Sunday, December 12, 2010

Santa and the Culling

I hate Christmas.

Let me clarify.

I hate retail Christmas.

I don't mind spending time in church, listening to carols, driving through neighborhoods to look at houses decked out in lights.  But I hate what retail has done to Christmas.  This coming from someone who isn't overly church-going.  I follow Christian tenants, encourage my children to do the same, but I don't attend church every week.  

Yesterday my family (my wife and after much prodding, all three children) tackled cleaning out kiddie toys in the basement.  The culling as my wife put it.  We aren't finished but we have gotten a huge swath of toys sorted, bagged, and processed (either for donation or garbage).  During the process there was much, "I want to keep that", "What was that from?", "Oh look it's the kid's first X", etc.  Along with those sentiments there were several tears shed by my youngest.  The tears could have been from her seeing part of her childhood being bagged up and given away, or from a bit of a cold that she is fighting.  Our society is very much a "give me what I want", "that's mine", self centered culture.  Mostly due to Television and the constant barrage of the cool new thing.  My family has fallen into that societal shift.  The evidence of that is currently in my basement where there are seven rubber tubs now empty of what used to be stuffed animals, dolls, play sets, etc.  I have three full 30 gallon sized garbage bags full of old toys ready for donation, a banquet table covered with play sets too big to fit into large garbage bags, and eight 15 gallon sized bags full of trash.  Why?  Seriously.  Why do we have so much crap?

Santa.  The big red man.  The fascination of all that is new and exciting on television.  And the idea that we don't want to disappoint our children.

So here's the crux of my posting today.  Financially we aren't bad, but we also aren't in the position to give the kids everything they want.  We've gotten them one or two things that should get use for more than the brief time that television says the items are "cool".  But my question is do I bother getting that one more thing to perpetuate the myth of Santa?  My kids are a hard sell.  My 12 year old is pretty much a shoe-in for knowing the truth.  My 10 year old is a different beast.  He is still certain that if he had swallowed his last loose tooth, the Tooth Fairy would've hunted down that tooth in the sewers to retrieve it in order to pay him his coin.  If he asks for something that is completely out of the picture, the of course I let him know that it isn't going to happen.  He will coolly reply, "Santa will bring it then".  I think that he is simply playing us to see who will flinch first and admit the big red man is none other than his parents.  Sadly my 8 year old is the one I worry about.  At her age she hasn't developed enough of style that isn't stolen directly from the garbage marketing on TV, but she does have her own unique tastes which are more refined and adult than her 8 year old body belies.  Of course you can't just buy a gift for one kid and say it is from Santa and not get the other two something as well.

So the dilemma that I'm dealing with is whether or not to be up front with the kids and say, "Santa isn't real" (in terms of a big dude in a red suit) and shatter the coming weeks?  Or should I give the whole retail monster more to perpetuate a lie for one more year?  Or one final option, talk one on one with the kids to gauge their beliefs and then succumb to either of the first two choices?

Just curious what your thoughts are about this.  Am I the only one wrestling with trying to not disappoint my children during this time of year without going completely broke?

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