Pinocchio

WARNING: DO NOT LET YOUR YOUNG CHILDREN READ THIS AS IT CONTAINS LIFE-CRUSHING SPOILER ALERTS

Some young friends of ours recently made the decision to actively avoid any mention of Santa Claus to their toddling son during the holidays this year. Their almost-four year old is apparently at the age where any mention of the white-bearded wizard and his magic sleigh begins to conjure all sorts of impractical images in a young mind, thus opening the floodgates to ideas about the world which could have long-term side effects worse than any prescription drug advertised on television. This point is arguable. In fact, some people are paid to argue about it. These people are called psychologists. They often write professional papers where they espouse conclusions like:

Whether kids find out from a third party or a mistake made by parents, they will one day experience “the biggest moral breach of the Christmas lie.”1

This untimely revelation—the very moment your older, devil-spawned brother, tells you you’ve been suckered worse than Sam Bankman-Fried’s crypto clients—may, of course, lead to a nagging distrust of parents for, well, a lifetime. But is that a bad thing? I would argue it is not.

Yes, the Christmas lie does make us all wonder at some point what else our guardians might be lying about—the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and professional wrestling, to name just a few—but isn’t it better to learn the art of lying from someone you sort of trust? After all, each of us will grow up to be a liar to some degree, and deceit is as useful as jiu-jitsu when you’re faced with some of life’s unpleasantries. Watching a mother spontaneously fictionalize her way out of a speeding ticket by explaining to the officer that she’s late for her dialysis treatment can make a child marvel at the mysterious powers of parents. Observing your father’s poker face when he announces emphatically “I don’t have a favorite child, Tommy” is just as instructive, especially when he’s attending your little sister’s third tea party of the week and your name is Tony. These people are giving a Master Class every day, and most of us are undervaluing the benefits. Think of it this way. Your child is going to have to fudge his resumé someday. Do you want him out of your basement or not???

Beyond the practical advantages of verbal duplicity, however, the greatest gift of the Christmas lie is that it sprinkles our brains with wonder, fertilizing our imaginations as well as any of the nitrogen-heavy, planet-killing micronutrients we pump into the soils of our farmlands and which eventually make their way, quite unfortunately, into the water table. Somewhere between the ages of four and forty, your little critical thinker is most likely going to figure out who Santa is for himself. He’s going to start questioning every story you tell and, quite appropriately, begin studying and practicing the essential craft of fibbing so that one day he can snatch the pebble from your hand. Until then, let him create and cultivate that land of pretend as long as he can. Let him imagine worlds that do not exist, people who can fly, animals that can speak, and loves that will never die. If we don’t have young minds embracing the impossible, we don’t get Newton or Einstein, we don’t get Shakespeare or Spielberg, and we don’t get The Miracle on Ice.

So, to all you young parents now facing the dilemma of Santa with your impressionable offspring, I say embrace this lie. In fact, lie more often. Lie with abandon!2

 

1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/12/21/whether-you-should-worry-about-lying-to-your-kids-about-santa-according-to-psychologists/

2 I lie to small children all the time and find it very entertaining 😊