Why I don’t do Santa

This Christmas my daughter is two years old, so she’s able to understand everything that’s going on around her. Last Christmas she was too young to grasp much about the holiday, but I thought hard about whether or not we were going to be a Santa-believing family. (My husband didn’t feel too strongly about it either way.) I decided against it. Here’s why I do not like Santa Claus:

I hate lying. I really hate lying, even little white lies, and I also think about everything way too seriously and have to follow my principles for everything. I just don’t see a good reason to present Santa as truth. I enjoy Santa as a fictional character, along with the myriad fictional characters of childhood. I don’t see why Santa Claus should be elevated above all the others (along with the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy, who will also remain purely fictional in our house).

Gifts should not be the focus of Christmas. This may sound strange coming from an atheist, but I really want to teach my daughter to appreciate the deeper meaning of Christmas. Even though my husband and I don’t believe in God, Christmas is still a meaningful and special holiday for us. For us it’s a celebration of family and traditions, a time to have fun together and be cozy in the darkness of winter, a time for special music and food, a time to be thankful for everything we have and remember those who are less fortunate. I want the Christmas season to be a time of enjoyment and celebration in itself, and not just a buildup of anticipation towards the opening of gifts.

Christmas lists teach bad values. I know Christmas lists aren’t solely the domain of Santa Claus, but it seems like every kid who believes in Santa writes him with a list of things they want. I think this practice teaches gluttony and selfishness. It causes kids to expect the things they asked for, and sets them up for disappointment if they don’t get it. Parents should have a dialogue with their kids about not only what the kids want for Christmas, but also what is reasonable and in line with their family’s values and ability– instead of making up excuses for why Santa might not fulfill their desires.

Santa is not fair. The above reasons alone might not have put me in the anti-Santa camp, but this one does. I don’t know why people want children to believe that everyone’s Christmas gifts come from the same person, or that they depend on how good they’ve been. What a child receives for Christmas depends on her family’s economic situation and her parents’ values regarding gift-giving, among other things. Kids ALWAYS compare their Christmas haul, and the Santa myth drastically underestimates their sense of equality. I would never want my daughter to think that she was better than someone whose parents couldn’t afford presents, or that she was not as good as someone who got better presents than she did. Jealousy is a normal childhood emotion, but I think it belittles that emotion to ignore or try to explain away the obvious inequality in the Santa myth.

When I was a young child, my parents were very poor. They couldn’t afford to buy me any real toys, and I only got one small gift for Christmas each year. (One year, it was a pencil box.) But they still pushed Santa on me, and I resented it. I never believed it, because I knew that Santa was supposed to bring awesome fun toys for good little boys and girls, and I had to beg and beg my parents and maybe Santa would get me a pencil box. I had an inherent sense of justice and I knew it wasn’t right when my friends got Lego sets and new dolls. I think I would have felt much better about the situation if my parents had just been honest with me about the fact that Santa wasn’t real and we were poor (both of which I knew anyway).

When my daughter is a little bit older, I want to talk to her about the reality that Christmas gifts are not fair, that some kids get fewer gifts than she does and some receive more. I want to talk to her about why this is, and about our family’s values when it comes to money and gifts. And for that matter, that life is not fair, and some people have more or less through no fault or effort of their own. These conversations would not be possible if I taught her to believe in Santa.

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Parenting by Type

Anyone who has spent time around babies knows that children have unique personalities almost from birth, but you may not know that even babies’ and toddlers’ personalities are influenced by their Myers-Briggs types. Nurture by Nature by Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger is a parenting guide that recognizes that at all ages, a child’s unique Myers-Briggs type influences their behavior and their needs. It is never too early to gain an understanding of your child’s type and tailor your parenting approach to it.

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We are each born with one Myers-Briggs type that remains the same throughout life. According to the book, most children’s complete Myers-Briggs type will become identifiable around age three or four, with at least one of the four type dimensions identifiable by age one or two. Usually it’s the dominant function (Sensing, iNtuition, Thinking, or Feeling) that can be seen first. I have definitely found this to be the case, based on what I’ve observed in my 16-month-old daughter and her toddler friends. From the time they were barely crawling infants, aspects of their type have been apparent, and usually become even stronger as they grow.

As a Myers-Briggs enthusiast, I’ve been eager to identify my daughter’s personality type since before she was conceived. But I have to stress that this is not due to a desire to pigeonhole her or control her destiny; rather, I want to understand her natural tendencies so I can help her grow in the direction of her potential. Instead of imposing my interests and desires on her, like forcing her to be rational if she’s a Feeler or encouraging her to focus on solitary activities if she’s an Extrovert, I can help her define and explore her own interests, and encourage her to develop her strengths even if they differ from mine.

