Great Show. Great Question
On the first, most recent and so far best episode of Tom Williamson’s splendid Skeptic Canary Blog Radio Show I mentioned Santa while answering a callers question about how to deal with relatives who believe in woo or pseudo-science.
I’d already made the point that I feel that any acceptance of things such as homeopathy could lead to direct harm and mentioned my posts on homeopathy for rape and homosexuality. I did concede that ‘end of life’ comfort situations could be one of the rare examples where you should let a belief slide but I feel that skepticism has failed a person if they go to their grave believing in such things.
My point to the caller was (and I wish I’d had a little more time to expand) that for the sake of family relations, sometimes it’s better to do what you can to explain the science and the reasons a belief maybe wrong, but not to fall out over it. I believe I said “you can lead them to the water, but you can’t make them drink”. I would expand that there is a balance to be made. You can’t just wash your hands of your Mum or Uncle, the best approach is to stay in their confidence and be understanding. It’s fairly hard to know if they’re getting involved in something dangerous or expensive if they won’t talk to you about it anymore! Gentle guidance, advice and reminding them that you care and love them are vital in treading these troubling situations.
Sense of Wonderment
Anyway, I really want some opinions. My daughter is now 21 months old and still too young to understand Christmas and the Santa thing. But by this coming Christmas she won’t be.
Neither I or my partner are religious, but like most who will read this we do enjoy the family togetherness that Christmas provides. I don’t really believe that ‘no Santa’ means that Christmas would be any less enjoyable or fun for her.
But there are other considerations beyond just continuing the social contract that passes unquestioned, from generation to generation. Like, for example, attending school. She wouldn’t be a popular 4 year old telling everyone that their parents are lying to them, in that tactless way kids do.
I have no doubt that I will lie to her during her life, for her own good and in honesty, on occasion for my own. I just don’t know if this is a myth I feel happy perpetuating.
I think I’ll quote Tim Minchin at this point,
… I face a dilemma: I had sold [my daughter] the myth of Father Christmas in the spirit of allowing a child a sense of wonderment, but I felt that lying to her face when she’d asked me point blank about the veracity of my claims was a step too far.
I fumbled around a bit before opting for: “Father Christmas is real . . . in the imaginary world.”
So what do you think? Am I being a heartless so and so, or do you wish you’d told your kids? What are your memories of when you found out? Any thoughts greatly appreciated!