We had our first encounter with a man dressed up as Santa.
Someone was just a bit terrified, which I naturally found hilarious (excuse the pale/tired/pregnant look). For the record, Santa here is a man we know very well - in fact, he is one of the contractors who helped put the addition on our house!
Santa is kind of a problem for me. Not this particular Santa, but the concept in general. At its heart, it's a good thing. Saint Nicholas was a real fourth-century man who had a generous spirit, worked many miracles, and liked to give gifts in secret.
But somewhere along the way, especially here in America, we've gotten all mixed up. Now Santa only gives presents to good boys and girls (except most of us don't mean that, and will still give Santa presents to our kids no matter what their behavior is, making it even more confusing as a parenting strategy), and his generosity is used as an incentive to good behavior. Elf on the Shelf is a sort of iteration of this narrative. We don't really have any shelves that work for that, since I want everything in our house to be accessible to Vicki. Plus the idea makes me shudder.
I also wonder about it from a Montessori perspective. Maria Montessori urged that children learn reality, and that we not reinforce myths and stories as truth, unless they actually are true. Children rely on trusted adults to help them sort fact from fiction for quite awhile. I found a good article on this topic that addressed the common accusation that Montessori is anti-imagination, anti-fantasy. The truth is that Montessori education insists that children learn reality first, so they can clearly distinguish what is fantasy from what is reality. And no matter how you slice it, telling your kids that someone comes into their house in the night and leaves presents under the tree just isn't the truth (and if it is the truth, I need to get signed up for this program!).
I never actually believed in Santa - not that I can remember. My folks did the charade, but I have older siblings, so most of these things were already ruined fo rme. I remember not being able to sleep one Christmas Eve, coming down and seeing my mom putting the Santa presents under the tree, and she got so angry with me. Angry that I had discovered the fantasy that she was trying to make into reality for me. I never forgot that.
But then part of me also says that one of problems of modernism was scientific reductionism. Myths could no longer hold any weight because they could not be proven. We lost something in our culture at that point. We lost faith in a single narrative to explain things, and thus launched postmodernism. We lost the trust that we had once had in the supernatural. Now we need sonograms to know that babies are really inside of us, we need proof that Jesus performed miracles in order to believe, and we need news from the source that we prefer because it caters to our reality (but that really is a kind of devolution back into myth: post-postmodernism?).
Vicki is getting old enough to know about Santa. I don't think that we will give her any presents from him, and I will wait until she asks questions about it and then try to frankly answer her. But she might just be that killjoy child who ruins it for all the other kids in her class - fair warning.