We attended two Santa-related events this weekend. First, “Santa’s Secret Shop,” where my five-year-old daughter experienced “the joy of choosing her own special holiday gifts for family and friends.” Then there was the visit to the big man himself.
Between the two, she asked matter-of-factly, “I wonder why Santa wasn’t there last night.” Great question. It was his secret shop; it said so right in the name. It’s so sweet how she doesn’t understand yet the way franchising works. And I loved the magic of our holiday deceptions — how Santa is still real to her.
Then there was the actual visit with Santa, which made me question our propagation of these falsehoods. She had a great time. They had an enchanted forest at this place, with stuffed animals, and cookies, and craft projects. But Santa wasn’t the highlight. I don’t think she was scared or intimidated by him. She just wasn’t as in awe of seeing him this year, and seemed more interested in his basket of candy canes.
I started to wonder if she was figuring it out. The fraud. Maybe she hasn’t yet completed her investigation, but she’s observant enough to see the clues. And savvy enough to understand it pays to keep buying into the delusion. It made me a little sad to think about how all this deceit might affect her. She trusts and relies on us, and we’re lying to her.
But I suppose we’re doing our job. Our whole economy is based on shared delusions, so we actually are teaching her how the world works. And if we’re limiting her ability to draw accurate conclusions about the world around her, well, that too is for the best. Ignorance is bliss, after all, and fantasy is often more pleasant than reality.