When we were children, we all grew up with the same myths and then we perpetuate those same myths when we become parents and grandparents. We were raised to believe that there's a fat, jolly little man who lives at the North Pole with his wife and their elves and once a year, he hooks up his flying reindeer and jets around the world in one night, delivering presents to all the boys and girls.
We were raised to believe that when we lose a tooth in childhood we should put it under our pillow before we go to sleep and when we wake up in the morning the tooth will have been picked up by the tooth fairy and replaced with money.
And then there's the Easter Bunny who hides brightly colored eggs for the children to find, often with prizes inside them.
These are the three great myths we learn from our parents and that we teach to our own children.
And they're all lies.
There's no harm in it, you might say, and it allows kids to be kids by living in a fantasy world for a few years before they have to face the harsh realities of the world.
I think there IS harm in it however because it's a concept that promotes dishonesty. Even when our children get old enough to start suspecting that these myths aren't true and they come to us and ask us about them, we continue to perpetuate the myth. I was seven when my best friend Bobby told me he didn't think Santa Claus was real and I ran home crying to my mom, telling her what Bobby had told me. Mom became upset too and told me that Bobby didn't know what he was talking about and of course Santa was real.
My wife and I did the same thing when our boys, one by one, were either told by friends or began to figure out on their own that the whole thing didn't make any sense.
This is a problem because the foundation for every relationship is trust. Most of us believe people until they give us a reason NOT to believe them. But once the lies begin, we have a hard time fully trusting that person ever again. If our spouse or our friend or our boss lies to us even once, there's always a part of us that questions every thing they do and say from then on.
Why should it be any different between children and their parents? On the one hand, we tell our children that no matter what they do, if they'll just tell us the truth about it, things can be worked out. But at the same time we're asking them to always be truthful with us, we're not being truthful with them. It's a conundrum they eventually figure out and when they do, it's doubtful they ever fully trust us again because they know we've lied to them in the past.
It seems to me we would have much healthier relationships with our children if we always told them the truth too. That doesn't mean that the idea of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny have to go away, it just means we should tell them who plays those roles. Not fairy tale characters based in an alternate reality but real live human beings in the form of us.
If we're going to expect them to always be truthful with us, it only makes sense that we return the favor.