Category Archives: Holidays

The Santa Situation: To Lie or Not to Lie?

Have you ever questioned this? It’s a topic that will make some people upset. Which tells us we need to take a good, honest, serious look at it. That’s a good thing—so let’s dive in!

Santa listMany of us grew up receiving toys from Santa Claus every year. How was it for you when you figured out that Santa wasn’t “real”? As an adult and a new parent, do you have any new perspectives? How will you raise your child?

If you’ve had any tinge of uncertainty, by all means, stay in touch with that gut feeling! The magic of childhood is often cited as a reason to do Santa, along with innocence, fun, and joy of the season.

But is it really?

Invitation

This is not a judgment on parents. But it is an examination of values, habits, thinking, and action. I speak for the children and for healing. If you feel judgment or guilt, turn it around! How wonderful that you now have a new awareness. You get to make a choice—that’s where the beauty lies.

The Disappointment Can be Debilitating For Life

For real, though? Yes. For. Real. Some children don’t appear to be bothered by it. (But how do we know? Culturally, we’re usually taught to disguise—even disregard—our true feelings.)

If you have a highly sensitive child, this can be a very serious issue. High sensitivity is real—it’s a trait found in 15 to 20% of the population. Even if you’re not highly sensitive, your child might be. (Even if no one is, Santa still warrants investigation!)

I am one of those. The occurrence of figuring out Santa wasn’t real at age 8 sent me on a downward spiral. It was too good to be true. Anything, then, that’s that “good”—can’t be true. Good cannot be true. Life is disappointing. The thing I hoped in did not even exist. I can’t trust life itself.  Good and magical stuff doesn’t really happen. I was disappointed and disillusioned, and that process took many years to unwind.

This is not a judgment on my parents. It’s the way things were done, and my mom was honest when I asked. I’ve always appreciated that. Nor is my process above reflective of other potentially missing values. We were still all about family and giving.

I’m not the only one—there are many of us out there, and some of today’s children are more sensitive and honesty-detecting than ever. It’s time we looked this issue in the face. Are we really doing what we think we’re doing—fostering love, magic, and innocence?

What’s Wrong With Santa (the way it’s usually done)?

Santa toys pointManipulation Do we want children to behave in certain ways in order to get toys from a figure who’s not even real, or because of their own motivation and respect for others?

Creepiness “He sees you when you’re sleeping”? Come on! How is Santa good and a ‘peeping tom’ bad?

Disappointment and disillusionment

Potential distrust in parents and in people in general. Do you really want to risk this?

Lying Your child will take you seriously—he trusts you. We want our kids to be honest with us, right? How can we sincerely ask them not to lie to us if we’re lying to them? And if we’ve lied to them, we really have no ground from which to be unhappy when they lie to us. If your child takes you seriously, then major repair may be needed later.

Dealing with being tricked. It’s a disturbing feeling. Let’s really get in on their world: Young children depend on grown ups for safety, love, and basic needs. They believe what we say—only to find out later that they were intentionally deceived. How can one truly trust people after that? It’s not only being deceived by parents, it’s by an entire society, complete with movies, advertising, and big (scary) Santas at shopping centers. First, there’s processing the present moment of disillusionment, which can be confusing because the deception came from the people he depends on and from the society in which he lives. Then, he must grow up in a world where, on one hand he receives messages to be “good,” “honest,” and “do the right thing”; while all around him is a counter-message that deception is okay, dishonesty is sometimes the way to go, and “right” is relative to what one wants.

And… are we really preserving a sense of magic? Or are we preserving our grown-up sense of power?

As David Kyle Johnson says in his post, Say Goodbye to the Santa Claus Lie, “We need to pay attention to that twinge of guilt to steer us clear of immoral and potentially dangerous behavior. … I [suggest] the Santa Lie should be avoided for three reasons. (1) It’s an unjustified lie, (2) it risks damaging your parental trustworthiness and (3) it encourages credulity and ill-motivated behavior.

Society is full of deception. Raise children with lies disguised as “magic” and “joy,” and we raise a society of deception.

What’s the Deeper Meaning Behind Santa, Anyway?

Other than general “giving,” I didn’t know. So I looked it up. Check it out!

Was St. Nicholas a Real Person?

Who Is St. Nicholas?

But I Want Holiday Magic for my Child! What Else, Then?

Babies are amazing, aren’t they? Children “say the darndest things.” Sometimes they say things that make us stop and think, or they wow us with their compassion. They’re crazy-amazing learners, mastering language and a whole slew of milestones in relatively little time. They love and they want to relate.

Add in the story of Saint Nicholas from Patara…

That’s magic! That is where holiday fun lives—within your amazing children and your own awesome parent selves. You and your children are beautiful, wonderful, fun, and loving. You have the resources within yourself and in your family to create meaningful times. You do! Creating holiday joy and meaningful traditions can be done in complete honesty, and I believe with more satisfying results in the long run.

Age 4, preparing for the annual Christmas pageant

Age 4, preparing for the annual Christmas pageant

Stories and imagination are wonderful! So are myths and traditions! Keep those alive! Play-acting that Santa exists and believing that he actually does are very different! Problems have arisen for centuries once a symbol/story/myth is taken as “real,” deconstructed from its deeper meaning.

