‘Tis the Season

Belief is a touchy subject. It is difficult for me to accept something exists without absolute proof — to have faith — and yet, the majority of what I do believe cannot be proven. It is internal. If I feel something is true, then I hold it as true with or without tangible evidence. But I cannot join in the blind faith so many of my friends and family possess.

I transferred to a private Christian academy for my final three years of high school, not because I believed in God, but because my dad did. When he was diagnosed, I started receiving Social Security benefits. When he died, the amount increased to over $800 a month. I didn’t want that money. It was insulting to think that it was adequate compensation for his loss, but it was his, so I decided to use it for something that would make him happy. And it did turn out to be a blessing.

Christmas is all about belief. The Pagan Yule, Jesus’s birth, Santa, Commercialism, family: there is something for almost everyone. Until my son started preschool, he knew where the presents came from: Mommy, Grandma, aunts and uncles. Then he sees that other kids believe in a jolly old elf-master, and he starts playing along.

At four, Hugo convinced himself that Santa was real in order to be like other kids — at four, it was already obvious to him that he wasn’t like them at all — and, at eight, he continues the myth. It’s familiar in a world that has changed too much. His logical mind allows him to prove, rather than disprove, Santa because of his need for stability. Rather than question why Santa looks so different in every store, Hugo reasons that these people are Santa’s representatives from the North Pole. They are agents sent out to find out what small children want for Christmas, and they only way to obtain that information is by looking like Santa. Little kids are very shy and stranger-conscious after all.

I don’t like Santa Claus. He steals too many of my mom points. I tolerate his presence because I understand. There really has been too much change for one boy to handle: he’s lost his grandfather and his brother, and he’s moved across country leaving almost his entire family behind. He’s rarely given much explanation — he feels as if his opinion doesn’t matter and that he doesn’t have a choice in regards to his own life.

If I were him, I’d be angry too.

I began with the concept of belief — how difficult it is for me. It seems so easy for my son; he seems to believe in everything: God, Santa, homicidal robots, etc. I don’t understand how he believes, but I do understand some of the why.

I’ve never bothered to give him real answers. I assumed that he didn’t need to believe in anything because I don’t need to. He’s eight years old — of course he does!

And that barely touches on how much I have failed him…

Indentured Elves

Yesterday, Hugo started telling me about the letter to Santa he wrote in school. I was folding clothes, only half listening to him ramble on about video games, when he said something about asking to borrow an elf so he could have new toys year round.

“Okay. That’s pretty smart,” I said, “but that’s slave labor.”

“No, Mom. I would pay Santa for him, and I would pay him too.”

“With what money? Do you have some secret hoard that I don’t know about?”

“No, but he wouldn’t need much anyway. And once I run out of money, I’ll give him back to Santa.”

“So he’ll be Santa’s slave again?”

“It’s okay,” said Hugo. “He likes working for Santa. The North Pole is way better than where he’s from.”

I probably should have stopped asking questions at this point, but I was starting to think this might become a teaching moment. Slavery is not just an American History topic; there are still people being sold for all sorts of reasons throughout the world, not to mention those people who work for so little income they mine as well be slaves. I don’t want my son thinking any of that is okay.

“Where do elves come from?”

“The H-E-double-L place I’m not supposed to say.”

“The ‘H-E-double-L place.'”

“Yes,” said Hugo. “You know: the Underworld.”

“So that makes it okay for them to become slaves?”

“Well, the Underworld elves are evil. They build evil robots that kill people. Santa saves them and turns them good.”

The teaching moment has disappeared. Now, I’m just interested in the story and where he’ll take it next.

“Santa magically turns the elves nice,” I ask. “How does he do that?”

“He’s so jolly. They just can’t help it.”

“So…Santa’s jolliness saves the world from homicidal robots built by evil elves in Hell?”

“Yes.”

“That is so much better than The Night Before Christmas.

“I know, right!”