Daddy Issues: Santa, Science and the Holidays

Growing Up is Over-Rated


(Originally published in a slightly different form on this day in 2006)

My favorite “season” comes to an end today with the breaking down and storage of our Christmas decorations until this time next year. For us the season begins back in October, with Halloween — not my favorite holiday but a fav of my wife and daughter who, at 12, is developing new takes on, well, just about everything (more on this later).

Our spirits begin lifting in earnest as October begins, as we anticipate the next three lighthearted months. After Halloween passes, and everyone is officially sick of whatever remains of “our” candy, we stay on an upwardly spiraling emotional trajectory through Thanksgiving, no matter how we choose to celebrate it, which is followed a week later by my daughter Audrey’s birthday, and then Christmas.

By New Year’s I am not so much weary from all the work that has been associated with holidays as I am irrationally apprehensive about what is to come, or just let down that it will be three quarters of a year before the fun begins again.

And now the next few seasons will be transitional, I think, since my daughter is far from the wide-eyed believer of all manner of things that she was, for far too short a time, only yesterday. She tried to find a middle ground for Halloween, at first declaring that she would not wear a costume — but would go out and collect candy, studiously not describing this activity as “trick or treating.” She then blinked, I think after gaining consensus with her two best friends, and the three set out in disguise (Audrey as Gogo Yubari from “Kill Bill Volume I”) with dads in tow, but at a respectful distance.

For these next few years, the better to establish her credentials as a adult, Audrey will cease to believe in Santa, returning to the fold after only a few soulless years, I hope, as I did after my skeptical, uncomfortable and often angry teens.

My wife Nancy and I have already outed ourselves as the handmaidens of the Easter Bunny, a fiction Audrey discovered was not entirely as we had described when I forgot to lock a door and she saw several dozen plastic eggs and bags of candy on our bed a few years ago. She herself scientifically proved the non-existence of the Tooth Fairy a couple of years ago by intentionally not telling us that she had lost a tooth before putting it, in secret, under her pillow and discovering the next morning — Eureka! — that nothing had been exchanged for it as she slept.

Quod est demonstratum: The Tooth Fairy depends on parental notification.

But Santa, like god, is another matter, beyond the reach of science. While I count myself as a defender of this faith I will not be evangelical: Not just because that isn’t my style but because I don’t have to be.

Audrey will see the truth of the matter for herself when the time comes, or she will not. That is the way of the world.

(Post script: Not a one of us has lost our enthusiasm and childish joy for Christmas. But like politics and religion, the subject of Santa is best left unaddressed …)