? Easy, isn’t it. You take all the good, ditch the lies and away we all go. You’re not 6 now and you don’t believe any more, right? Wrong! You do believe – not in Father Christmas but in the myth of Father Christmas, the value of the myth and the importance of perpetuating it. You have to believe that as to think that you were deceived for no good reason and to acknowledge how that feels is much, much harder than just repeating what you experienced. I feel the same. That’s why I lied / lie to my children.