The Santa Lie

Why Doesn’t Santa go to Poor Kids’ Houses?

Santa Poor KidsAh, the Santa lie. I once wrote a little ditty about my aversion of Elf of on the Shelf just to turn around and write about how I over-the-top participated in the shenanigans to avoid an uncomfortable conversation with my youngest bonus child’s mother. I dread arriving for the holidays next week and being handed that creepy thing, but even more so I dread an argument over it. K is not my daughter. I am not her mother and whether or not I like it, as a “step-parent” I don’t get a say. It isn’t my place to have the conversation. So I bite my tongue. And yeah, that is hard. The truth is, I actually cried to my husband over the fact I am lying to his daughter about these things. I feel she believes in me to have an honest relationship with her and I’m lying to her. Let’s call it what it is: A LIE. A years’ long lie to a child whom I Love and respect. There isn’t a way to explain how difficult that is for me. When she finds out the truth, she will most likely be devastated because she is an emotional child and that is her personality. And I will have added to that devastation; a grown-up who is supposed to set an example of being honest. I wasn’t lied to when I was a child. I didn’t have Santa, Elves, magical reindeer, the Easter Bunny or any of it. And guess what? I AM FINE! I am more than fine! I didn’t miss out on the magic of being a child. I learned the magic of giving and it’s been putting a smile on my face for decades.

So why is it that millions of parents around the globe tell their children that a man who lives in the North Pole watches them year round to make sure they’re behaving? Isn’t it the parent’s job to ensure good behavior? To further perpetuate the idea someone is spying on them, hundreds of thousands (maybe millions) more have jumped on the Elf on the Shelf bandwagon. Each night this little creature goes and reports tattles to Santa (and isn’t tattling wrong?). What kind of message does that send? Strength of character is what we do when others are not watching. Children should not be taught that they will only receive if they are good. That is not unconditional love. It’s bribery. And it is wrong.

The Santa Lie

And where is Santa’s unconditional love? What about the families who don’t have the money for gifts? What about the children in the foster care system? Why doesn’t Santa visit them? My Facebook news feed is popping up with this question posted by other bloggers asking this of their readers because their children asked them. I find it very telling that it is children asking their parents why Santa doesn’t visit others who have less. Children inherently care about others. What do you say then? How do you answer a question like that? Even the hubs didn’t have an answer for that one.

I saw one reply, “I tell them Santa only goes to the house of children who listen to their moms and daddy’s [sic].” WOW. So let’s plant this idea that poor kids are misbehaved?  I think that answer sucked, but the truth is, there is no good answer and the poor kids – that’s what many of them already believe about themselves.

So taking into account who the Santas of the world really are: Yeah. Why isn’t Santa going to poor kids’ houses?

It’s a good question. It isn’t just the kids receiving who deserve an answer. The poor kids deserve one, too.

Update 12/13/2016: My stepdaughter has recently discovered the tooth fairy is not real after discovering her teeth in her mom’s jewelry box. A few months ago she exclaimed she is still trying to figure out Santa and explained her reasons for thinking he may not be real (aka she is figuring out the Santa lie). She asked my husband, “Why do parents have to lie to their kids?” High five, K. High five.


  • Deanna Har

    Very sad, but true. 🙁

    We don’t teach our kids about Santa. I don’t want that to be the focus of the holiday for them. My family didn’t do Santa growing up, but my husband’s did. When we got married, we had to decide what we were going to do, but I was fairly adamant on not doing Santa and he didn’t care as much either way. 🙂

  • Jodi U-S

    I do Santa. I do the Elf. I do the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, too. I don’t see it as lying to my kids. I see it as storytelling and passing down a lovely fun tradition that has been in my family and my husband’s (and of course millions of other families) for a very long time. I have two teens who know that Santa isn’t a real person now, and a four-year-old that still believes. The teenagers never felt lied to when they found out that Santa wasn’t an actual person. We explained to them that Santa is a fun tradition for everyone. Some get the joy of believing in the story, and some get the joy of giving that to the younger ones. Do my kids NEED that extra magic in their lives? No, probably not, but we often try to give them more than just the basics when we can, and in this case we can and very happily do.

