Santa Claus and Our Children's Trust
by Luke Nix
My all-time favorite comic strip has to be Calvin and Hobbes. As a kid I would spend hours reading it and laughing until my tummy and cheeks hurt. I still do that today, but I am much more equipped to appreciate the philosophy that Watterson communicated through his witty characters too. This one gave me pause the other day:
...not because of the questions that Calvin found to be common between Santa Claus and God, or even the fact that he has questions about God. What troubled me is the fact that he has questions about Santa Claus. If someone had not told Calvin that Santa Claus existed, he would not even have such questions about Santa Claus. I want to talk this week about two important things that Watterson has illustrated (...unintended pun left for your enjoyment) for Christian parents.
Kids inherently trust what their parents tell them
The primary reason for Calvin's confusion is because he has been told by his parents (and probably the media) that Santa Claus exists, yet there is much mystery (his own words) about this figure. To most kids, their parents are authorities regarding reality. If the parents say that Santa Claus exists, it must be true. But when someone else, who they also trust as an authority on reality, tells them otherwise, they have a conflict that they need to resolve.
Regardless of what "evidence" either side provides for their case, if the child chooses to trust the authority that is not the Christian parent, that child's trust in their parents' judgment just began to dwindle. As magical as Santa Claus may be for a child, if we (as Christian parents) tell our kids that he exists, we (not just they) are in for a big surprise when they discover that their parents had been knowingly telling them something untrue (lying). Why should they believe us about the existence of another character that the world tells them is fictional also (God)?
Don't break that trust
If we wish to be good ambassadors for our children, we need to keep their trust in us as solid as we can. Anytime a parent lies to their children, they surrender the right to be trusted by their kids in the future*. The formative years is not a good time to be playing with their concepts of reality- it will set them up for a life of being skeptical of authorities (including God) if we do.
Kids are going to question things- get used to it
Of course, Calvin may not be being influenced by other authorities in his life, but he may just be a deep thinker (as Watterson has designed his character- more on that in a second)- he's unwilling to accept something on blind faith. He wants to think through things. He wants to investigate implications of ideas and determine if those implications are present in reality. Inherent in Calvin's questions is, "how?". I've been around my nieces and nephews long enough to know that "Why?" is their favorite question when their young. For those who curiosity runs deep, that question continues into their teenage years and also becomes more clearly articulated as "Why and how?"
We don't get freaked out when a small child asks us why we cook dinner or why rocks are here. We don't mind if a teenager asks, how a computer works or how we can expect them to do well in school. Likewise, when the deeper questions come- about God, philosophy, and Christmas- we can't freak out. When our kids ask us about the more mundane things of life, we do our best to provide them with a correct answer. We need to do the same when they ask the questions with eternal consequences…
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