The Case For No Santa

 

Santa

Every year I have a few conversations about this whole no Santa thing. I’m happy to write about it because I think it’s a conversation worth having. Lots of people agree, lots of people disagree, lots of people “understand”. For us, this was an easy choice as soon as we put some actual thought towards it.

I used to not question things. I used to just do what was considered normal, without consideration. There was a time when I assumed my kids would believe in Santa; that it would be a normal part of our Christmas. Like I said, I actually didn’t even think about it…it was just stored somewhere in my brain, and any envisioning my family at Christmastime included Santa. He was just there, because that’s what I knew, and what everyone else did. As I’ve grown and realized not everything that is “normal” is good, I’ve learned to question things. To stop and evaluate why we are making the choices we make. This is a decision we made well before having kids, and one we would hope other people would respect.

Jones is 3. He doesn’t know who Santa is. Sometimes we pass by a gift bag with that bearded face on it, and I ask him if he knows who it is…just to see if he’s picked it up somewhere. He hasn’t yet. Not because Santa is voodoo, but because we just don’t talk about him. But let me tell you what he does know about. Presents. I realize this is partly my fault, and I haven’t focused enough on celebrating the miracle of Jesus coming to Earth, to dwell with His people, and perfectly atone for our sin in His death on the cross. But let’s be honest. That isn’t super interesting to my 3 year old. I mean he can hold like a 3 minute conversation about it before changing the subject. But presents. He remembers that part. He remembers the Christmas trees, the lights, and the presents. And he really loves and enjoys each of those things. On Christmas morning, when he is surrounded by 15 gift bags (he has lots of loving aunts and uncles), he is not missing out on the “magic of Christmas” or whatever. I promise. He does not need Santa to get excited about Christmas, and he doesn’t need Santa to distract him from Jesus. He is plenty distracted as it is. I understand, because I’m just as easily distracted, even though it has nothing to do with a man in a red suit. My point is that it is difficult enough in this season of gifts, family, traditions, busyness, hustle and bustle to “remember the reason for the season”. We do not need another distraction. For myself or my kids. I hear all the time “we do Santa, but we teach our kids that Christmas is about Jesus” in some form or another. But I think we should know as adults, that Santa is a bit more appealing to children. That if that is part of our Christmas, that is where the focus will be for our kids.

As a Christian, I am called to honor the Lord with my life, and to point others toward Him. It is my responsibility to raise my kids in knowledge of truth and love for the Lord. The most basic reason my kids won’t believe in Santa is because we will never tell them that he is real. Because he isn’t, and we will not lie to our kids. Can we all just admit that telling our kids Santa is real is a lie? Sure we could go into all the history about St. Nick and where the whole idea came from, but Santa has been hijacked and he and St. Nick are not the same guy. We aren’t so attached to Santa that we need to look for a reason to make him okay to include in our holiday. Lying to our kids isn’t honoring the Lord, and it isn’t teaching them what is good and true. Lying isn’t something I want to model for my kids. Kids don’t intrinsically know who Santa is, they are taught to believe in him. Santa is talked about and treated as though he is a real person. We won’t encourage our kids to believe something is real when it isn’t. We don’t do that with any other fictional characters, why would we with Santa?

I know people say it’s harmless, but I disagree. And maybe some people never actually tell their kids Santa is real, but I don’t think there is much of a difference in saying it and leading them to believe it. A lot of it has to do with the kind of relationship we want to have with our kids. We want them to trust us in everything, but most importantly, when we tell them who Jesus is and what He has done for us in dying a death that we deserve, allowing us to be in right relationship with the Father, and spend eternity with Him, we want them to believe us!

We aren’t like super-spiritual, or think we’re better than everyone else because we REALLY love Jesus, and we’re really gonna focus on the true meaning of Christmas, and everyone who does Santa says they love Jesus but really they don’t love Jesus that much. We know there are godly people that do the Santa thing. I can’t say I understand it, but I know that my way isn’t the only way. We aren’t searching for some deep purpose in everything we do (not to say that we shouldn’t). We have a Christmas tree for the first time this year (because it didn’t quite fit in the budget other years, and this year my father-in-law bought us one), we do presents, we drive around looking at Christmas lights. We do all of those things because we enjoy them, and think it is beneficial to enjoy this holiday season, but we can’t say the same for Santa.

