parent opinion

LEIGH CAMPBELL: Please don’t tell me how to 'do' Santa with my son.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Except if you’re a parent of a young child and you tell them that Santa is real. If you do that, you are not wonderful. You’re causing damage to your children, disrespecting them, and setting them up for a life of thinking lies are okay.

That’s what child psychology experts like Dr Justin Coulson say, anyway.

I really admire Dr Coulson and follow a lot of his advice. And I am sure he has studied for many, many years to become a qualified expert in his field. He’s not alone in this advice, either. There are plenty of toddler experts on Instagram sharing the same message. 

But as a mum of one two-and-a-half-year-old, which makes me as far from any sort of expert as you can get, I respectfully disagree.

My parents 'lied' to me about Santa. For all of my childhood up until the age of seven or eight I was told, and believed, that a white-bearded man in a red velvet suit came to our house on the 24th after I’d gone to bed. He dropped off a gift, and he had a swig of beer and a cookie. He also fed Dasher, Dancer, Prancer and all the others some carrots I’d left out... I could tell because the orange stubs were left on the plate next to the cookie crumbs.

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I recall literally shaking with excitement when I’d wake on Christmas morning, racing out to the living room as fast as I could to see if he’d been. And of course he’d been. He’d made his way to every single house in the world in one night because to a four-year-old, Santa is magic.

Then as I grew older and inevitably learned the truth, I still loved and looked forward to Christmas... but it wasn't quite the same. We ate, we hung out with family and loved ones, we did gifts, but without Santa, a little bit of that sparkle was gone.

Image: Supplied.

In the decades between I haven't given much thought to Santa if I’m honest. And now I am a mother - I have a two-and-a-half-year-old - Santa is back and alive and well in my world and I will defend the tradition of 'lying' to little kids about him for two reasons.

Firstly, I am exhausted. Come December, I, like so many other parents, am dragging my butt to the finish line with my fingernails. I am spent. So when I am able to 'call Santa' at night as a method of getting my toddler to go to sleep after two hours of negotiation, I take that happily. A quick chat with the big guy (we use the app Video Call Santa - it’s great) and my son is happy and has his little head on that pillow in two seconds flat. 

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We’re sold so many lies as adults anyway that I figure this is a pretty innocent one in the scheme of things. 

The second reason is because the sparkle is back. Through the eyes of my son I now see the absolute awe and wonder that Christmas is for a little person. Sure, he might end up in therapy when he’s 30, like me and so many of my friends - but I can bet you that none of us are there because our parents told us Santa was real.

This is the first year that my son has started to understand the concept of Santa and it is the most beautiful thing I’ve seen. My eyes welled up when my toddler jumped up and down with excitement in the line to meet Santa and told him in no uncertain terms that he would not be home on Christmas eve and that he would be sleeping at his cousin's house. His joy is my joy and I know that by letting him believe the magic I am giving him some of the best childhood memories possible - because I think back to my childhood Christmases frequently and my heart swells.

Image: Supplied.

So please, don't tell me I’m doing Christmas wrong as a mother. It’s just another thing I’ll add to my parenting guilt list. 

Let me bribe my child with Santa like all past generations have and enjoy the magic for these few fleeting years.

Feature Image: Supplied.

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