Invitation, curiosity… how could you start from the realm of honesty and create magic from there? It might take some creative thinking. To get started…

Ideas From Other Parents

Mom Ali: “My son is 2.5 and I decided last year that I was definitely not going to do “Santa.” I don’t want him to feel like he is missing out or feel like the odd one out when other kids are talking excitedly about Santa. I also don’t want him to feel or speak negatively about Santa to other kids who believe. So I’m going with the explanation that Santa is a character played by people who love you and who want to do something to bring you joy. You can also play Santa for other people. I will get him a Santa present and it will be a surprise, but he will know it was from me. I will also help him make presents for others and he can give them “from Santa.” So Santa can still be “real,” we have just changed the definition to suit ourselves!!”

Mom Kate: “…we tell our kids that Santa can be anyone dressed up in a red suit and a beard. They like to know this! They still ‘believe‘ in Santa. They still get a kick out of seeing Santa. Yet, they know that Santa is just another person.”  (Have a Merry Honest Christmas)

Mom EW: “I’m so tired of seeing children have to deal with all these Santa lies! Once you give it up and understand how amazing your relationship with your children can be without it, the lying becomes even more repulsive. We don’t do Santa in any way, we just give each other gifts from ourselves.”

Mom Heather: “I do not believe in lying or in telling my kids to lie, but also don’t feel it’s my place to tell other kids there is no Santa.”

And here’s another post: “Thoughts on Santa: Tainting Trust and Magic”

Begin with your favorite values (Generosity? Quality family time? Whatever the “reason for the season” is to you) and then create activities from there that become yearly traditions. Creating ritual can bring a sense of magic. To this day, I feel “magic” when I transform my living room with candlelight. How long did the ‘magic’ of Santa last? Relatively minuscule, and it came with a high price.

Back to the Story of Saint Nicholas:StNicholas clip-mj

It’s lovely: giving to those in need, love for children, standing up for the innocent: now we’re talking! It’s one of those cases where a real person takes on mythological stature over time. Joseph Campbell’s definition of “myth” (or one of them) is: the experience of life.

Now we have Christmas –> Santa –> St. Nicholas –> generosity, protector of children, etc. –> application of this myth to current life –> the experience of giving and loving.

That means: go and do it! Go out into the world—or into your own living room—with your children, who are beautiful just as they are without manipulation, and make some magic!

© Eliza Parker 2014, All Rights Reserved. Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Aware Parenting Instructor, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, and Feldenkrais® Practitioner.

Holiday Overstimulation and Visiting Family

It’s that time of year… I don’t have a new post for you, but want to share this info again and hope it’s useful.

Please refer to my first post on this topic: Holiday Overstimulation: Let Baby Turn Away

The holidays and family gatherings seem to present decision-making opportunities to parents like no other time. How do you protect Baby’s space, needs, and your ways of relating while you’re around family members who may not understand or may feel differently?

Two examples: crying-in-arms and not prop-sitting. Both of these provide ample territory for potential ridicule. Think ahead about what choices you’ll be confronted with so you’re not caught off-guard. Protect Baby’s needs as much as you’re able to; and when you’re not, plan on some recuperation time with Baby later when you’re alone. Find fun ways to explain what’s happening, like, if Baby turns away from someone, “Oh look, isn’t that cool, he knows when he’s taken in as much as his brain can process, smart kiddo! He’ll look back at you in a minute.”

Relationship5 12mo

Another thing you may deal with is family members wanting to touch the baby (poke, prod, tickle, kiss, stroke, bounce, hold, etc.). Of course some of these will be comfortable for Baby. But some will not. Baby might need your help in this area because many grown ups–while their intention is loving–don’t realize they’re invading a person’s space by doing this. Here are a few ideas:

  • When you see someone coming, ask the baby–in hearing range of the approaching person–here comes So-and-so, are you feeling ready to be touched/held or not?
  • Turn Baby facing toward you before the approacher arrives
  • If baby pulls away from someone’s touch, deflect it somehow according to your comfort level setting boundaries and your relationship with the person. Could you say “oh, she’s not ready to be touched!” or an honest “oh, Friend, I’d love for you to connect with her. She likes to just take you in visually first, but tickling isn’t comfortable for her.” I have one mama friend who, when an approaching grown-up starts sticking out a finger to poke or tickle her baby, she does the same thing to the person, and he/she gets the message nonverbally!

Have wonderful holidays enjoying Baby AND family!

Holiday Recuperation: Being with Baby

The week between Christmas and New Year’s, to me, is a turn-around time. Some things have finished and some haven’t yet started. It’s like a capillary bed, or “isoring”—the place in our blood vessels where arteries become veins, where our blood turns back to the heart. I experience it as a pause and an allowing of flow and shift, a time to let go and ride.

Lying together on the floor, couch, or bed offers more than a cozy cuddle.

This isoring space embodied—or, the last week in December—is a lovely time to “be” with yourself and your baby. If you celebrate the December holidays, the month may have been a time of heightened stimulation for Baby, whether or not it was for you. Here are some ideas about recuperating together.