I do think the fact that many people can’t separate Santa from Christmas is pretty telling. Santa equals fun for so many. Santa equals a special part of childhood and fond memories. Literally, people have made comments to the effect of “Christmas must be so boring for y’all.” Some people actually go so far as to say it is beneficial for kids to believe in Santa. All that mumbo-jumbo about teaching them to believe in something they can’t see. But it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me to teach that lesson using someone who is not real, when we can teach them about God, who they can’t see, who is real. There won’t be disappointments at age 8 or 9 (or whenever kids learn the truth about Santa), because God will still be real.

Some people use their parents/families as a case for doing Santa. My family probably thinks I’m pretty weird at this point, so they probably weren’t too surprised when I mentioned this decision. But opinions of my family members are not enough to cause me do something that I believe is not beneficial.

“Well, what about if they ruin it for other kids?” you ask.

I’ll be honest with you, I don’t really care. I’ll probably lose friends for saying that. Of course, I will do my best to teach them to not talk about it with other children, duh. Unfortunately, they will be 4 and then 5 and then 6 and they probably will still not do everything I say. But I think we have to understand something. If our kids believe in Santa, who is not real…at some point, someone is going to ruin it for them. At some point, the truth comes out. So it seems to me that if someone ruins it for your child, you should be mad at the person who made them believe something that wasn’t true in the first place. (I know, do I even want people to read my blog anymore?!?!) Because they wouldn’t be upset that Santa isn’t real, if they hadn’t ever believed he was. We are so used to blame-shifting that we’ve found a way to fault others for a mess we got ourselves into. I find it extremely backwards that we would take our anger out on someone who tells the truth, be it parent or child, when we’re the ones who set them up to be disappointed. Unfortunately, I cannot control that anger, so again, believe me, I don’t want my kids to be the ones running around yelling “Santa isn’t real!” so we’ll do our best, but we made this decision knowing we can’t control everything that comes out of our kids’ mouths. And if you are making the decision to teach your child that Santa is real, then I think you should accept that with it comes a risk that they will find out the truth, and that there are people in the world that are not going to cover for you, and even that there are people that will accidentally say something in front of your child that gives it away. Of course, for some parents it’s not about their kids being upset, but about the death of Santa in their house. Sometimes, the parents are more attached to the whole idea, and more upset about them realizing he isn’t real, than the kids are.

I grew up with Santa. I wasn’t upset when a friend told me their parents had said he wasn’t real. I don’t think kids who grow up believing in Santa will be scarred for life when their little hearts are crushed. They will get over it. Of course, people can say we’re making this big deal out of something that isn’t really a big deal. But if it isn’t pushing us towards Christ, isn’t it pulling us away? Is an added hindrance really worth it? If we can’t imagine Christmas without Santa, aren’t we proving the point that celebrating the birth of Christ is not our supreme focus?

It feels like there is this immediate backlash towards those of us who have chosen to leave Santa out of our Christmas. There is this immediate justification of why Santa is okay and even good. But I hope we can stop defending our stance long enough to actually consider whether it really is the most beneficial thing for our kids. If we come away deciding Santa is essential to celebrating Christmas, then at least we’ll have taken the time to think about it, and can incorporate him into the holiday with a clear conscience.

Photo credit: pipnstuff / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

When Thriving Feels Far Off

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As a mom to 2 little boys, I read a lot of blogs and things that seem relative to my life. I think that’s normal? I’m attracted to headlines that 1) offer me help, 2) commiserate with me (just being real here), or 3) encourage me. I’m not sure if it’s a new trend, or what, but it seems there’s a lot of talk lately about how we as moms of little children should thrive, or flourish. Those two words, I’ve heard a lot recently. And it seems to me like all of a sudden moms everywhere woke up and realized we’ve been doing things all wrong. All these moms are experiencing this unanimous epiphany about how merely surviving is not enough, while I’m still over here sleeping. I’ll be the first to admit parenting is HARD, I’m probably doing it all wrong, and I need all the help I can get, but it somehow feels like an added burden, a reminder of another area in which I fall short.

