About a month before Christmas two years ago I was speaking with my youngest daughter Catherine about her then five-year-old son Jaden (my grandson), asking her about her plans for Christmas. She smiled and recalled how last year, he had told her, “You don’t like Christmas, do you Mom?” said innocently and without accusation. He was merely making an observation based on what he observed in her behavior and attitude the previous holiday season. Wasn’t upset about it. Just making a comment
Catherine told me when Jaden was even younger that she didn’t want him to believe in Santa Claus. Felt like it was a big lie for which later Jaden would be upset when he found out the truth. Plus her recollection of Santa was when she was about four years old and sat on his lap was that he had bad breath! I thought she was taking it a little too seriously, but she was adamant that she didn’t want him to believe in something that was a lie.
I gave her my opinion, which is that we are confronted with illusions our entire life and periodically we are disillusioned as the truth of the situation is revealed to us. I look at it as part of the deal in growing up. Even throughout adulthood we have times when our illusions are challenged and either we let them go or cling to them in the face of all evidence.
It took Jaden’s question for her to see the value in carrying on the illusion, perhaps with some sadness that he will one day no longer believe in Santa Claus. At the tender age of five years old, children think more concretely. From about three years to seven years old even God is thought of as a big older man in the sky, about ten feet tall, with long flowing gray hair and a beard to match and from up there he watched everything you did. At around age seven or eight a child’s thinking changes from having to physically experience things to thinking more abstractly about these things, so concepts often have to be revised. Including Santa Claus.
So even explaining to Jaden that Santa Claus was the Spirit of Christmas, I know he needed to experience something more concrete. We did have a discussion recently of how God is in everything. Became sort of a game with us. So that year and ever since Catherine has made Christmas a big deal. Even took Jaden to one of those mall Santas-and he loved it.
Celebrate Your Disillusionment!
The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman is one of those books I’ve read more than once at different eras in my life. In it he tells a great story about being disillusioned. The premise for the book is that while Dan was a student at University of California Berkeley and a champion gymnast, he felt a great deal of anxiety and unhappiness much of the time, accompanied by bouts of insomnia. One evening when he couldn’t sleep he took a walk to a nearby gas station and met an unusual fellow he named Socrates. The tale surrounds his relationship with this man and the teachings this wise elder gave to him.
One of those is when Millman walked in and complained of being disillusioned. By now Dan was accustomed to this old man putting a different spin on whatever he brought to him, and this time was no different. He told Dan that it if he was disillusioned it was time to celebrate! Took him by surprise. Socrates went on to say how we are so attached to our illusions that we moan and groan when they are shattered. His take is that we should have a party because now we’re dealing with reality.
Hmm. Good point isn’t it? We do get attached to our illusions. I think back on the first time I realized that Santa Claus wasn’t a real person. I was crushed but actually happy that I now knew that it was my mom and dad who got me the Alamo set, complete with a Davy Crockett hat (for those of you old enough to remember!).
So Merry Christmas! May you always (eventually) celebrate the release of your illusions!