Last year I wrote about our approach to Santa Claus. Basically, we enjoy the fun Santa traditions with the knowledge that it's all pretend. Don't worry, my kids have awesome imaginations so instead of being deprived, they are let in on an exciting game of make-believe that we all play together. We are continuing with this approach this year while reminding our almost five year old son to not ruin the game for anyone else, because we respect how other people choose to celebrate.
popular Santa tradition is that Santa keeps a list of naughty and nice children all year in order to bring the nice children gifts on Christmas morning. This lends itself as a convenient tool for parents to encourage good behavior in the weeks leading up to Christmas. In the words of the popular Christmas song,
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Similar to many Santa traditions I enjoy, I think the story of the elf is cute, and I love the idea of moving it around each night so the kids could excitedly wake to see where it is each morning. I also know how much we'd all like to ensure the best of behavior from our children to make life a little less stressful during a particularly harried time of year.
But, in the end, I have a problem with the very idea of naughty and nice list. I'm not a fan of labeling kids good or bad. I'm not a fan of threatening kids. I don't think manipulating kids is a healthy parenting approach. Not to mention, threats aside, it's a rare parent that would actually follow through by withholding Christmas presents to a child. It's not to say that in a fit of frustration and bad parenting, I didn't tell my kids the other day that I would return all their Christmas presents. I'm not perfect. I apologized to them and reality checked myself. I sincerely get the allure.
For us as a family of Christian faith, we celebrate Christmas because our faith celebrates the birth of Jesus on that day, the most magnificent gift we could be given. We give gifts to people we love and care about on that day in celebration of the gift we received in Jesus. We didn't receive the gift of Jesus because we were on the nice list.
In the same way, I strive to practice unconditional parenting because it's the example we've been given in faith, I also strive to celebrate Christmas with my family in a no-strings attached celebration of the gift we've received and a sharing of the unconditional love we've been given kind of way. With my kids and my family, there will be no naughty or nice list. Instead, we will give and receive gifts not because we deserve them or because we've earned them, but because we are sharing the joy of the most wonderfully undeserved gift we could ever receive. Jesus.
This year, I'm even more confident of our approach to Santa. While I can't wait to take a train ride with Santa and leave him milk & cookies, I'm hoping to ground our experience of the Christmas season in faith and giving. By the grace of God, we will celebrate.