Holidays at the Hankey’s: A Santa debate

BY MATTHEW HANKEY – SUN NEWSPAPERS

Matthew Hankey

Matthew Hankey

Now that Thanksgiving is in the proverbial rearview mirror, it’s full speed ahead to the December holidays – Christmas, Hanukkah and the other traditions you find important.

Having a four-month-old will no doubt shape how I view and celebrate this holiday season. While he is too young to appreciate and comprehend the festive madness this time of year can bring, I can use this time to plan and shape his future holiday experiences.

Before you accuse me of helicopter parenting – constantly hovering over my kids’ every action – keep in mind my son is only four months old. He needs structure, guidance and a comprehensive plan for his life. (And, as I was reminded by Eden Prairie Community Editor Paul Groessel, my son needs continual head support. Mr. Groessel is not wrong, and is also a good writer. Check out his writings at current.mnsun.com).

Thankfully, my wife is the unofficial family planner, and last week, she and I engaged in one of the must-have conversations any parents with a Christian upbringing should probably have. The topic: will our son believe in Santa Claus?

To some, the answer is an obvious “yes.” But for our family, my upbringing throws a wrench into this perhaps conventional way of thinking.

My parents likely had a similar conversation as my wife and I had, and though I had a Christian upbringing, it was decreed that Santa would not exist for our family’s purposes (Disclaimer: Kids – Santa exists if you believe he does).

I grew up without a sense of wonder and surprise at how gifts manifested themselves under our Christmas tree. My mom attempted to win over my favor by playfully addressing one gift per year to my sister and me as “From: Santa,” but the jig was up. We knew the truth.

While my friends went along with the notion that an old, bearded man in a red suit bought them gifts every year, I felt older and a little wiser knowing their parents were the puppet masters of the whole ruse.

My wife, however, was of the group of children I partially envied. She believed in Santa until she found one wrapped gift in her playroom addressed “From: Santa” one week before Christmas. She was 8, and she was in disbelief.

“No!” she cried out.

But, she didn’t inform her parents about what she had found, mainly for her younger brother’s sake.

So, back to the conversation. One day roughly two weeks ago, out of the blue my wife said something to the effect of, “We’re doing Santa for our son.”

I replied, “I don’t get a say in this?”

I wasn’t opposed to having Santa be a part of our son’s earliest years on Earth, but apparently my wife thought that was the case.

Before we had a chance to debate the merits of not deceiving our child versus going along with an accepted cultural fairy tale, the decision had been made. And that’s fine. This is a battle I choose not to fight.

But before I gave in, I explained to my wife that I did not feel cheated out of an important part of my childhood because I knew the truth. To me, Santa only muddled the meaning of Christmas as I knew it when I was 6 years old. (I don’t need to re-hash the Christmas story from the Bible, do I?)

I was fine with going to church Christmas Eve and acting in or watching a Christmas pageant, seeing my relatives and opening gifts the next morning. Maybe there was no room for Santa in my life.

Only now that I have a child of my own do I contemplate my own childhood holiday experiences.

There you have it. My son will believe, at least, he will be presented with the idea that Santa could exist. It is up to him.

For now, I better start looking for a red suit and get working on growing a beard for next year.

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