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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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« 4.2 | Main | On ingesting and gestating. »
Wednesday
Dec062006

Giving credit where credit is due.

Something, I can’t quite pinpoint what, prompted me to take a second look at my recent Thanksgiving post, and notice that it fails to mention a person who was instrumental in the day’s success. That person, friends, is my sister Liz. Liz, who has successfully hosted Thanksgiving, lo these many years. Liz! Who is ever forthcoming and patient with her younger sister when she calls with her many holiday-related questions. Liz! Who told me exactly how to schedule the creation of each dish so that I wouldn’t keep everyone waiting for turkey until 11 p.m., which I surely would have done without her help. Liz! Liz! Liz!

If only everyone had a Liz in their lives—their turkeys would be moist, their Thanksgivings fret-free. I’ll say it again: Liz!

And now, a Christmas question. Henry and I recently picked out a gift for a local charity’s toy drive, and he was asking me all kinds of probing questions about why this gesture was necessary on Christmas—when, after all, Santa Claus provides the gifts. How do you tell your little believer that there are some children in this world who don’t get presents on Christmas? Does Santa not give presents to the poor? Any clever answers here would be appreciated.

Reader Comments (62)

I've read about someone explaining that in a family w/ no money santa might help out with paying bills and the kiddos still need toys to play with.
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVicki
We rec'd one present from Santa and the rest from Mom and Dad, brother, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc.

I don't know how many Henry gets from Santa, but if it's one, that's a quick answer...Plain Jane Mom's answer is also a good one.

I did a post at the end of November about the consumer mentality that is Christmas anymore, and the feelings of guilt it brings for me. Very wonderful example you're setting. Good Job. (and I mean that in the least patronizing way possible, I swear!)
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMontanaJen
I would go with telling the young lad that Christmas is about giving, and while Santa does his thing, it helps ground us as human beings to give to others at this time.

Or sum-thin' like that. :)
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJeff
I just told Miss B that we are helping out Santa because it's fun.
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbee
At our house Santa only brings one gift. Everything else is from mom and dad. So I would say not all kids have mom and dads who are able to provide for them.
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLisa V
Haha, LizC! I have to agree with you on that one!

I'm with Tonya. We got one big gift from Santa and the rest were from siblings, parents, grandparents etc...

Maybe tell him that's part of being good, helping other people. After all Santa knows when you've been bad or good...
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLiz
Can we borrow Liz? Can we, huh huh, can we???
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
Oh, crap -- didn't read the last paragraph of the post before I spouted off! I like plainjane's suggestion. Kids are smart, and clearly Henry is very bright, so it's best to tell them something that you won't have to revise in a couple of years when they still believe in Santa, but their little brains are figuring out deductive logic and they corner you with a "how come!"
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
My parents always told us Santa was not real. Something about the concept being too close to God and not wanting us to stop believing in God when we found out they had been lying about Santa. I always liked knowing that my parents were being honest with me (and felt just a little superior to all the dupes).

At the other extreme, my aunt put on a huge Santa production for her kids and my oldest cousin didn't figure it out until she was 13 and it ruined Christmas for her that year and she was really mad at her parents for lying to her for so long.

I vote for Meg's answer (Santa sometimes uses special people to help him out) because it seems the most honest. He'll eventually find out that Santa is a myth used to personify the tradition of giving.
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLauxa
Some may consider me to be a grinch, but I think the easy answer is to tell your son the truth (there is no Santa). I remember being very devastated when I was told there is no Santa. I think its better to emphasize the non-commercial aspects of the holidays that make it special. Not the guy that brings us toys.
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterCarl
While we're tearing apart the whole Santa myth--

Why not research the real St. Nicholas and put incorporate the real dude into our Christmas traditions? He was all into that giving to the less fortunate thing.