Making it through the day with just enough energy after laying the kids down to throw yourself onto your own bed? That’s not good enough. Barely getting through that conversation with your 3 year old without screaming your head off? Nope, not good enough.  You may only be getting a few hours of sleep per night, you may not have eaten a real meal in a week, you might be trying to balance mom, wife, and career duties, but you better be kicking tail while you’re doing it!

Initially, when I think of what it looks like to be a thriving mom, I think of someone who shows up everywhere on time, hair and make-up done, with kids who don’t have snot all over their face or dirt under their fingernails. Someone who has time and energy to cook dinner for other people, host parties, volunteer in ministry. I think of someone who has it all together. And y’all. That ain’t me.

Isn’t it funny how we can twist something that’s meant completely for good, and find fault in it? Take something that’s meant to offer freedom and grace, and allow it to hold us captive? The thing is, this call to thrive, to flourish, it’s not meant to be a burden.

Jesus says in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

In the very offer of abundant life, the thief is busy trying to rob us. The enemy loves when we’re tired, worn down, defeated. He wants me to believe that thriving is out of reach, that life to the full is unattainable, to settle for less than.

This year has been a little hectic for my family. My husband changed jobs, and then changed careers. We’ve moved 3 times, living in someone else’s space for the past 7 months, 3 of those consisting of me and the boys living in one city and my husband in another. Let me say, we have some AMAZING friends and family that have housed us over this time. Hospitable, gracious, selfless people. We are so, so, so thankful to have such wonderful people in our lives. But the year has been full of transitions and unknowns. I wouldn’t for a second try to convince anyone that I’ve been soaking up every precious moment, cherishing each day, relishing the season we’ve been in. It has been hard, and really, really unpleasant at times.

Most moms will tell you, we are tired. This season of raising little kids is tough. Exhausting on many levels. And life has a way of forgetting that you’ve got little kids and you’re already tired from keeping these little humans alive, all the while trying to nourish their little brains and spirits, and sometimes it tosses something else your way when you’re already at the end of your rope. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours, you know? To be honest, surviving is just about my only goal some days. Thriving? Maximizing opportunities and delighting in every experience offered to me? Not so much.

So, how do I experience abundant life, when my circumstances are undesirable? How do I live life to the full, when it feels like life is throwing punches?

I’m sometimes tempted to believe that “life to the full” is lived out in the form of nice vacations, lots of friends, a good reputation, comfort, ease, fun. But a quick look around, and I know that’s not true. I have seen people with much less than I living rich lives. I have been in houses made of mud and witnessed life to the full within those very walls. Everywhere you look there are people going through really hard things. And I know that Jesus’ offer for them is the same.  Abundant life is attainable. It isn’t limited to those with favorable circumstances, or money in the bank. It is for the broken, the lowly, the hurting, the sick. It’s for the beggar, the blind man, the woman at the well, the widow, the orphan, the refugee, the single mom, the outcast. This offer is there for the taking, despite where we find ourselves. And it is found in relationship with Jesus. It is in those quiet moments when He speaks straight to my heart. It is in the encouragement and prayers of dear friends. It is in soul-filling conversations. It’s in communion and intimacy with the Father, that transcends circumstance, and in the truth that HE is so, so much better than anything this world has to offer.  It is not something so fleeting as happiness, success, financial security. It is HIM. Getting to walk through this life here and now, with Him, and the promise of eternity, with Him.

