Another holiday, once extremely sacred yet increasing more commercial, has come and gone. As at Christmas time, I was yet again struggling with the idea of the lies that the capitalist commercial world sells us and that we in turn, sell to our children. I have a two and a half year old child who sees all the stuff in the stores and hears the stories about Easter bunnies and Santa Claus.
I understand the idea behind the seemingly innocent white lies; I just do not feel comfortable lying to my child about anything. While I am all for encouraging her imagination and her desire to be good, I have tried to be as honest with her as possible because I hope that she will grow up being truthful. Filling her head with untruths, I also worry how she will feel when she realizes the truth, that her parents and the rest of the world had flat out lied to her despite telling her that lying was wrong.
So last Christmas I pondered telling her the truth about the guy in a red suit. We told her all about the birth of Jesus and had books and shows for her to learn from. But then we kind of got caught up in it all and took her to see a rather believable Santa at a big elaborate Christmas town where there were slides and a merry go round and elves wandering around. She got up on Santa’s lap and when he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she looked him right in the eye and said “a black doggie”. It was more due to the coaching by us than anything else, as we had already purchased this stuffed animal the previous week when we were out shopping. She saw it on the shelf and asked to take it home, which she was not in the habit of doing at the time. She was usually content to simply give the tutu’s hugs and put them back. So we told her that she could ask Santa for it and maybe he would bring it to her and she would find it under our tree on Christmas morning. All of course pending whether or not she was a good girl. So at this point it was far too late to tell her that Santa wasn’t real.
On Christmas morning she wasn’t even interested in reading the letter from Santa and didn’t even notice her gifts. When she finally did spy them she took great joy in opening them, taking the paper off oh so carefully and placing each piece in my hand. Once opened, she went to the next one, opening all the gifts. We went to church and told her the story of Jesus again and tried to make it clear that Christmas was about Jesus and not presents. In the end she considered it a kind of birthday and wanted to know where the cake was. So we figured she had grasped enough for a two year old, but I still felt uneasy about lying to her.
This Easter, she began to get excited back in March when all the Easter paraphernalia was coming on the shelves and windows of the stores. Every night she asked us about the Easter bunny. We tried to get away from that idea by telling her about Jesus again, referring back to Christmas. But how does one explain to a two year old the concepts of God, death and eternal life? Rather than clutter her mind with a lot of ideas too difficult to grasp, we spoke to her in words she could understand. We told her that Easter was the time when Jesus went ‘bye bye’, that he went to be with his dada and that he also went inside her heart, and we would point to her chest. Every time we asked her what Easter was about, she would say “Jesus”, saying he went “in here” pointing to her chest and that he went to be with his dada. Then she saw all the bunnies and the chocolates everywhere we went. The day before Easter, we again asked her what it was all about, she instantly piped up that it was about “bopadoos, bean bopadoos!” Bopadoos being her word for candy and sweets, bean her favorite colour: green. Oh my!
So finally I could take it no more, I didn’t want her growing up thinking that these holidays were all about treats and sweets. The reason is not so much because we are deeply religious because we are not. We go to church rarely and say our thanks before meals, but that is usually a quick ‘chi meegwetch’. I guess the reason is that when I look back on the holidays I celebrated as a child, and even now as an adult, they are and always have been special because of the family get togethers and the memories we make, the treats are nice but secondary. Her understanding why we have these celebrations, why people have any celebration is important in the long run. All religions are fascinating with great stories behind the celebrations and I want her to be aware of as many of them as possible.
So I began by telling her that the Easter Bunny wasn’t real, that he was just pretend. I told her again about why we celebrate it and that she would still be getting treats because that was the custom. We had the great egg hunt and she loved it. I even told her that Santa wasn’t real and she wasn’t at all upset.