Friday, December 19, 2008

The Santa Myth

So it's all innocent and fun to lie to little kids to add a sense of excitement in their lives and stuff, right?...No, I'm not going to take that angle on this whole issue. I don't really care about making up stories for kids. But, I did have an interesting thought about the real implications of perpetuating the "Santa Myth"...but I'm not talking about the implications for kids, necessarily, like you might expect this to go. I'm thinking more in terms of everyone, big kids especially. Or, should I say, good big kids especially. Doesn't having this idea that Santa is going to bring you presents if you are good somehow connected to a feeling of entitlement to splurging a little for yourself during the holiday season after you've found out that Santa's not really going to come through on that childhood promise after all? I've been good all year. Don't I deserve something for being good? I think that the whole idea of Santa may be connected to this economic crisis we're in. Isn't it driven by outrageous consumer debt that people have pulled themselves into, the $5,000 or so every American on average is packing around? Maybe it is a little far fetched, but I'm sure that somehow it plays a part, the idea of deserving something more, even though you straight up ain't got the cash homeslice. What ever happened to, "yeah, that'd be cool, but I ain't got the money"?
The truth is there are tons of good people out there. And, unfortunately, most of them are not living the dream. Unfortunately being good most often is not correlated with having everything you want. I think it's especially difficult for Americans to grasp this concept. I mean, think about it. If everything fell out from under you financially what would be the first things to go? Even if you only had to pick a handful of things to give up. Your cell phone? Gas money? Your car? Health insurance? Cable? Movies? Eating out? Internet? New clothes? Furniture? Water? Electricity? There are just so many things involved in what we see as our way of life that we can hardly imagine living without...but we're definitely in the minority there. Pick any handful of those things I just listed and there's half the world going without them. What makes you and me so special? Why do we deserve them?
I guess this thought came to mind because somehow it seems that everything I want I just end up with at some point, but I realized, "Hey, I don't got a job. Where's all this stuff coming from?" But, anyway, maybe if I didn't not believe in Santa Claus I wouldn't have just bought myself a new digital SLR camera. That's all I'm saying.


Food for Thought
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/moneymag/money101/lesson9/
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2008/07/20/business/20debt-trap.html
http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=3988036n

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Well, after writing this thing and talking to my good friend Sara Snow I've decided that if you're going to deceive your children with a myth why not engineer the thing so it does some good and avoids the pitfalls I just brought up.
So here's my idea.
The whole problem is the myth undermining the sense of needing to work for what you get and creating that empty sense of entitlement. So...simple. Just throw in an addendum to your kids that tells them that they are Santa's elves! Make them make the presents!! Figure out things that would be fun for the other kids to receive that each kid can make, but don't tell that kid who the intended present is for. Then, Christmas eve Santa just pull the ole' swaperoo (and probably throw in some real presents that other more skilled elves have made...in China).
I think this scheme will make the whole Santa myth more exciting and just more awesome: they have a secret project to work on for a few weeks leading up to Christmas and then Santa, the disseminator of all gifts Christmas, uses their junk they made as a part of worldwide underground network of normal people elves. Not only will they gain a greater sense of empowerment and stuff like that at an earlier age, but the gifts themselves will have more meaning.
Cons to this scheme: this route definitely takes more thought and effort on the part of parents. Doing things with as little thought and effort possible is a popular thing in this country, but that's an issue for another day...

Right here I'm going to go ahead and admit, this whole thing might just be a stupid idea, but I have no qualms with using a stupid idea as a placeholder 'til I can get a hold of a better one to take it's place.

11 comments:

jey walker gladstone said...

I have to agree making your kids into "Santa's Elves" could teach them a lot about creating things, using talents and service to others. Used in a proper way and given the right guidance by parents - it could be a successful way to raise children.

Of course I always wonder what I would teach my children...I would want them to understand Christ and what He means to us and why we celebrate His birth, but I would tell them about the stories of Santa, Frosty, Rudolph, etc just for fun

I guess I fear using Santa as this person who is "watching" you all year round and giving you gifts when you're good - these days even bad kids get gifts - so why lie?

Sara said...

Wow, Taylor -- thanks for mentioning me. It was a good conversation, and one that apparently resulted in some fruitful ideas. I for one, really like your idea about what to tell your kids . . .

And as for the idea of entitlement, I think you're right. Questions of what we deserve have always fascinated me. I don't think much is guaranteed in this life, except maybe agency. Other than that, who's to say we deserve anything. For being good or not. All you have to do is look at Job. All he really had was agency to choose -- his attitude. Apart from that, he didn't have much.

Anyway, good post. I liked it a lot.

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