    I’ve never had to answer the question of why a poor child didn’t receive gifts so I’m not sure how I would answer that particular question. I hope that by the time they might notice this, they would be old enough to come to giving side of the story, and then together we could make a little Christmas magic for those children.

    • Heather W

      I think you’re very lucky your teens didn’t feel lied to. I’ve met many children (former students, even) who felt absolutely betrayed. I don’t like setting up a child for that kind of feeling. I will agree to disagree with you on the topic of raising your child with Santa, Elves, etc. I still believe it sends the wrong message, but that is a choice every parent has to make for themselves.

      I applaud you for hoping your child(ren) would want to come to the giving side and hope that you will instill that before the question may ever be asked. It’s my hope a lot more people would do that, actually. For me, that is true the magic and meaning of what the holidays are supposed to be (well, I won’t get into the true pagan origins, that’s another post for another day). 😉

      Thank you for commenting and for sharing your thoughts. It means a lot that you took the time.

  • Rachel Beach

    I am on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Until I celebrated our family christmas with my first child, my mother NEVER EVER even gave a hint that Santa didn’t exist. I got presents from Santa all the way until college. It was a bit of a game to see if she would admit it, but we admired her for her convictions to keep a feeling of magic on earth. She never used Santa as a tool to game the kids for a benefit. Mom was sort of like that and she is where I get my fierce protection of innocence. The interesting thing is that I don’t remember ever asking about poor kids because even the super poor kids got something. People with dirt floors (and yes,this is a reality) still had presents if even fruit and pants for school but I think there was must have been a whole lot of outreach from churches or something. Or maybe they were just ashamed. I’m in no way saying it didn’t happen, just relating my experience that I love my mother’s assertion that there is good in the world and magic.

    • Heather W

      It’s hard to answer over the internet because you can’t see facial expressions and hear the tone of my voice. First, thank you for your comments. I really appreciate seeing other sides of the coin. I know not all kids ask about poor kids. A lot do. See, why I don’t align with this thinking process is I believe you should teach your kids to find the magic in real life. Yes, they should have imaginations and I believe in healthy make-believe. It’s just my opinion Santa is not the right way to go about it. Kids should have innocence and be sheltered while they’re little, but there comes a point (to me) that when they know the difference between a truth and a lie, you shouldn’t lie to them about things like Santa/elves/etc. Anyway, just one opinion. Thank you again for reading and stopping by and for sharing your experience.

  • Ronnica, Striving Stewardess

    I certainly don’t hate on those who practice Santa, but I’ve never personally been a fan. On that note, I find “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” one of the creepiest songs: “He sees you when he’s sleeping, he knows when you’re awake…”

    • Heather W

      I understand that it is a personal choice for each family; one with which I don’t agree, but I would never say anything to children. I also 100% agree with you on that song. Creepy indeed. Santa would be in jail for stalking.

  • BritishMumUSA

    We have done and still do a gift from Santa, and the kids are very clued into the fact that he doesn’t exist. I just asked both of them if they feel like they were lied to or betrayed, and they said no. I then asked them when did they really figure it out, and both said around 7/8, WOW I had no clue. I then posed the question of “Why does Santa not go to poor kids houses?” and they both then said because there are people like you mum and dad who give, and make sure that everyone no matter what gets. This family is about giving back. Our youngest wants to Pay it forward tomorrow, so we will be on the look out as to how to do it….. We tell them all the time you do not give to receive, you give…… 🙂 Love this post, and I see where you are coming from…. PS you know my feelings on that Elf…..

    • Heather W

      That’s a good upbringing! Giving. Those are great kids! 🙂

      I think it’s split on kids who feel betrayed or lied to. I had my second grade students (I was a teacher in another life, a long, loooong time ago) come crying to me on several occasions over it. Others wee like, “Well duh. Of course he isn’t real.” My husband and I are willing to bet money that K, his youngest, will be devastated. It’s her personality. She’s a bit…well…emotional.

