Heidi Scrimgeour is in two minds about keeping up the Father Christmas secret with her daughter.
You'd think I'd be smug about the fact that I've already wrapped my six-year-old daughter's Christmas presents from Santa. But instead of basking in the glow of PFS (premature festive smuggery), I am in turmoil, struggling to resist the urge to pull them out of the wardrobe and re-label them.
Why? Because when I suggested to my daughter that we donate her outgrown toys to a local charity distributing items to disadvantaged families at Christmas, it was apparent that she didn't see the need.
I pressed her on this seeming disregard for those less fortunate than her – but it turns out she simply believes that Santa sorts out Christmas for children all around the world. She wasn't being narcissistic, she simply couldn't understand why anyone would want her castoffs when the jolly fella in red has everybody covered.
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I was suddenly overcome with the urge to re-label all her presents from her father and me instead of from Santa. Why not relegate Santa to giver of tiny tokens of festive fun, and make the 'proper' presents from us? Would that help reset the imbalance of a worldview that believes no child goes without on Christmas Day?
I once made the irrecoverable mistake of wrapping my gift to my husband in the same paper Santa had used to wrap my son's stocking gifts, swiftly disavowing him of the Santa thing altogether. Hence the need for colour-coded wrapping paper to distinguish Santa gifts from all others. And yes, I realise none of this would matter if only I hadn't bothered with the insanity of wrapping stocking gifts in the first place. Let's move on.
How does one tackle a child's unshakeable belief in a kindly global benefactor who makes all children's wishes come true once a year? I'm no Scrooge and gain no joy from bursting the bubble of childhood belief, but are we doing kids a disservice by encouraging faith in a festive fairytale if it negates the need for taking care of those around us?
'We should do away with Santa in the name of social equality,' I muttered to my husband, swiftly followed by, 'Am I overthinking this?' He is too kind to answer that honestly.
Of course, it has occurred to me that this is about as 'first world problems' as it gets, but that doesn't stop it being an issue that keeps me awake at night. I'm not the only one, judging by the number of blogs devoted to the Santa question.
I envy the easy certainty of those who see encouraging faith in Santa as a precious parenting rite of passage. The mere possibility that I might deviate from the Santa script is met with absolute horror at the school gates, along with a heavy hint that I won't be forgiven if my children are the ones "to ruin it" for others.
Obviously, I'm not about to volunteer my daughter for a shift at our local soup kitchen on Christmas morning in the name of opening her eyes, but I just don't feel right about her belief that everyone's wish list is met with the easy approval that hers, this year, will be. (On that note, I can't work out why she's asked for a metal detector instead of a unicorn if she's sure he's so obliging...)
I'm not against belief in Santa per se. My parents created a magical world for us at Christmas where sooty footprints were still mysteriously appearing on the carpet on Christmas morning long after we'd stopped believing. I treasure the joy of conspiring with my teenagers to recreate for their little sister the traditions they loved when they were younger. I just don't want to knowingly indulge my daughter in a story that turns a blind eye to the needs of others – especially when we have some resources that could help.
I've tried a middle ground; casually mentioning our standing order to the North Pole to help Santa's efforts. She didn't buy it, so in the end I decided this is not a battle I need to fight just yet.
Or, at least, it's one I don't need to win with words. We're going to quietly donate her outgrown toys anyway and keep explaining that she has more than she needs, but not all children do. We take part in a 'reverse advent calendar', donating to the Food Bank every day in December, and we'll focus less on choosing a sparkly new sweater and more on how supporting Save The Children's Christmas Jumper Day helps children in need around the world.
I'm doing what I can to prepare my daughter for what can be a harsh reality for some, but I'm not quite ready to ditch the festive fantasy entirely. Maybe the way she sees the world too is to be cherished.
Saying that, I can't promise that I won't have relabelled those presents come Christmas morning.