the new Missionaries & Santa

The other evening as I was preparing dinner, three young women knocked on our door. They introduced themselves as the “new missionaries” in town and wanted to “share a message” with us. I politely declined, wished them a good evening and closed the door. They looked mildly surprised, but took my rejection well.

Kid2, who was with me when I opened the door, had questions: what message, why did they want to share it, why did I say no thanks.

How does one explain missionaries to a child?

As it is nearing Christmas, I used an analogy that they might relate to. Kid2 does not believe in Santa, and we’ve had numerous conversations about that, so I decided to start from there.

So the first question was why were they going door to door to share a message?

“It would be like if you believed in Santa so much you wanted to tell everyone so you went door to door to share that. You feel everyone should believe in Santa so they can get lots of presents, because if they don’t believe in Santa they won’t get anything.”

Kid2’s brow wrinkled in confusion. Clearly this was not about Santa.

So what message are they sharing?

They’re most likely talking about the story of Jesus. You know, the baby from the Nativity play, and the man who was on the cross in the Mission we visited last summer.

Yes. Looks confused. Why do they want to share that?

Some people believe very strongly, that stories that in the Bible actually happened, and they have based their entire world view off of them. They feel they have to go tell everyone about this, so other people can make people change to their way of thinking.

Why didn’t you want to talk to them?

I have a different world view than they do. I know about Jesus, and I’ve read the Bible, and I don’t agree with their world view, and that’s okay. We can politely disagree with people, and we don’t have to talk to people who randomly knock on our door about religion, it is also time to get started on dinner.

*****

Kid2 took it at that and I’m sure we’ll have more opportunities for these conversations as time goes on, particularly around the holidays, as Kid2 has proudly informed their class that “Santa does not visit our house because we do not have a chimney!” and Kid1 has proclaimed “I don’t believe in Santa, I believe in Mommy!”

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Soon they’ll know Santa’s not real.

public domain Santa

My eldest child’s teacher sends weekly emails to the class to keep us up-to-date on what is going on in the classroom. The most recent email included a section headed “What to do if your child hears that others don’t believe in Santa” as the class is learning the story of St. Nicolas (a very real man) and there has been talk of Santa.

What to do if your child hears that others don’t believe  in Santa?
     If your child has older siblings he or she might hear them say that they don’t believe in Santa anymore. Then your child comes to you and asks you if Santa is real. What can you do?
     First of all,  have a talk with your older child. Remind them of when they were young and how Santa  was real for them. Ask them to be the “keeper of the magic” and not discount the imagination of the younger child….
Secondly, this is a teaching moment for tolerance. When your young one tells you that his or her friend said that there is no Santa you can share how  people believe in different things and celebrate holidays in different ways. Share that  “in our family we…. believe in Santa but in other families they may not and that is okay…. This phrase…”in our family we…” will become your mantra in the years to come. So many things come up where families do things in different ways. We can’t change others. We must show tolerance of other people’s  believes and journeys but still hold on  to what we want for our own  family.

This morning in the car I brought up Santa – how some children believe in him, and how in our family we know Santa is a story. The children were in full agreement – we’ve never really pushed the Santa myth, one of the grandmothers tried briefly, but it never really stuck. Silly grandma, Santa is a story.

In the car this afternoon the little one piped up:

Kid2: Everyone in my class believes in Santa, except me. I know Santa’s not real.

Me: Did you tell your friends Santa is not real?

Kid2: No. They all believe in Santa.

Kid2 then got quiet, and didn’t say much more.

I decided to use some of the teacher’s suggested language. Me: It is okay for them to believe in Santa, people believe a lot of different things, and … at this point Kid2 interrupted me, and in a super-sweet kindergarten voice, informed me:

Kid2: Soon they’ll know Santa’s not real.

I’m not sure what to say to that. I think we may have to have a conversation with the teacher.