http://www.stnicholascenter.org/Brix?pageID=38

When the Bird's old enough, she's going to be leaving her shoes out overnight to be filled with treats.
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterk
you're such a good writer and i have so enjoyed reading your posts, i hate to post a grinchy comment, but i agree w/ the folks suggesting something approaching honesty. i have never understood the practice of making up elaborate lies to tell kids about anything. i was a smart kid, but also gullible, and as i grew up i came to resent all the little things i'd been told and believed that turned out to be made-up. you don't have to completely ruin santa for him if you don't want, but i wouldn't compound the lie (we can be gentle and call it a myth) by adding more layers. good luck.
December 6, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdawn
At our house, Santa brings our stocking stuffers and ususally a "big" gift (and maybe a couple of small ones) for under the tree - the rest are from Mom & Dad, etc.. When Matt asked about giving toys to charity I explained to him that it's to help out the moms and dads that can't afford to buy those extra gifts, so that the kdis have more than just the one gift from santa.
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMama V
Because the gift isn't from Santa? I mean Henry gets gifts from tons of people right? And then some from Santa? You're not getting them Santa gifts, your helping their mommy's and grandmothers, etc.
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
My mom always told me it was so the parents would have something to give the kids.
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermegan
Okay, not reading all the other CERTAINLY VERY HELPFUL comments because I'm on a schedule here . . .

We've told our sons that Santa needs all kinds of help at Christmas, and that his elves get a little overworked sometimes, so we're helping him out by buying and dropping this particular toy.

Of course, my sons are the generation that thinks Santa shops at SuperTarget rather than MAKING the toys himself, so this works for them.
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
Re: Santa giving some gifts and parents giving others... Henry seemed to feel that if parents weren't able to contribute gifts, that Santa should simply take up the slack. He's ready to storm the North Pole over this.
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Does Henry think that Santa's toys come from the elves? If so, what about telling him that when kids grow up to be adults,it's a rite of passage to become an honorary elf & help Santa get toys for all the kids?

Failing that, we were told that Santa 1) respected the parents' wishes (so no toys that the parent refused to allow), 2) there are more kids now than ever, so Santa had to outsource to the parents due to limited resources (only explained better - what kid knows about outsourcing?) - hence the "adult kids as elves" idea, and 3) not all kids had parents who could/would give their kids a great Christmas so kind people step in and help out.

Whatever you go with, good luck!
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterVis Major
We're in the same boat this year -- we chose an angel off the Angel Tree at church and will be shopping for that child. The question hasn't been directly asked, but I can tell it's rolling around in Spawn's head: what about Santa giving things to these poor kids? Is he slacking?

Thanks to your commenters for giving me some cannon fodder for when the question is spoken aloud.

December 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermox
I have just been cogitating on this matter of Santa Claus for my 3-1/2 yr. old. My conclusions:

1. I have no problems in the belief department. I convinced myself util the age of 10 that the Land of Oz really existed. I am better for the naivete :)

2. Santa brings one present to every child. Other presents are from parents etc. Addresses the inequity issue.

3. We have to get Santa's present for him to give to some other kid. That's what the gift drives do-pass it on to Santa. Give a present / Get a present. Santa acts as a big Amazon like clearinghouse to redirect presents to all the boys and girls in the world. Addresses the charitable giving/ entitlement issues.

Complicated? Yes. Worth it? I think so. :)

December 7, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbluepaolo
I also like the idea of Santa as a magical guy- and to me, telling Henry that the elves are too busy for the poor kids or that Santa can't find the poor kids is sucky on a couple levels. Because Santa can always find the rich kids, and the elves spend extra time on their toys? Yuk.I like the answer that we give them toys at Christmas as well as Santa because they don't get presents from their moms and dads all year long, like he does.We also have a family tradition that Santa brings three presents to each kid, so that there's enough for all the children in the world. Mom and Dad kick in three gifts, too (this started because Baby Jesus only got three gifts...we're not churchy enough for that, so it's a "just because" now). For poorer kids, their parents can't always buy them their other three gifts, so we help out.
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Oh, sorry Alice- I skipped past your comment re: Henry storming the North Pole before I posted. There has to be enough room on the sleigh for presents for everybody? Although that does diminish the magic a bit.I'm stumped.
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterLaura
Here's what I do. We give our son gifts and so does Santa. So, I tell him some parent's don't have enough money to buy their kids gifts and we're helping those mommies and daddies. Santa will bring them something but their mommies and daddies want them to have something from them as well.
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKelly
Tell him that Santa hates the poverty-stricken so he better take school seriously otherwise he will not get a good job, be forced into poverty and never receive another Star Wars guy!
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBah Humbug!
I would say that it isn't that Santa CAN'T pick up the slack, it's just that the parents want to give a gift from them as well.I would also reiterate that you are doing it because you enjoy helping others who are less fortunate than you.
December 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKate

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