I have this debate with people all the time. I always tell people that I never tell my children that Santa Claus is real and they just freak out! They attack me by saying things like, “how could you shatter their innocence like that?”, “you should protect your children, not break their hearts!”, “you should protect their innocence as long as possible!” The indignation and the look of horror is just fascinating and ridiculous. However, the level of self-deception and blindness is absolutely laughable, and, typically, by the time that I’m done, I’m no longer the target of others’ derision, but of their anger; anger at the fact that I couldn’t let them continue to deceive themselves or delude themselves into believing that they are doing the right thing with their children. So, let’s start with what innocence means.
According to dictionary.com, innocence, among others, means simplicity, absence of guile or cunning, naivete, lack of knowledge or understanding. What about this is an attractive quality in a human? Most people can’t tell me and those that do try to explain, fail. The best that anyone has come-up with is that this makes someone pure. I say it makes them stupid and susceptible to manipulation, deceit and fraud, among other things. But let’s agree to disagree. The bigger question then is who gives children this so called “innocence.” Meaning, who tells the children of the supposed existence of the so called, “Santa Claus,” or simply “Santa?”
There is no doubt that “Santa” is instilled into children’s heads by their parents: If you don’t behave Santa’s not going to give you a Christmas gift this year. If you don’t stop crying about losing your tooth, the tooth fairy won’t come tonight, etc. So, “Santa” (as an aside, when I talk about “Santa” it’s inclusive of the “Tooth Fairy” and the “Easter Bunny,” among other ridiculous inventions) is a fictitious creation designed to exert control over children by their parents, at least for a short while. Then who is the one that ends up “shattering” the children’s innocence? Oddly enough, it’s the parents. They are the ones that inevitably tell their children or confirm to their children the fact that “Santa” is not real. This then shatters the “innocence” of the child. But the funny thing about this is that if the parents hadn’t lied to their children in the first place then they’d be no telling the truth and breaking the children’s hearts in the second place!
What I’ve found is that if you patiently explain to children that Santa doesn’t exist in the first place then children are likely to shrug it off as if nothing is wrong, because they trust their parents to begin with. The trick isn’t getting your child to be OK with Santa not existing, the trick is to keep your child from telling other children. There are many ways that this can be accomplished, but I’ve found that this is very individual and cannot be done on a uniform basis.
The point is that the innocence of children is created by the lies told to them by their parents and is then shattered by the parents; the ultimate people that children trust. What message does this send to our children? Is it no wonder that children grow up to mistrust adults, especially in their teenage years? Therefore, this illusion of children’s innocence is nothing more than a web of lies told by parents to their children. So the farce that children’s innocence should be preserved is indeed a laughable concept. Yet, people delude themselves into believing that they are doing their children a great favor by lying to them. This is very perplexing and rather dangerous to our future.
When people realize the error of their ways, is it any wonder that they get angry at me? Probably more from embarrassment than anything else. Nevertheless, they do and they can’t help themselves. So, let’s dispense with this bull crap about children’s innocence, and also, we can agree that it is nothing but an illusion. Lying to children, whether it is to create the illusion of innocence — which is a form of a white lie — or to subvert their intelligence/observation, is wrong. Lying in all forms is the foundation on which mistrust between parents and children form and, thus, parents should stop the practice, no matter the excuse. And, certainly, stop lecturing others about shattering children’s innocence, if you tell yours that “Santa” exists — among other fairy tale characters — because you, and not the person who tells the truth to their children, are shattering things, in particular the sacred bond of trust between parent and child.
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