So often, I believe the lie that life to the full is somewhere off in the future. When we get out of debt, or finally own a home, when my marriage is better, or my kids are older. But I’m so thankful that the Lord’s promises are not dependent on me having my crap together or what stage of life I’m in.  I’m also thankful that on those days when it is all I can do to make it through, those days that I’m already completely spent by 8 am, those days when surviving is all I can muster up, He will meet me there with his big, deep grace, and love me through. That He is faithful through it all, in times of plenty and of want, joy and sorrow, good times and bad.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Why I Carried My First Child 42 1/2 Weeks

As I’ve mentioned before, I didn’t know a whole lot about pregnancy before I entered that stage of life, but if there is one thing that I picked up somewhere along the way, and that you can’t possibly get through pregnancy without a million people telling you, is that you “can’t go past 42 weeks”.

I had a normal, low-risk pregnancy with our first. I was sick and awful tired for the first 16 weeks or so, didn’t gain a whole lot of weight, but I totally made up for it after I started feeling better. There were never any indications that we should be worried about anything. It honestly did not occur to me that I might not go into labor within the “safe” 37-42 week window. Even at 40 weeks, I remember sitting in my midwife’s office and thinking, “The baby will come before I hit 42 weeks. It just will.”

If you’re not aware…it’s not really super popular or common for anyone to go past 41 weeks. So everyone was pretty cool about everything until oh, about…40 weeks and 5 days. Then, friends and family started getting stressed out. I think this happens to everyone who still has a baby inside their body on their due date, but the texts and calls asking if the baby was here yet, or any signs of baby, were constant. When you’re told as long as you can remember that you don’t go past 42 weeks, it starts to get a little stressful as that day approaches. I’m sensitive and if you remember, I didn’t feel like I had a whole lot of support throughout this pregnancy about the decisions we were making. And if you know ANYTHING about pregnancy, it’s that it causes you to be all sorts of hormonal and emo. I could not handle everyone expressing their worry to me about my baby. Didn’t they think I cared more about my baby’s health than they did? Several people actually said things along the lines of “this isn’t good for the baby.” I was hurt by others’ assumptions that I wasn’t caring for my baby, or concerned about the possibilities. At 42 weeks and 1 day, I turned my phone off. I knew I couldn’t handle any more questions or (what felt like) accusations. I was beyond stressed as it was, and I didn’t need anyone else contributing to it. It’s been said that stress can delay or stall labor, and while I have no research to back this up, I really believe the anxiety I was dealing with slowed things down. Which might go right along with why my labor lasted for 3 days. Anyway…

The basis for the decisions we made regarding pregnancy and childbirth were not just about doing things “naturally”, it’s more than that. It’s deeper than the newest trend. Our decisions had everything to do with the Lord’s design and His sovereignty. We chose to trust that He created my body to give birth, and that His design and timing is perfect. My midwives said all the time, “there’s never been a woman who didn’t go into labor!” We really believed that the Lord was in control, and that He was completely capable of bringing a healthy baby into the world outside of the time frame that has been deemed safe by medical organizations. Now I know about The Fall and how sin and brokenness has entered the world. But we believe that the creation and bringing forth of life belongs wholly to the Lord. This was not a process we were okay with interfering with. Induction was never on our radar. I can’t say what we would have done differently if there had been signs that something might be wrong. But there weren’t, and we recognized that if our baby happened to not be perfectly healthy, that it would be within the will of God. Not that God brings about brokenness, but that He does, in His sovereignty, allow it, and that He could allow these things to occur at 39 weeks or at 43 weeks. We have research and a little bit of knowledge, but His ways will always be higher than ours. He is not bound by our knowledge of how things work, or what’s normal.

“For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:25

It was pretty evident through all this that a lot of people have issues with trusting the Lord…and issues with other people trusting the Lord. It was apparent that A LOT of people put a lot of faith in the medical industry and in the wisdom of man. So much so, that it seemed incomprehensible to them that we wouldn’t do the same. I realize there isn’t much we have to wait for in America. We can easily take matters into our own hands pretty often. But what about when people don’t? Is there really anything wrong with that? Is there anything wrong with waiting on the Lord?

Thankfully, I eventually went into labor when it felt like I never would, a beautiful, healthy baby boy was born, and we named him Jones. We had a couple wonderful, peaceful, uninterrupted hours with him before we announced his arrival to anyone. He is sweet, outgoing, loving, defiant as all get out, and I praise God often that he is happy and healthy all the while praying for his rebellious soul.

