I’m perfectly OK with misleading children
McGinn note: Would you believe I have perfectly good columns just laying around like stray socks in my son’s bedroom?
Every so often, I vent by sitting down and writing — whether the end result gets published or not.
I wrote the following a couple of Decembers ago, and seeing as how it’s Christmastime all over again, I thought it deserved to finally see the light of day.
I recently discovered that nothing irritates me faster than an adult who wants to be straightforward with a child.
After all, my reaction to the news that my sister-in-law isn’t going to let her 3-year-old son believe in Santa Claus was one of instant outrage.
“What the (expletive)?” I exclaimed, practically foaming like a neglected rottweiler.
In hindsight, I may have overreacted.
The way I reacted, you’d have thought I just learned that my nephew’s organs were about to be harvested by his own parents and sold on the black market to pay off a debt.
Maybe there was more to the story.
Maybe I should’ve calmly inquired, “Are they becoming Jehovah’s Witnesses?”
But, I’d heard as much as I needed to hear — my wife’s sister and her husband, who live in South Dakota, had decided they “weren’t going to do the Santa Claus thing” (my wife’s words) because they don’t want to lie to their child.
“Why don’t they just tell him now that the Nazis killed 6 million Jews?” I blurted. “Why don’t they go ahead and tell him, ‘Son, there’s no such thing as the Easter Bunny, either, but there WAS a man named John Wayne Gacy, who murdered 33 young men between 1972 and 1978, and buried 26 of them in his crawl space?’ ”
Why would they straight-up tell their kid that Santa Claus doesn’t exist?
Reality can wait.
“Is this a Jesus thing?” I asked, beginning to simmer down.
Apparently, according to my wife, more and more parents are choosing not to perpetuate the myth of Santa Claus, first and foremost because it means lying to their children.
My wife tells me that a friend of my sister-in-law’s has taken up the same vow.
They’ll instead teach their children about Saint Nicholas, the real-life, 4th-century Christian saint whose kindness would later inspire the Dutch to create the imaginary figure we bad parents teach our kids about known as Sinterklaas.
In looking over the details of Saint Nicholas’ life, I can see why he never got his own Rankin/Bass TV special.
For starters, he was jailed during the persecution of Christians by the Roman emperor Diocletian — who would’ve sounded exactly like Heat Miser had Rankin/Bass ever made a stop-motion holiday special about Saint Nicholas.
In terms of saintly achievements, he’s believed to have once brought three children back to life who were dismembered by a butcher and left to soak in a vat of brine.
That, I’m willing to concede, is pretty sweet.
But, other than that, he’s the patron saint of unmarried girls and pawnbrokers, which means you also have to explain the concept of a pawnshop to your kid.
“Son, some people misuse their prescription Xanax, and when the tremors set in, they sometimes steal tools from their neighbors’ garages and sell them for cash to make the tremors go away.”
I don’t know why I think this even concerns me in the first place.
If my sister-in-law and her husband don’t want to pretend one month out of every year that reindeer can fly, I should respect that, right?
Some people let their kids believe in Santa Claus.
Some people don’t.
Some Christian Scientists won’t take their kid to the doctor if they have leukemia.
You raise your kid and I’ll raise mine — and we’ll let DHS sort out the details.
Seriously, though, what’s the worst that could come from all this?
Maybe my nephew grows up without a vivid imagination.
So he won’t be very good at playing “Dungeons & Dragons.” (I can see him saying, “My mother told me there’s no such thing as frost dwarves.”)
Is that bad?
Maybe he won’t have a career in the arts — but the humanities pay like crap anyway.
Besides, it’s quite possible my sister-in-law is on to something here.
As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been thinking about my own son, who’s just 11 months older than my nephew.
My nephew could spell his name before my son.
My nephew could count before my son.
My nephew can identify the species of fish in his home state’s waterways.
On the other hand, my son thinks a gnome helps me make pancakes some mornings.
My son believes Yogi Bear lives in a cave in a local park.
My son knows that Gigan fights Godzilla and that Gyaos fights Gamera.
So, why do I have this feeling that, right this minute, my sister-in-law is wondering what the hell kind of parent I am?