Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Santa and my inner child...

I’ve had to have several talks with my inner child lately…at my new work a woman has seemed to focus on my weirdness (weird childhood) and my unusual perceptions of things. This has caused me to be hurt once (almost to tears) and to examine the perceptions of my childhood that created me.

One thing I have realized in this is that the “kind” of childhood I had probably doesn’t happen anymore. There is no one I have to protect…except the little girl I once was…

It began with a discussion of food. Several of our classmates had gone for sushi so the room was discussing food. I mentioned I don’t eat sushi (or seafood for that matter) and the discussion was off. We went from that to favorite foods in general and in our childhood. Cheesecake came up…I mentioned I hadn’t eaten cheesecake or lasagna till I was 32. The room was shocked. Surely, they said, SOMEONE near me as a child ate/served/had cheesecake? I told them no. That no one I had known as a child had ever offered me cheesecake, although I had read the word in a book as a child BUT the only cheese I had ever seen as a child was Tilamook mild cheddar, so in my mind, the thought of cheese and cake being anything yummy was not possible. The woman said that if she had known me when I was a little girl, she’d have laughed her head off at me for that concept. That was my first discussion with my inner child, and the one that almost brought me to tears.

The second discussion with my inner child happened because of a conversation in CC3 just before Christmas. It was about Santa. And this conversation reminded me of one of the more painful of my childhood memories…

My mother was not very trustworthy when I was a child. She lied to us about many really important things. So when I found out about the Easter bunny, I was DISGUSTED that she would lie to me, yet again, and about something so utterly stupid. I tell you this to set the stage. When one doesn’t trust the very person who is supposed to care for them, it warps them. I always knew my childhood had warped me in some ways, but some of the ways it reaches out in my NOW are very subtle…

So, back to Santa. It had to have been the Christmas before I turned 12. That would have made my brother 7. It was Christmas Eve and my mother was drunk and not conscious/coherent in her room. I had torn the house apart looking for the goodies for my brother’s stocking and the presents from Santa to put under the tree for him. I couldn’t find them. (Turned out they were in her room, but I wasn’t allowed in there). I sat up all night knowing that disaster was coming at dawn…my brother got up and came to the living room where there no presents for him from Santa and nothing in his stocking. He turned his huge blue eyes on me crying and said, “I must have been a really bad boy this year.” It is one of two times in my childhood that I contemplated murder. And it put the whole Santa story in a HORRIFIC light in my memories. I swore (you know those promises you make yourself when you are too young to recognize the future repercussions) that I would NEVER lie to my children, especially about Santa Claus.

Not that I didn’t tell them about St Nicholas, and the whole Santa myth. I did tell them the stories. But I never let them believe that some strange man at the North Pole brought them presents.

Seriously people, think about this. A STRANGER (we teach our children NEVER to take gifts from strangers) who stalks our child throughout the year (he KNOWS when you’ve been naughty or nice) breaks into our home on Christmas Eve (he doesn’t have a key AND he’s a freaking stranger) and leaves presents for our child!!!! How can we teach our children this?

Add to this that the first 2 churches I belonged to as an adult, were conservative AND the 2nd one was right-wing-fundamentalist (and they didn’t allow you to teach your child the lie of Santa either) and you can understand that my children knew who brought every gift, there were no gifts from strange men in red suits. And when I was in my right-wing-fundamentalist group, I didn’t stick out like a freak of nature.

But now? Now people want to know how my children ENDURED being DENIED the Santa story when other children around them were allowed to believe, and how I hindered their imagination by not allowing them to believe in Santa. NOW I’m considered a freak of nature IN A CHRISTIAN CHATROOM. I was floored, since the Christians I knew in my right-wing-fundamentalist stage agreed that lying to your kid about Santa would make them doubt what you taught them about Christ.

So, what do you think? Am I a freak? Am I warped and twisted? Or am I just a parent trying to do the best I could with what I knew?

Oh…and we haven’t even TOUCHED on why I didn’t read my children fairy tales!!!


Anonymous said...

I am appalled. I did not want to teach my children about Santa, but their father insisted. I applaud you for not teaching them the lie.

I did not taste strawberries until after I was married. My mothers' stepfather had moved the family to Floridafor a strawbeery farm. She resented it as a 14 year old and it carried over. She never bought them or allowed any products made from them into her home!

I didn't even hear of cheesecake until I was about 30. Does that make me a freak? Hardly!

I think those who are making you feel inferior are a very sad group of people. Perhaps they all grew up in a perfect little home wiht a perfect little family, but reality is most of us come from parents that did the very best they knew how and we in turn have done the very best we knew how ~ even though it was not perfect!

And you can tell them I said so!!! ~,~


Debra Masters said...

Thanks, Janis!!! Solidarity!!!

Arizona mom to eight said...

I cannot remember ever believing Santa existed, but we let our mother give us presents from him yearly. When I was 9 I so wanted to tell her, hey, there is no Santa, so I am OK with you not pretending any longer. Pragmatic and empathetic me wanted to spare her feelings.

I raised my kids with Santa, but somehow they never bought the myth either, likely because they found the Santa gifts in the closet while snooping during the season...I have no strong feelings either way about it, though I am always surprised that some factions are violently opposed to it. I knew we celebrated Christmas because of Jesus' birth, and Santa was just a fun commercial thing. Shrug. I have other childhood things I need to work through, Santa was never one of them, but it makes me sad it was for you.

greyone40 said...

I don't remember ever believing that Santa was anything more than a story. It's something we play along with. that story about your brother is pretty sad. I would feel pretty bad about it too.

