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My wife and I have small children who are finally old enough to realize that December is a special time of year (ages 4 and 2). For a myriad of reasons my wife and I have decided we won't present "Santa Claus" to our children in the traditional, American sense. We will tell them about the legend, but when it comes to who leaves presents for them we won't say it was this mythical, bearded man.

Anyway, that's probably a tangent and appropriate for the Parenting SE. My question for this group is: what's the most concise, appropriate way to answer a person when they ask my kid(s) if they're "excited for Santa Claus to come?" We are in the US.

The older children have special needs, so we often respond for them because strangers typically do not understand their speech.

At a store the other night I interjected and re-phrased the question to my kid: "||daughter's name||, are you excited for Christmas?" Which felt like a more natural way to rephrase the question.

I suppose my question applies not only to strangers at the store but also to distant family and friends who, as is totally normal and expected, assume our kids are getting lots of great toys from "Santa." We want to not just smile and nod; we want to be true to our conviction without appearing "holier than thou."

  • Are you living in an area where you would expect people to get offended by your approach? – Fildor Dec 7 '17 at 12:12
  • @Fildor I would not expect people to get offended but definitely expect some people to treat me as though I'm depriving my child. – Austin T Dec 7 '17 at 19:07
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    Given the special needs, will your children understand that if you've told them the legend of Santa - that people asking "what is Santa getting you" is just a fun way of asking what kind of present you're hoping to get for christmas? If so, perhaps you don't need to prevent people saying it - and just focus on letting your kids know that everybody knows it's make-believe, but people find it fun to pretend it's real (the same way they play make-believe games). – Bilkokuya Jan 19 '18 at 15:19
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As someone who (while being told of Santa) was never told anything of entities like the tooth fairy or Easter Bunny, I encountered this sort of attitude from adults when I was young. I would say that the approach would need to be adjusted based on who you were speaking to.

With strangers I think it would be best to simply smile and mention "Oh, we don't really go in for all that" or something similarly vague but still friendly. This helps in case there are other children in the vicinity and you aren't pushing your beliefs on anyone.

It would be best to let friends/family know in advance if possible. When it isn't I would again go with the first method if their kids are with them but just be direct if not. As long as you are pretty matter of fact about it, they should be quite understanding. Over-explaining your reasoning is unnecessary and can risk making you come across as "holier than thou", which you want to avoid.

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Your kids are pretty small, but - as a parent of an 15-month-old and a friend to someone who regularly posts "Stuff my toddler says" quotes on Instagram - I'm constantly surprised at how kids are able to respond to these things on their own if we let them.

You're responding for them, which may be okay for the two-year-old (and your special needs children) depending on how much they're talking, but I'd let your four-year-old respond on their own... with the caveat that I'm assuming that part of what you teach them about Santa Claus is the mythos of him delivering presents to all of the children around the world but that reality is that those presents are actually provided by the children's family, not Santa himself and that in your household, you've decided that the family should get the credit, not Santa.

If your children understand the story and the history of Santa, I think that they'll be able to respond to this themselves and I would personally find it very amusing to hear what they have to say about it. You could even include a discussion of this and how to respond to questions about Santa in your chat about who he is and how other families celebrate Christmas.

Once your child/children responds, go from there. If they say something like

Santa doesn't bring us presents, Mommy and Daddy do.

I don't know that you need to say much of anything, though you certainly could explain how you celebrate gift giving in your home.

If, instead they say something that shows that they're confused, you can rephrase the question as you have been.

Kids, particularly really small ones like yours, get away with a lot of "precocious" things that, from an adult would be considered "rude".

So, TL;DR: prepare your kids for this situation and give them a chance to respond on their own. If they need help, do a little mopping up or rephrasing.

  • What happens if OP's kids say this in front of some other kids, whose parents then get upset at OP for "ruining Santa?" – Kevin Jan 23 '18 at 1:31
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We have gone through this exact situation as well. And you are correct in your concern that some people will think you are depriving your children.

The Answer

We usually answer it simply and thusly: "We don't do the Santa thing." It is that simple. There is absolutely nothing offensive about that, and it is easy to remember and say. In fact, on hearing this, some people are worried that they offended us and they apologize, to which I respond that they have done nothing wrong, and our children know how others celebrate the holidays, but we just don't do it the same.

Your Other Concern

We have been accused by friends and family of depriving our children of all kinds of things because of this, just as you alluded to in your comment on your question. Supposedly, we are killing the holiday spirit, we are squashing our children's imagination, and various other things. There are people who will say such things to you, sometimes very passionately and make you feel very uncomfortable; assuming you don't lie and are just being yourself, there is nothing that you can do to avoid that scenario and you have to just deal with it.

In our case, it's even worse now because we decided to not do gifts on Christmas either. We did this when our oldest child was barely old enough to understand, and I don't think she even remembers ever getting any Christmas gifts from us. Even more people despise this. Sometimes it makes the situation a little better when I inform them that we do a gift exchange at a different time, usually on Thanksgiving instead.

Even if you do still do the gifts, you'll likely get some of the comments, so you might want to be prepared for them with answers such as "Our children still have plenty of imagination. Their creativity and imagination are nurtured in other ways, and they certainly are not missing out on anything they need from their childhood."

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