Sunday, December 28, 2008

Miracle on 34th Street - or Merry Xmas

I've been gone a while, I apologize to anyone who may have missed me. I've had a number of major life changes in the last few months, and I had a hard time deciding how to write about them. So I didn't.

But it's the holiday, and I'm finding I have a little extra time in between cooking extravagant meals, and playing with my now near three year-old son. (Wow, he's nearly three already?!?) I recently watched Miracle on 34th Street for the first time in my life. I saw it with my wife's family over the Thanksgiving holiday. For anyone who hasn't seen it, it's the story of a crazy old man who claims he's Santa Claus. Hijinks ensue.

It's an appalling movie. It demonizes people who point out the obvious (this old dude is insane) and over and over it paints a gauzy, pretty picture of people who just "believe". Why do we as a society place a value on people believing things that are demonstrably untrue? Why do we think it's cute to lie to our children, and tell them that a creepy old fat man broke into our houses on Christmas Eve, and left presents under the tree ready for the morning? Why do we go to lengths to prevent them from discovering the inevitable truth? I could barely sit still during Miracle on 34 Street, as they heroically show the conversion of a woman who's a realist into a woman who breaks down and cries that she believes, she believes, she believes.

My son recently asked me where Santa is. His teachers at school and the other children talk to him about Santa. (And I read him The Night Before Christmas every Christmas Eve - I also read him The Cat in the Hat and Deep in the Swamp - I don't tell him that any of them are anything more than stories). Now we have a dilemma. How do we tell him the truth, without turning him into the villain-kid at his daycare. The one who runs around telling the other kids that Santa doesn't exist. The one who gets demonized. The one who gets beat up.

At the moment, we're handling it like we handle all the other imaginary questions. When he asks us where Bob the Builder is, we ask him. He's often in the closet, so we pretend with him that Bob the Builder is in the closet. On Christmas, he pretended that he was Santa, so we played along. And when he asks us where Santa is, we either ask him where he is, or we point to our beat up old copy of "The Night Before Christmas". That'll do for now.