Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus
"Miss Branagan, is there really a Santa Claus?"
I was surprised no one had asked me, until a student of mine blindsided me the other day. So I did what any authority figure for eight year olds would do in my situation.
Now I know we tell children it is never OK to lie. But isn't that in esssence, itself a lie? I figure this is one lie that God will forgive in the grand scheme of things. In fact, this is one of those rare situations in life where telling the true is actually the opposite of the right thing to do.
Third grade is a weird age because you're not quite a little kid anymore, but you're not quite into the "rolling your eyes, God this is embarrasing" preteen stage yet either. You still believe what adults tell you. You still get excited when a teacher swears something will be "fun" (often another lie). Empty threats still scare the hell out of you. Action figures are still cool. All of these things and more still apply to the average third grader.
Of course, there is always one kid who figures out the truth before everyone else. Whether he examines the plausiblity of a real life bunny hopping down the street or he just hears it early on from an obnoxious older brother, regardless the truth is out, the magic gone. Often this child finds it his or her duty to share what he knows what the rest of his duped comrades.
In fact, I think that child was me.
This is not to say that I ran around purposely ruining the wonders of Christmas for other children. Children "in the know" don't see it that way. Instead they see it as their obligation to open the eyes of their peers to the truths that surround them. Incidentally, these are also often the same kids that grow up to be very good conspiracy theorists, but that's another post for another time.
So no, I was not the type of child who ran around telling everyone I knew, nor was I the mean-spirited child who laughed at those who still believed. But I know I was the bearer of bad news to at least two little girls; my best friends.
God love those little girls, they sure held their ground. They said the information I had simply could not be true because they saw Santa leave their house one night. They had proof. I wouldn't leave well enough alone. I told them their dad probably dressed up. I think they were still on the fence. Talk about idealistic.
Now so many years later, I can't recall when I stopped believing or how I knew the truth. That part of the story remains blurry to me. But the way kids, especially my class, grow up so quickly these days, I was really surprised to see so many of them still believe at this age.
This is why I am humming a different tune this time around and decidedly perpetuating the myth. Now I know better. Children that know early on are not smarter. If anything, they often grow more cynical about the life around them at an earlier age. And really- what hurry is there to be cynical? As wise old woman once spoke a truthful adage in the lyric: "If I could turn back time, I'd take back those words that hurt you..." I know what you're thinking. The song sounds like it's about a relationship gone bad. Just trust me on this one. You simply gotta read between the lines.
Next week I plan on reading the story of The Polar Express to my class since the dream of getting any hardcore work done in the remaining days before Christmas is a laugh. I read the story this weekend for the first time myself. Really it's premise is about the magic of believing. Now I have to be prepared for the hard-hitting questions and the "but how do you explain's?" that are sure to come at me. It's ok though. I figure I'm ready. I'm ready to lie through my teeth. For now I understand the importance of believing, even if it is for just a little bit longer.