      Good luck on our Pay it Forward Mission! Applaud your kids for me – and applause to you from me, as well.A beautiful thing to give back as a family.

      PS Elf haters unite! I kid, I kid… sort of. 😉

      • BritishMumUSA

        I agree with you that it is probably split with the kids who shrug it off verses the kids who are devastated. I wonder if there is a way to let them down gently, *Thinking* How about after this Christmas you guys read her the story of St. Nicolas, or Father Christmas (not sure which one you follow) and then at the end say…. “So as you can see the real *Santa* is no longer with us but the spirit of Christmas is. Adults keep the magic alive for themselves and their kids by dressing as him and spreading holiday cheer. One way that we would like you to help us now that you know *wink wink* (we have let you in on the secret) is to help others. Maybe nest year you can pick someone that needs “holiday cheer” and we can surprise them and give it to them.

        It’s an idea, it gives her the facts, and then distracts her while she thinks of who she could help give holiday cheer to.

        That is if you think she is old enough to handle it… Good luck mate. Ps the Elf has to go!!! 😉

        • Heather W

          I hesitate to answer because well… there are eyes out there. 😉 Since K is my bonus daughter and not “MY” daughter, I don’t feel her mom would approve. I LOVE this idea and I do feel K is old enough and mature enough to handle it, but even with this, I do think she’ll cry/get upset. There is a lot to it having a dad in the military, living far away. Since she actually goes back to her mom on Christmas Eve, we won’t have the chance to read this to her this year (and her mom is glad she still believes in Santa). This is not a criticism of her mom, there is just a difference of upbringing and beliefs and well, I have to respect that her mom wants to keep this going. That’s one of the difficult parts of “step-parenting” – they say you’re a parent. You just don’t get a say. But that’s a whole other post for another day…

          Thank you for the suggestion. I do LOVE it and I will ask the hubs to open up the discussion, though in this case sometimes it’s better to pick and choose and I am not sure she’ll like the idea so much…

          PS And I don’t follow either – I didn’t grow up with Christmas. I observe traditions now based upon “Axial Tilt is the Reason for the Season” and the original origins before the Christians took the Roman holiday and changed it. Just a personal belief and not meant as disrespectful in any way to those who observe it in other ways.

          • BritishMumUSA

            I am going to have to go and look into that one. And for sure no offense take, It takes all sorts to make the world go around and Soooooo many beautiful beliefs…. Our daughter follows Buddha….. Yeah let that one sink in!!!!!!!!!!!!

          • Heather W

            Oh I love the practice of Buddhism and think it is beautiful. Religion fascinates me, though I wouldn’t necessarily label Buddhism as a religion (one of my minors was Theology LOL). And you are right – it truly does make the world go ’round. (It was a pagan celebration of the Sun God/des Saturnalia. The beginning of Christmas was actually a rather violent one and not based upon the birth of Jesus. He was actually born in October, not December. Yep. Theology geek here).

  • Lynne Childress

    Ooh, girl, that is deep. I mean, REALLY deep. We are trying to figure out what to tell our toddler, who doesn’t care yet, because I think Santa is cool but I don’t really care that much about him believing in him, since Christmas should be about the goodness in everybody (and Jesus, if you celebrate Him, which I do) but I don’t want him to be the kid who makes the other kids cry when he tells them. So we all perpetuate a myth. Deep.

    • Heather W

      Thanks, Lynne. I am not a believer in the traditional sense, but I completely support the right of every person to practice as he or she chooses. I can tell you this – we were not raised with Santa, and we did not tell the other kids. We were raised to respect others’ beliefs and our mom and dad told us that it was up to their parents to have the discussion. So while I can’t say it won’t happen, it really didn’t come up. In fact, I can only remember one conversation my brother had with a boy in the neighborhood and that’s it. Thanks for your feedback. I’m still not happy to have to lie to K about it beginning this Friday, but hopefully this is the last year.