I am something of a freak. definitely have a warped sense of humour. I am glad that we are all different, and I celebrate it. It's a reason to appreciate other people, not beat them down.

jayiin mistaya said...

I'm a guy who's always had a vivid imagination. I've always had stories and ideas and crazy interpretations of things. I believed in the starship ENTERPRISE; I believed in the good guys and I believed in Santa Claus.

I also have some kind of mental damage where I just don't get most of the way people function or how they interact. Things - interactions, subtle clues, social norms and conventions - I just don't get them. Some docs say it's a kind of autism, others just say I have some kind of other disorder.

I dunno. I just don't get things most of the time.

Learning Santa Claus didn't exist shattered me a little.

If Santa was a lie, what else was a lie? What other parts of society and the world I'd struggled to understand to that point were lies? What other facts of life and 'truths' I'd been told were just falsehoods adults told me to make me feel better or make the world more magical?

It was the first conscious moment, I think, I realized I didn't trust or understand. I remember sitting in my room Christmas Eve night, knowing my parents were sneaking presents under the tree for my brothers, knowing that the next morning they would be excited about something that didn't exist.

And I was supposed to go along with it?

It made me wonder how many people just 'went along' with things that weren't true or didn't make sense or were just out and out lies just to make things 'better' for someone else?

I grew up and I found out that there's a lot of things people just 'go along' with just to make other people feel better or give them some false sense of love or security or other warm and fuzzy feeling.

I don't like it.

I'm a fat man. Every Christmas season, several people will ask me to don a red suit, glue a fake beard to my face and tell children lies to make a holiday I hate more magical for them.

The 'magic' of anything - the wonder of imagination - does not come from fake magic other people create and trust is not built and will not hold in the face of creating a lie and telling children - children we are supposed to teach, guide and help grow into good people - that the lie we are telling them is a fact of life.

Then tying it into 'good' behavior is even worse. The child can strive and struggle to be 'good' - despite every child's inability to be perfect - in hopes of being good enough to earn some impossible gift. Or that being 'good' equals a material reward.

Then, when we think they're too old to be a part of this amazing fantasy we've created, we tell them that Santa isn't real. That being 'good' doesn't equal material rewards and doesn't earn them toys and games and wonderful things under a decorated tree. They have to be good just because they're 'supposed to' - when before, there was a reason?

Bah. Humbug. I know I'm a terrible Christmas person. I hate the holiday. I hate the season. More than anything else our society has created, I hate Christmas. I find nothing redemptive about it or wonderful about it or magical about it.

So no. You didn't hurt your children by 'taking' Santa away from them. You didn't force them to 'endure' anything.

You gave them a great and wonderful gift - and kept from poisoning them and disillusioning them.

I know your daughter very well; she's an amazing and wonderful woman who faces life head-on, on her own terms and takes care of her family and friends with love, compassion and passion for being the best friend and sister and aunt and girlfriend she can be.

Feel no guilt. I think you did the right thing.

Debra Masters said...

That is a whole 'nother issue, Jayiin!!! I hear parents in stores using Santa as an emotional club to get "good behavior" from children and it just breaks my heart. The kid goes away terrified that they will have "acted out" in some way that costs them all their presents. Sometimes I have to almost be physically restrained from intervening and asking the parent to LOOK at what they are doing and LISTEN to how they are hurting their child...Sigh.

Thanks for sharing your story. I appreciate that. *smile*

Anonymous said...

You did not "deny" your children the story of Santa, you shared it as a myth, which is what it is.

Children need to be taught the difference between reality and fantasy, or they will confuse the fables and myths that teach meaning with the "facts" that impose limitaitons, sometimes short term and sometimes lasting, on us all.

I wonder if the Santa myth is not defended by many parents because the spectre of coals instead of gifts in the child's stocking gives them some extra control over their offsprings' behavior during what can become a hectic Holiday Season. :-P

Anonymous said...

An insight into our excessively left-brained, rationalistic Western European thinking:

“The world of my childhood
was filled with wonder and magic.
Enchantment was the order of the day.
Mechanistic science has no place
for enchantment. If it can’t be
measured, it doesn’t exist.
The problem is, the important things cannot be measured....”
--Anne Wilson Schaef (Cherokee)
Author- Native Wisdom for White Minds
From rear cover:
What is a white mind? White minds are trapped in a closed system of thinking that sees life in black and white, either/or terms; they are hierarchical and mechanistic; they see nature as a force to be tamed and people as objects to be controlled with no regard for the future.
This worldview is not shared by most Native Peoples. Anne shares the richness poured out to her by Native Americans, Aborigines, Africans, Maoris and others. In the words of Native peoples themselves, we come to understand Native ideas about our earth, spirituality, family, work, loneliness and change. For in every area of our lives we have the capacity to transcend our white minds - we simply need to listen with open hearts and open minds to other voices, other perceptions, other cultures.
Anne often heard Elders from a wide variety of Native peoples say, "Our legends tell us that a time will come when our wisdom and way of living will be necessary to save the planet, and that time is now."

Unknown said...

Fairy tales are much different these days. Though most parents don't know that they were not meant for children to begin with(and the none Disney versions can be very dark).
I don't see anything majorly damaging in teaching my children about Santa Claus, telling them about St Nicolas and reading them fairy tales is something that I love to do. Everyone has their own experience that shapes the way they think and world view. I grew up with fairy tales. And I turned out just fine.

“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
― Albert Einstein

However, no one should be told that they are "weird" for not having the same experiences growing up. Each family is different.