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I know my friends and family had the best of intentions, and were genuinely concerned. But here’s to hoping that next time we find ourselves disagreeing with the decisions of those we love, that we can evaluate why it makes us uncomfortable, where we are putting our trust, and if we’re giving them the space to follow the Lord where He leads them.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12

Hey, My Kids Don’t Eat Sweets

Anyone who knows me knows how much I love sugar. Sweets kind of rule my life (and it’s not a good thing). So maybe some are surprised to find I don’t let my kids eat sweets. Don’t get me wrong they get plenty of processed sugar. They eat bread and multi-grain waffles, flavored yogurt every now and then. They just don’t eat sweets…cookies, ice cream, all that stuff.

Photo credit: Mrs Magic / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Photo credit: Mrs Magic / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Both of my kids are pretty good eaters. Jones isn’t a huge fan of meat. He usually eats it, but it’s always the last thing to go on his plate. Miles doesn’t love pasta. It’s hit or miss with him, sometimes he eats it, and sometimes he doesn’t. They both eat most foods, though. Vegetables are not a problem. Jones even really likes them. “Every mom’s dream!” they all say! I’m trying to keep it this way, which is why I don’t give them sweets.

Sugar changes the way you taste other things. From where I sit, it seems that once kids realize there are things that taste sweeter than their green beans, they start to prefer those things. They start refusing (or at least not going down without a fight) other healthier foods. I didn’t really intend to not give my kids sugar. I didn’t really have a plan before Jones started eating solid foods. We started with avocado. As I went down the path of trying out different foods, it occurred to me that I wanted him to continue to like the stuff I was giving him after he turned, say…1. Somewhere pretty early on, I decided I wasn’t going to give him any sweets as long as I could help it. Jones is almost 3…and I can still help it. Most of the time, anyway. He has snatched my cinnamon roll before.

Maybe you think I’m mean, but I totally eat cookies in front of my kids, and when they ask for one, I tell them no. Usually I give them something else slightly healthier, or at least less addictive, to eat, so they don’t just have to watch me. Right now, for the most part, it’s not an issue. They don’t throw fits and they don’t feel left out. Sometimes people talk like it will get harder later to keep the sweets away. I think maybe they are right, so at some point I will either finally give in and just give them sweets, or I will change the way I eat. Most likely the latter. I’ve been dreaming of cutting out sugar for a while now, but I’m chicken. Or an addict, whichever you prefer. However, there’s only so much research I can ignore before I change my ways.

Food seems to be a universal love language. I don’t know what it is, but something about a little kid just makes adults extend their food-filled hand. So many people, SOOO many people have offered my kids all sorts of food they don’t eat. Then there are those polite people who actually ask, mid hand-off, “Can they have a _____?” The exchange is always a little awkward as I answer, and there are apologies, and then I launch into my explanation. Maybe one day I won’t feel the need to explain. Maybe it’s the sheer number of times my kids have been offered sweets that makes me think, obviously, everyone else is okay with their little tot eating all the sugar in the world, and I’m just on my own little island. I can’t say exactly, but something about it all makes me feel like the oddball. I guess it wouldn’t be the first time.

I’m sure some people think I’m all uptight when I say “no, he can’t have that”, which is fine with me. I don’t think I really have to make a case on why a 2 year old doesn’t need sugar, or why sugar isn’t good for you. Or maybe I do. Anyway, I used to think that maybe we would allow it on special occasions and things, but I’m starting to think that is just a slippery slope I don’t want to mess with. I obviously am not claiming that we are some super-healthy family…since…you know, I eat cookies. One day, though! No, for real though, my kids eat a lot of crap. Like really bad for you crap. But I somehow don’t think my kids will get addicted to those Ritz crackers the same way they would to those gummy bears. So we’re avoiding the sweets, until we (um, I) bite the bullet and go real health-nut, and would appreciate if you would just…you know…maybe..not offer them  any cookies.