CLAUS-trophobic By Sonja Fitz

Tuesday December 27, 2005

To Claus or not to Claus, that is the question. Santa Claus, that is. 

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of childhood ostracization by the Santa faithful or to take arms against a roof full of Reindeer and—You get the gist. 

As a soon (VERY soon)-to-be new mom, my little guy is due a week before Christmas but could just as easily arrive a few days after or even 

—horrors—ON Christmas, and it makes me wonder, what shall I eventually tell him about his seasonal cohort, the omniscient global sledrider, Jolly St. Nick? 

My first instinct is to dissuade him of Mr. Claus’s existence from the get-go and bypass the whole ‘Is he real?’ drama and disillusionment. 

My other first instinct (these things come in pairs) is to let him enjoy the fictional pageant with his peers since, after all, the inevitable revelation left nary a scar on me nor on anyone I know. 

I suppose it’s really a confidence quandary. By nature somewhat blunt and impatient, I’m just not confident I can keep up the charade, and I imagine the wintery illusion crumbling when I weary of pretending and let the truth slip out before the falsehood even takes root. So why bother? Better to just live honestly from the start. In my experience, there’s plenty of warmth and cheer to Christmas without benefit of Santa Claus—or Jesus, for that matter. 

But a secular solstice season opens a whole other can of worms. You guessed it—the Easter Bunny. 

The Tooth Fairy. 

The Boogie Man. 

The Great Pumpkin. 

How many childhood myth bubbles will I be forced to puncture if I give Santa a pass? Because on second thought, the Boogie Man has serious potential as a damn useful disciplinary tool—But no. It’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Play the kiddie character game or Opt Out. So I choose the latter. I can teach my child about Being Good without threat of a mysterious North Pole blacklist, thank you very much. 

And come to think of it, what about those other societal fairy stories, the myth bubbles that evolved to protect and insulate us, however imperfectly, from fear, isolation, and chaos? Honest politicians, friendly neighborhood police officers, ethical preists—With respect to the myriad examples that actually fit these labels, those myths are a little more than tarnished at this point. So better to start honestly there, as well: authority figures are just people doing their best. Some excel, some stray. Be appreciative and respectful, but be vigilant. 

Of course, that leaves just one myth bubble (or Basic Truth and Foundation of All Reality, depending on your point of view) remaining: 


Hmm. How can I possibly instill values without the framework of a moral Overseer and Ultimate Justice and/or Reward, you ask? Well, aside from the fact that Aesop did it fairly well without reaching to a Great Beyond for justification, there are ways, Virginia, to teach compassion and integrity within a secular humanist framework. 

After all, what is the underlying goal of instilling ethics? Good behavior and personal fulfillment—the Bobbsie Twin aims of any religion worth its salt: good behavior to protect YOU, personal fulfillment to satisfy ME. And—newsflash—there’s more than one way to achieve those aims, if you’ll pardon the following oversimplification. 

Religious paradigm: Behave well and take care of each other because God (or Santa) says so and then you’ll get (to heaven/nirvana/presents/insert reward here). 

Secular humanist paradigm: Behave well and take care of each other because we’re all we have, and see how kindness and cooperation just feel better? 

Same result, so who cares which equation you use to solve for X? Granted, the latter paradigm lacks the comforting notion of quasi-parental controls, but such is life, after all. Parental controls may get us to the starting gate, but a successful race is up to us. 

Which brings me back to Mr. and Ms. Claus, and whether or not to take a few years’ advantage of their assistance with keeping childhood childish before those parental controls are inevitably shaken off. No offense, but all things considered I think I’ll take my chances without you, Santa. 

Now, the Boogie Man is another story.