Here are my thoughts: On one hand - I have vowed not to lie to my child. I want her to trust me and believe in me, I want her to believe that I am someone she can always trust no matter what and that I have her best interest at heart in all matters. On the other hand... I spent years letting her believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Switch Witch at Halloween... as a matter of fact, I did MORE than just let her believe, I’m the one who taught her about these magical, yet mythical, beings to begin with. And year after year I put on quite a show to keep her believing.
I believed that it was all fun, childhood magic that every child should get to experience. I mean, I did as a child and everyone else I know did, too. Somehow I thought that it was super important and necessary even to get her to believe, that she would be missing out on something if I didn’t teach her about these mythical creatures.
But then last year my daughter started asking questions about the Switch Witch ((the stuffed witch she leaves her Halloween candy out for every year and who replaces it with healthier options and/or toys.)) At first she would ask questions like, “is the switch with real?” and “how does she fly if she is just a doll?” But then she asked point blank: “Are you the switch witch? Are you the one taking my candy?”
It was one thing when I was introducing fun, imaginative ideas for her to take part in, but it was a whole other thing to lie right to her face when she asked a direct question. In the spirit of not lying to her I answered her honestly. “Yes, I am the switch witch.” She was disappointed, and I thought I detected a few small tears in her eyes as well. We talked about it a bit, and I was as honest as I could be, explaining that I told her there was a switch witch because I wanted to give her something fun to believe and take part in for Halloween. I asked how she felt and she said a little bit sad. We also talked about not telling her younger cousin any of this so that he could keep believing for a little bit longer. ((So am I encouraging her to lie now, too?))
She was silent for a minute and I could see the wheels turning in her head. Then, with wide eyes, she asked more questions: “If you’re the switch witch are you the Easter Bunny, too? Those white paw prints on the driveway, did you do those? Are you Santa Claus?”
I definitely wasn’t prepared for this and I panicked. But again, in the spirit of not lying I was honest (sort of) and admitted that yes, I was the easter bunny, too. But I wasn’t ready to let go of Christmas yet. I had all these thoughts running through my head .. thoughts that had been fed to me by society … she is too young to stop believing in Santa … if I tell her the truth now she will be so sad … I can’t crush her dreams … she is supposed to believe in santa for a little bit longer… So I told her that I still believe in Santa and I hoped she would too.
Years ago I read an article about what to say when your kids find out Santa isn’t real. It explained that anyone who is old enough to understand the spirit of giving is a Santa. Anyone who gives from the heart is a Santa. So when children get to an age where they stop believing, instead of telling them Santa is made up, pretend, to teach them that now they can see the magic of Christmas in a different way and they, too, can become a Santa now.
I fell in love with that idea. It matches my beliefs about generosity and also felt like such a softer way to let children know the truth then just saying Santa doesn’t really exist.
When my daughter asked direct questions like “Are you putting the presents under the tree?” I would keep saying the same thing: “I believe in Santa and the magic of Christmas.” Somehow I felt like if I kept saying this, then I wasn’t really lying to her. She seemed to except this and we made it through another Christmas of her happily believing in Santa. But this time, I felt super guilty. I now felt like I was, indeed, lying to the person I swore never to lie to.
One week ago my daughter lost her 6th tooth and asked right away if I was the tooth fairy. When I admitted that yes I was, she told me I had lied to her all this time. She pointed out how I pretended the tooth fairy was real, put money under her pillow and even wrote notes that supposedly came from the tooth fairy. She has so many questions including how I came up with his name (Toby Tooth Fairy,) why I wrote notes and pretended to be him, where the teeth went …
Her eyes welled up and she said she couldn’t believe I lied to her. It was heart breaking.
I explained it all the best way I could: I didn’t pretend about the Easter Bunny and Santa and the Tooth Fairy to hurt her, or lie to her, or trick her. I was trying to create something fun for her. Something magical to believe in while she was a child.
I tried my best to convey my intentions, but she kept coming back to my actions: I lied to her.
We have only one magical holiday tradition left – Santa Claus. And while Christmas is still more than ½ a year away, it’s heavy on my mind. I’m torn between giving her one last year to believe (she is only 7 after all!) and telling her the truth now, before she asks me again.
I’ve read lots of articles online about this subject in an attempt to figure out the answer. But for all the articles I find where professionals say its fine to let them believe, there are just as many saying that it is damaging. I guess there just isn’t one answer, no definitive right or wrong.
Of all the articles I read the one that stuck out to me the most wasn’t because what the author had to say, but because of what one of the readers said in the comments. She said that children have such wild imaginations on their own, so why would think we had to make up lies for them to believe? That has really stuck with me and I’m now rethinking all of the years I have spent lying to my daughter about these holidays. Did she really need it? And what did it get us in the long run other than damaged trust?
So I guess the question is: Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy… is it all innocent fun we give our children and really no big deal, or is it harmful lies we are spreading that cause them to lose trust in us?
What is your take on this? Weigh in over on the Peace Play FB Page