The book is split into two parts. Part One gives a detailed introduction of Myers-Briggs and tips to help you identify your child’s type. This section is very comprehensive and would even be a good introduction for adults who are interested in learning about Myers-Briggs and figuring out their own type. These chapters cover the basics of the four dimensions of type, the cognitive functions, Kiersey temperaments, and brief descriptions of each type. You will need to know your own type and that of your child, as well as anyone else in the family, in order to fully utilize this book. Continue reading “Parenting by Type”

Beyond the surface

 

Among Myers-Briggs types, INTPs are probably the type least likely to have children and the type least suited to stay-at-home-parenthood, and it’s not hard to figure out why. You constantly have a little person in your face and never get a moment of silence or solitude, which is draining for I’s. You deal mostly with basic physical needs of a person who (as an infant and toddler) isn’t capable of abstraction, which is boring for N’s. You need a lot of patience, empathy, and emotional responsiveness because young children are irrational by nature, which is challenging for T’s. And you need an ability to self-regulate and an organized system to counter the chaos, which is not an easy task for P’s. All of this leaves me utterly exhausted, mentally starved, and emotionally drained at the end of the day.

Then there are all the extraneous activities that typical SAHMs spend a lot of time on: crafting, baking, sewing, knitting, decorating, S-type activities ad nauseum. I completely avoid those activities, as I can’t think of anything less interesting.

But if you look beyond all that surface stuff, I think being an INTP mom is awesome, and I think INTPs (and NTs in general) are exceptionally well-suited to parenthood. Why? Exactly because it’s easy for us to look beyond the surface stuff. Continue reading “Beyond the surface”

Made with love

I’m a mom of a toddler. How did that happen? My daughter AJ is now a walking, tantrum-throwing one-year-old. She babbles up a storm, communicates with gestures and sign language, can follow directions, and plays in so many creative ways. Every day she understands more, expresses more, and becomes more like herself. Before I know it, she’ll be graduating from college and I’ll be looking at her newborn photos and saying, “how did my baby grow up so fast?”

Baby AJ is the best person I’ve ever met. I think my husband is pretty great, but I still look at the two of us and wonder how we could have made such a wonderful person. AJ is so happy, curious, and full of love. Her giggles and squeaks are the most joyous sounds in the world. She gives the most wonderful hugs, and she smells like pure love.

I have such bittersweet nostalgia for her newborn days. It makes me cry to look at photos of her when she was younger because I hardly had time to enjoy each stage. Back then, I didn’t know what a wonderful person she was going to become. I didn’t know how much I was going to love her. I loved her as much as I possibly could imagine, but I could not imagine as much love then as I can now. My capacity for love grows each day the more I get to know her and the person she is.

When I was pregnant, I remember thinking that I needed to savor the experience of having her in my belly, because I knew there would be days ahead when I would wish to experience it again. Not just to be pregnant again, but to be pregnant with her again. Now that I know who she is and what she is like, I wish I could carry her inside me again, close to my heart, cozy and safe. I wish I could go back and cuddle little newborn AJ with the knowledge of how fleeting that time was and what an amazing little girl she would become. It seems so unfair that time only moves in the forward direction.

This is why we can’t be friends

I belong to a large moms’ group and take my daughter to a lot of playdates in hopes of making friends for her and for myself. I’ve been trying really hard to make friends with other moms, but each time I hear something like one of the following quotes, it makes my brain freeze up and blink in big letters: we can never be friends.

“I was so excited to be married at 19. For my whole life, all I ever wanted was to get married and have kids. I never cared about having a career or going to college.”

“I really wanted a little girl so I could dress her up in cute outfits and put bows in her hair. I cried when I found out I was having a boy. Boy clothes are so boring.”

“My toddler has never seen a doctor in his life. We stay as far away from them as possible.”

“I’ve been pinning ideas for her first birthday party ever since she was born.”

Hearing other moms utter things like these on a regular basis makes me want to weep with despair that I will never find another mom with whom I have anything in common.

Activation energy

I’m stuck in a potential well

I am a stay-at-home mom to a very high maintenance baby. I’m flying solo most of the time, because my husband’s job requires him to live at a remote camp for most of the week. Plus, I’m still a grad student with coursework to do and a thesis to write. To say I’m stressed is an understatement.

My daughter was born in the darkest week of the year, during a blizzard when the outside temperature was -40. (The blizzard started after we were in the hospital, thankfully.) I’ve always hated the constant darkness of the Alaskan winter, but this winter it didn’t even matter. She was the sun, and the darkness outside didn’t affect my mood as it usually does. Every little coo from her cute little mouth and every wiggle of her tiny toes was brighter than the brightest sunshine. The only thing I needed to sustain me was baby.

Then my postpartum hormones started to even out and I realized that I was just tired. One cannot live on baby alone. Baby gives me joy, but baby is also exhausting. I need other things in my life that give me energy.

She’s happy, I’m tired.

Years ago when I only had a full-time job and plenty of leisure time, I came up with a formula for how to spend my time: equal parts outdoor activity, learning, and art. Grad school takes care of the learning. (Supposedly. If motherhood had left me with enough brain cells to comprehend my own research. I’m told that at one time I found it fascinating.)

Outdoor activity is easy enough to come by in Alaska, but art is severely lacking in my life. I need to re-enter the world of words, music, and ideas. I need to spend more time hearing and playing music, reading, and writing. Blogging is a start, and a motivation.

Unfortunately, it takes energy to get energy. Like a chemical reaction that is thermodynamically favorable but has a high activation energy, I know that doing these things will make my life better, but it takes a lot of energy to begin.