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.

Advertisements

Practical thoughts

I often wish I could outsource all the mundane tasks and decisions of daily living. I wish I could have someone tell me exactly what to wear, what to eat, what to feed my daughter, what items need to be restocked in my diaper bag, when to do laundry… I hate even talking about these mundane things because they are not worth talking about.

But this is what my life as a SAHM consists of. At any single moment during the day, these are the thoughts going through my mind: Should AJ wear long sleeves or short sleeves today? How long has it been since she pooped, and how should I time her meals and snacks so she won’t poop during a nap and wake up prematurely? How much sodium is in these crackers, and what should I give her for her next snack in order to not exceed 400 mg of sodium per day? Did I remember to give her vitamins yesterday? Will we be out of the house when she needs to nurse? Does my outfit allow discreet public breastfeeding, or do I need to change my shirt?

It’s not the tasks themselves that bother me so much as the mental energy that must be devoted to thinking about them. I don’t mind the doing—the feeding, diaper changing, cleaning up—nearly as much as the thinking. When practical thoughts fill my brain, they take up all its space and energy and crowd out the thoughts that really matter to me.

An INTP is defined not by what she does, but by what she thinks. What really feeds my soul is thinking about ideas that have no practical value. Philosophy, science, art, and the even more abstract offspring of these subjects that have no names. When I think about only the practical, my soul shrivels and feels dead.

I envy my husband, who spends his day thinking about complex engineering problems. I envy anyone who gets to spend time thinking abstract thoughts that have no direct application in their daily life. Even if I weren’t a SAHM, I would still have to think about these things. I would still have to plan AJ’s meals and snacks, schedule her naps, plan her outfits according to her activities, prepare spare clothes and diapers, coordinate grocery shopping and laundry schedules. (My husband travels out of town for work every week, so he’s not able to help with the everyday thinking.)

The necessity of practical thoughts has been amplified recently as we just moved to a new house. The process of packing, moving, unpacking, toddler-proofing the house, dealing with appliances that don’t work, and trying to stay one step ahead of an active toddler the entire time has totally swamped my brain. I haven’t thought about anything un-practical in many weeks. I think I’ve forgotten how to think. I don’t know where to start.

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.

51X2sWZYatL

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”

Looking to the light

 

One morning I was putting AJ in her carseat when our 5-year-old neighbor came out of the house next door. She waved and asked where we were going, and I told her we were going to a friend’s house for a playdate. She replied, “Now? In the middle of the night?” “It’s not night,” I said, “it’s almost ten in the morning.” She said, “But it’s still dark outside. Whenever I wake up and it’s still dark, my mom always says ‘go back to sleep! It’s not morning yet!’”

Some Alaska moms can get their kids to sleep until noon in the winter using that trick. Unfortunately, my daughter has an impeccable internal clock that wakes her up hours before light breaks the horizon, and she’s progressively waking up earlier and earlier.

Thankfully, so is the sun. Though it still rises at about the same time AJ takes her first nap, the increasing light already makes a big difference. Everything looks better from this side of the solstice.

Winter in interior Alaska lasts for almost three-quarters of the year, and in December we only get a very few short hours of sunlight. It would all be completely unbearable if it weren’t for one thing: seasonal temperature lag, the delay in the Earth’s surface temperature response to solar insolation. The warmest time of the year occurs after the peak of maximum solar insolation (summer solstice), and the coldest time of the year occurs after the time of lowest solar insolation (winter solstice). Temperature can lag insolation by up to three months, caused by the high specific heat of water in the oceans and atmosphere, which absorb incoming heat from the sun and release it slowly.

If there were no seasonal temperature lag, winter would be evenly split between either side of the solstice, and the darkest month of the year would also be the coldest. Our first four months of winter would be an agonizingly slow march towards ever-decreasing temperatures and light. By mid-winter, we would all be in a black hole of depression with nothing to look forward to because the second half of winter would be just as long and terrible as the first.

Thanks to temperature lag, two-thirds of the winter is spent in progressively increasing light, and the second half of winter has longer days than the first half. By the time we reach the coldest days of the year, the days are already longer than they were at the beginning of winter. And even though snow continues to linger long after spring equinox, summer’s constant daylight inches closer and heralds the warmth. Thank goodness for the specific heat of water.

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.