Have a cuddle

This may seem obvious or cliché, but lying together on the floor, couch, or bed offers more than a cozy cuddle. Baby is ultra-connected to the vibe of her caregivers, especially Mama. The cells of our bodies resonate with each other, just as the strings on stringed instruments do. Babies “resonate” with their caregivers—it matters not just what we do, but how we do (be). If you need permission to do nothing: it’s worth granting yourself! Nothing is never really just nothing.

Join Baby on the floor

Rather than use propping devices, hang out together at whatever level Baby is naturally. This typically keeps Baby at a level that doesn’t ask more of her than she is able to do herself. It also allows her to choose between rest and activity; “recuperation,” really, is about this flow back and forth. Play together on your tummies or go on a crawling tour of the house! When you can spend some time there with her, it lets her know that you’re “with” her, that it’s okay to be where she is.

Baby Ball

Nope, not a new sport! Rather, curl Baby into a ball, with arms and legs tucked in and head in too (meaning, not extended or arching back). “Baby Ball” is good for all ages of baby/toddler/child. This bending-in, or flexion, heightens the body’s ability to balance and feel ‘centered’ (that is, if you like anatomy, strengthens the Parasympathetic Nervous System, as opposed to the Sympathetic sensory-motor). You can use Baby Ball during feeding, resting/sleeping, or holding.

Babies are self-healers

If all of Baby’s needs have been met and he’s not sick or injured—and he’s still fussy or crying—trust his instincts. One way that babies release stress, both emotionally and chemically (via tears), is crying. He may be working something through his system—better out than in! After an in-arms cry, babies will typically either sleep very well or stay awake in a very peaceful and non-‘needy’ state.

Set up cozy feeding places

Whether breast- or bottle-feeding, setting up a cozy space supports caregivers’ comfort and makes transitions easier. If you breastfeed, having your partner be the setter-upper is a great way for him/her to be involved. Create places on the floor, especially, throughout your home: include pillows, blankets, non-perishable healthy snacks for yourself, and water. Feeding while sitting on the floor or lying on your back or side may allow both of you to relax. And if you and/or Baby fall asleep–easy, you’re already on the floor!

One way to enjoy “Baby Ball”

During this isoring-week of December and beyond, I sincerely wish you heavenly, much-needed recuperating and isoring enjoyment!

© Eliza Parker 2011 & 2014, All Rights Reserved (Links are welcome)

Much of my work comes from Infant Developmental Movement Education®, part of the Body-Mind Centering® Approach to Somatic Education, and Dr. Aletha Solter’s Aware Parenting. I am a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator®, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.

Holiday Overstimulation: Let Baby Turn Away

Babies are wise! They are very communicative and able to self-regulate, but they need us to pay attention. The holidays can bring on much excitement and many emotions, both fun and challenging. Here are some tips to help Baby feel supported.

Follow Baby’s lead

There’s his invitation to engage! as I pay attention to my camera…

Allow her to call the shots. When she looks at you and engages with you—yay! Time to interact! When she looks away: follow this flow; be present and wait for her to turn back before continuing to interact.

When Baby turns away

This doesn’t necessarily mean rejection. It is Baby’s way of following his own internal wisdom and taking a break before he gets overstimulated. It’s his way of pausing, of saying “I need to allow my brain to process what I just experienced.” Remember, we’re on baby-sized timing!

Not all kids and grown-ups around you will be aware of this flow of Baby’s self-regulated attention. You may see them try to keep getting Baby’s attention, to get a smile or a laugh. We must consider, does this serve our need or Baby’s? It is our job to protect her need to turn away. This may be difficult when she is in someone else’s arms. Intervene if you can, but make sure she has flow time when she’s with you and she will learn how to negotiate relationships.

Why does it matter?

A baby’s nervous system is new and fresh. It has never met the world before. You and I have adult-sized brains to deal with adult-sized situations (which still are overwhelming to some of us)—and we have coping mechanisms as well. Put yourself in Baby’s experience—“what would this be like if I were experiencing it for the first time ever?” A baby who does not have a chance to turn away can learn to override his internal wisdom in order to please others. This can become habitual and have far-reaching effects on communication, relationships, peer pressure and drug abuse, and more.

What if overstimulation happens anyway?

Life is stimulating—there’s no avoiding it in today’s typical lifestyle. There may be situations beyond your ability to protect Baby’s need to turn away. In this case, some time will be needed later to release and heal. Allow Baby to cry if he needs to. When you get home and settle down, notice if he’s getting fussy or crying before sleep even when all his needs have been met. If he’s not sick or injured, this is likely a sign that he needs to release some stimulation or emotion. Be present and hold him while he does so.

We all need to “turn away” sometimes! Supporting Baby in doing this now will foster his ability to listen to himself and respect his own needs throughout life.

Eliza Parker is a certified Infant Developmental Movement Educator, Body-Mind Centering® Practitioner, Feldenkrais® Practitioner, and Spiritual Counselor.

© Elizabeth Parker 2011, All Rights Reserved

(Links are welcome. If you’d like to share my post in your blog or materials, please ask permission.)