Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Santa Claus Problem and Theoretical Children



While it's taking longer than expected for us to successfully produce/acquire children, we've at least had a chance to come to some kind of agreement on some of those pesky differences of opinion which usually present themselves while attempting to combine two different parenting styles.  One of those is the Santa Claus Problem.
When I was growing up, we were thoroughly convinced Santa was real.  And for those of little faith, there were always the vanishing cookies and the sooty boot prints for proof.  The new trend I'm noticing, especially among the more committed Catholic circles, is the attempt to downplay, replace, or simply do away with Santa.
Admittedly, today's Santa bears little resemblance to a fourth century bishop.  But there was a kind of comfortable universality in the general acceptance of his existence by all our childhood friends.  When we were older and observed all the backward bending that young Catholic parents were doing to avoid Santa, we began to wonder what would happen when the children began comparing notes and wondering why one got presents from the Magi while another house was visited by the Infant Jesus.  A simple division of labor would probably be the easiest explanation, but it still seemed very confusing. 
Some people we know are determined to ignore Santa altogether, which seems like an excessively rational and party-pooperish thing to do to your kids.  They won't question it until they see all the neat stuff their friends acquired over the holidays, and unless you're successfully raising young saints, the only conclusion they'll reach is that mom and dad are no fun.  It also won't make you terribly popular in the neighborhood when your child goes about disabusing all the other children of their faith in Santa.  
Recognizing the excessive commerciality of Santa Claus, and yet not wanting to do away with him entirely, we reached the St. Nicholas Compromise.  The longer we talked about it, the more elaborate it became.  The series of holidays associated with the Christmas season seem taylor made for it.
1.  December 6, St. Nicholas' Day.  We like to think of it as a kind of progress report day.  If the children have been good, they receive the semi-traditional assortment of edibles in their stockings.  Problem children will receive a stick, or something similarly barren and uninteresting, as a warning to shape up before Christmas.
2.  December 7-24.  Just to establish the fact that St. Nicholas (or his agents) is watching, the children will receive occasional notes in their stockings, either to praise exemplary behavior or to address continuing problems.  I can let my artistic side run a little wild with this.  Misbehave in church, and St. Nicholas WILL be sending you a nastygram.
3.  December 25, Christmas.  Good children will receive their gifts as scheduled (perhaps sent by St. Nicholas, rather than brought in person).  Naughty children, who persist in calling our bluff, will receive nothing, but will be offered a chance to redeem themselves by Epiphany.  
4.  January 6, Epiphany.  Reformed children will be given their belated Christmas presents, and those who have been good all along will probably receive something tasty and sugary. 
This seems to save all the good stuff while doing away with all the nonsense about reindeer and the north pole.  Maybe I'll draw up a fancy certificate naming us, the parents, St. Nicholas' specially assigned agents for this family, just in case the kids demand to see our credentials.  I'll have to work on my St. Nicholas signature.

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a great plan. I especially like the notes! I know Tolkien did that for his kids. :D

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