Thursday, June 27, 2013

That I've been carried away promoting a conspiracy theory

I'm sure we've all shaken our heads over weird conspiracy theories at some time. Some of them are well known. When my son, Logan, was studying with Open Access College, his Science teacher always got riled up whenever somebody suggested that the moon landing might have been a conspiracy theory. A student would only have to say, "Surely the atmosphere would have killed them," or "Somebody saw Neil Armstrong going into a fast food joint back then," to set the teacher off, ranting and fuming for ten minutes. The students used to do it on purpose, to postpone their work and enjoy baiting him.

We'd never be part of silly conspiracy theories, right? Just last Christmas Eve, it occurred to me that I was going along with one of the hugest, most well-kept ones ever dreamed up. It was my birthday, and instead of enjoying it with my feet up, I was driving around with an enthusiastic little boy, pretending to look out for a reindeer-drawn sleigh in the sky. Then when we got home, he logged onto a website which was supposed to track its progress. "Santa is only just heading over the equator now and he'll be visiting New Zealand and the eastern states of Australia before he gets to us."

I have to ask myself, why do we buy into all this? Is convincing our kids that something is real only to rip it away even a good idea? Logan gradually grew out of the idea of Santa Claus and Co. but Emma had a rude awakening. Andrew once announced to all his relatives, while she was within earshot, "I wanted to stay in bed but I had to get up and do the Easter Bunny thing." At the moment, Blake seems to have almost wised up, and I'll be relieved, in a way, when he does twig.

Why do we do it anyway? I remember loving the fantasy and fairy-tale quality of the whole thing when I was a kid. I guess I automatically went along with the conspiracy theory because I didn't want to deny my own kids a dose of the 'special magic', but why bother keeping some made-up farce going? There is such a lot I believe is true and legitimate which we can teach our children in good conscience that should make them even more excited.

God's love and care of us, Jesus' Resurrection, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, guardian angels protecting us, the immense spiritual realm of which we only glimpse the tip of the iceberg at times. All that is far more awesome than an old, fat guy in a red suit who owns a magical toy shop in the North Pole. As it is, I've got to wonder, does our promotion of these fables as absolute truth make real truth harder to take on board? Are we doing our kids a disservice instead of a favour?

When they hear true stories of miracles, healings, unmistakeable answers to prayer, angel sightings, near-death-experiences when the curtain between our realm and the next is lifted, the fulfilling of prophetic words and the slotting together of seeming coincidences into a serendipitous God-incidence, beyond all odds, do they shrug their shoulders and relegate it to the same class as Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy and all their cronies? If we stretched the truth over that, might we not be capable of stretching it over these too? That may be a fair question for them to ask.

As I said, Blake, aged 9, is almost through with the Santa Claus myth. He was telling me all the reasons he's beginning to doubt. "How can everyone be asleep in the same district at the same time? If his workshop is in the North Pole, how come some of the presents are clearly marked as coming from particular local shops? Why do I sometimes see the same wrapping paper we've had before?" I'm through with trying to convince him. Maybe it's just that I've had years altogether of going along with this inherited farce, ever since his siblings were small too. I just grinned at him and said, "You're getting suspicious, are you?" The truth is, I'll be relieved when it's all through. Conspiracy theories get hard and irksome to keep up.

One of the least favourite questions I've had to deal with is, "Why did (insert some lucky friend's name) get the (insert some ultra-expensive gift) I wanted, and I asked Santa for it too but he only gave me cheaper stuff? Doesn't he like me as much?" Once, I even heard Andrew joke that Santa may take their parents' pay checks into consideration. Truth be told, I'm not sure I even like having to scrimp and save in December, then having to explain that we're broke while the old fat guy gets the credit for the largesse found beneath the tree. "Mum, I know you get worried about spending too much at Christmas but you don't have to get much for me. You can just let Santa take care of it."

Maybe if I had the chance to do it all over again, I might have done it differently. One thing I'm not going to change is to emphasise all the wonderful things I've listed above which I believe are genuinely true. There are all the great works of fiction too, whose themes are full of the sort of truth we want our children to take on board. We can even tell them the historical factual tale about the real Saint Nick without stretching it to the extent we have. And of course, way above all, is the reason why we celebrate Christmas at all, that Jesus was born for us. How great that we live in a world which is full of such marvellous and awesome truths that we really don't have to make up any extra embellishments.

But I guess we'll still be watching people like Tim Allen and Vince Vaughan each Christmas, hamming it up in movies such as 'The Santa Clause' and 'Fred Claus.'


  1. Andrew was always good at the Easter bunny thing! I remember when we we just little kids and you guys were over for Easter, we looked out the window and caught Andrew hopping around in the garden placing eggs for the egg hunt! We would've been sad to discover that it wasn't the Easter bunny placing them if he didn't look so funny that we laughed about it instead >.<

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  3. We never tried to convince our kids that Santa or the Easter Bunny were true. We told them the true meaning of both was about Jesus. We told them that Santa and the Easter Bunny were fun pretend characters like any other fairy-tale. So they got to enjoy them still, without the devastating eye-opening when they grew older. It seemed to work well with them. :)

  4. Thanks, guys, for your comments.
    Amanda, that does sound like the very reasonable thing to do. We come from a long line of messed-up conspiricist theorists, lol.

  5. Thanks for a great post Paula. I was nodding my head as you went through each one of your points. That is exactly why we didn't buy into the Santa/Easter Bunny/Tooth Fairy thing with our kids. (My parents didn't either but my husband's parents had.) They know the gifts, eggs or tooth money come from Mum & Dad. We tell then the real story behind St Nick (an early Christian who gave gifts to poor children).

    I really didn't want to spend years convincing my kids of things that weren't true only to have to own up later that it had all been a game. On the other hand, I do want to them to remain convinced of the truth of God who is active and loving - and not think "maybe that's just like Santa".

    It can get tricky - my seven year tells me that most of the his class still believes in Santa but he is seems to be diplomatic about it.

  6. I do want to them to remain convinced of the truth of God who is active and loving - and not think "maybe that's just like Santa" I'm with Jenny on this one. That's the real danger of allowing our kids to believe Santa, the Tooth Fairy etc are real. Sure, let them have fun with these things, they need to know the real truth. Great post Paula :-)

  7. Selfishly, my dislike of the fat guy getting the credit for all my hard work was what got us out of Santa Claus, and once that's gone it's pretty easy to get rid of the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy as well (note that we still have to cough up the cash for the teeth. We just don't have to sneak in at midnight to do it).

    We gave it up for good when we moved back to New Zealand from England. We spent three months travelling through Europe and the USA, and it only took a couple of weeks of buying a little gift here and a little memento there before we realised it was going to add up - and that we were going to arrive in NZ with no jobs and Christmas just around the corner. So we told the kids that some of the stuff we bought would be for now, some would be for Christmas, and we'd send some to Santa for him to bring back at Christmas.

    They were only five and seven, but they both saw straight through that. They didn't mind, because the compromise meant they got things they wanted (we found a Wal-Mart having a closing down sale. We got abut $500 worth of Lego for less than $100. The problem quickly became one of luggage space!).

  8. Thanks for your comments, everyone. I've enjoyed reading them. Now it occurs to me how gullible and strange children such as yours must all think their Santa-&-Co believing friends are.
    PS, I wish blogs were like Face Book because I wanted to click 'like' for those comments.


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