Christmas is an exciting time in our house. We have three girls ranging in age from 14 years to 7 years. We’re in the tricky period when the oldest girls think they’ve figured out the secret of Santa, but their little sister is still blissfully unaware. So one of the things we must still consider when labeling presents is who is giving it: Santa or Mom & Dad.
Just the other day our 12 year-old started talking at the dinner table about how the legend of Santa was born. We had to stop her mid-sentence when her little sister gave her a puzzled look. My wife and I agree it’s acceptable to raise our children believing in Santa. Other people have differing opinions, and I won’t dispute them. In our house, however, Santa is real and we allow them to come to their own conclusions over time. We were both raised that way and things turned out fine.
When the girls were smaller they never even looked at the tags on the presents. We’ve had instances where one sister has accidentally opened another sister’s gift just because she got caught up in the excitement. Of course this led to the inevitable tears (I can’t seem to go through a single day without someone crying in the house). Thankfully the mood has always been quickly recovered and everyone forgets the transgression.
As they’ve grown I notice they’re taking a little more time opening the presents, spending a few minutes appreciating a gift before moving to the next. I think there is some kind of mental calculator in their heads that tracks the number of gifts, the value of the gifts, and from whom the gifts are given. I wish there was a way to harness that mental ability and channel it toward their school work, but by the time their vacation is over the calculator has been shoved to the back of their minds only to be seen again next Christmas.
Since we have pets in our house, our job is a little easier from the perspective of gift labeling. We can’t put presents under the tree early because the cats would tear them up within minutes. Everything has to remain hidden until Christmas Eve. There is such a rush on Christmas morning, our youngest doesn’t stop to look at the “From:” part of the tag. If she sees her name on the “To:” line she immediately rips it open. Her calculator hasn’t been developed yet. If we were to ask her after everything is opened who gave them to her, she’d say they were all from Santa. The older girls give us a wink as they acknowledge a Santa gift versus a Mom & Dad gift.
The question of whether or not a specific gift should be labeled from Santa or us hasn’t been a significant concern for us. Usually my wife wraps and labels, but last year there were a lot of things being wrapped at midnight Christmas Eve. In that case, she wrapped and I labeled. I tried to alternate between Santa and Mama & Daddy as best I could, so there would be presents from each of us for each girl. I can see, though, this could be a more important decision for some parents. Should the larger, more expensive gifts come from Santa or Mom & Dad?
I’ve always relied on my instinct when it comes to parenting questions. I haven’t read books about parenting and I don’t solicit advice. I don’t have anything against these books; I just figure if we’ve survived a few thousand years without books telling us how to raise our kids, there must be something hard-wired into us when it comes to these decisions. And so it is with this question as well. I don’t see how it would be bad whichever way you go. If Santa winds up giving the larger gifts, it will just give the child more peace that he knows them well and cares for them.
We have always told our girls that parents are in contact with Santa throughout the year, and that’s how he knows what they want even if they don’t write a list for him. We’ve seen plenty of Christmas Lists over the years and we’ve saved them all. The mystery of Santa is wrapped into the mystery of how Mama always knows when you’re doing something bad, even if her back is turned!
The magic of Santa is something special in a child’s life. To this day, I still say I believe in him. To me, Santa represents the spirit of joy that comes from giving to others. Even our youngest told me the other day she wants to get gifts for her sisters and her best friends this year. So as we celebrate our spiritual reasons for the season, we also use this time to cultivate the spirit of giving to others.
No matter your decision on Santa vs. Mom & Dad, if your house is anything like ours your kids probably won’t even notice there is a “From:” line on the label. Merry Christmas!