We have a special treat today–a guest post from Emily J. Parnell, author of The Society of Seasonal Secretkeepers. This wonderful book keeps the magic alive as children come to understand the realities of Santa and other holiday traditions. It includes a fact-filled (and fun!) field guide with intriguing secret missions for kids as well as an heirloom token.
So without any further ado…here’s Emily!
Truth, Lies, and Everything In Between
A wide-eyed, 8-year-old little girl told a room full of kids, all hanging on the edges of their seats, about an elaborate correspondence she maintained with her shelf elf. She and her elf had written notes back and forth for some time. The elf revealed his age, that he was in college, and tidbits about his magical life at the North Pole.
A boy, one of her classmates, smugly, and very loudly, interjected, “That’s not true, your parents do all those things and tell you it was your elf. Your parents are liars.”
The little girl was, in fact, my own daughter. The boy had just called me a liar in front of her, a couple other adults, and a whole bunch of other kids. But I didn’t see calling me a liar as the most heinous of his crimes. It was the crushing of the magic that made my blood boil.
As the adult in charge, I politely refrained from ripping off my socks and stuffing one in his mouth.
“Now, that’s just a matter of opinion,” I said, then quickly changed the subject.
We all know that kid – the font of all knowledge who can’t wait to share their dirty little secret. Dozens of people have shared with me their stories: kindergarteners who grew up in Santa-free homes, preaching to their classmates. Older siblings’ friends ridiculing the younger kids, setting them straight on the facts. The “mean cousin” who rounded up all the little kids at Christmas, led them behind the house, and shattered the magic.
We want our kids to be honest, right? Of course we do. The art of being truthful, being accountable, exercising strong morals, is an art we all want our children to take forth through their lives.
But to tell the black and white truth 100% of the time? Is that what we really want? Is that what this society really needs?
Do you want your daughter to open a hand-knit gift and truthfully declare, “That’s hideous! I hate it!”
Do we want our child to tell their aunt, “Your house is boring. I like going to my other aunt’s house better.” Or worse, “I don’t like you.”
Do we want our children to tattle on their friends at every twist and turn in their childhood journey? Our spouses to tell us we’re looking pretty old and fat? Our coworkers to tell us our hairstyle looks like something from Dumb and Dumber?
Come on, grownups, let’s be 100% honest here. Non-truths and withholding of facts are part of the oil that lubricates the squeaky joints in this world. Honesty is an art form in which we must choose our shades and transparencies and ratios to create our canvas.
There is a time for truth, and there is a time for stories. Libraries are divided into fiction and non-fiction. Not “truth” and “lies.”
Fostering imagination, dreaming of possibilities, and keeping magic pure are all elements of growing up hopeful. Watching and processing shifts and shades in truth is a harder skill to teach, but the ability to discern and rethink and respectfully see different shades of truth are all skills that lead to critical thinking, to creativity, and most of all, to respecting others’ points of view.
Yes, there’s a time for truth. Knowing that time is critical. But there’s also a time to be lost in fiction. What better time for that then Christmas?
Anyway, who says Santa isn’t real, anyway? Yes, things work a little bit differently than we once thought they did, but when the exact same thing happens on the exact same night in millions of homes, well, there’s something very concrete and real about that.