Easter. Ham. Easter Eggs. Jelly Beans. Marshmallow peeps. Chocolate Easter Bunnies, (see picture.) AND the EASTER BUNNY!!
(Spoiler Alert: Do not let anyone under the age of 7? 9? 12? read any further.)
I am sure that most of us of a Christian faith believed in the light, magical myths of the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus. Bah Humbug!
My realization that there was no Santa Claus happened on the day before Easter when I was seven years old. Friends and I were playing hide and seek in our house, and my hiding space of choice was my mother’s closet. I opened the door and plopped in…right on top of a cellophane wrapped Easter basket! I could feel the jelly beans fall out, trickling down my legs, and the weight of my body squishing the basket with a sickening sound. As the marshmallow peeps were flattened, my childhood fantasies vanished before my eyes! It was only reasonable to assume if my mom pretended to be the Easter Bunny, then the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus were also non-existent.
This was actually a good realization for me. For many years I had questioned Santa’s fairness. If he was omnipresent, then how did he not know what I wanted to Christmas? Even when I sat on his lap and told him…repeatedly…and wrote letters…repeatedly…he still did not bring me that all important, desperately desired, Barbie Doll for which I had asked. The Santa who came to my house had always disappointed me. Having parents who were obsessively frugal, Santa would bring me unexciting gifts…a new toothbrush, a t-shirt, hair ribbons, and small bottles of shampoo (which I later learned came from the times my father traveled for work and stayed in hotels.) One year I even got 3 pairs of underwear that were much too big, but, judging from the price tag which Santa had neglected to remove, they were on sale for an unbelievably low price! As a child, I could never understand why my friends and classmates received wonderful gifts of not only Barbie Dolls, but Barbie houses, Barbie cars and tons of Barbie accessories. They would receive many, and I longed to own just one… but it was not meant to be. When playing with my friends, they were always kind enough to share “Midge”, Barbie’s “best friend”. While I appreciated this, I still felt resentful of their good fortune.
It wasn’t until I realized that Santa Claus did not exist that I understood that my parents had purchased all of those “gifts”. As my childhood revolved around my dad’s “crazy” obsessions, I suddenly understood the significance of the gifts. It wasn’t that Santa didn’t love me, or that I was somehow less worthy than my friends, or even because my good behavior wasn’t appreciated, it was because our family life was very different than most other families. And I took some solace in the fact that my dad, on his work trips, was thinking of me when he brought home the shampoos.
The whole concept of “Santa” has been a difficult one with my children. My oldest son, Francis, who is blind, hated the thought of having a stranger he could not see come into his house on Christmas Eve. It was the one night of the year that I let him lock his bedroom door.
One year, I made the huge mistake of hiding the gift of a Little Mermaid comforter set underneath Dinora’s bed. When she discovered it, she became hysterical, screaming that Santa had been in her room and he could have hurt her! (She was going through a particularly rough phase with PTSD where she was seeing apparitions of “Bloody Mary”, so her sensitivities to having Santa in her room were heightened.) She was only five at the time, and the only way I could calm her down was to admit that Santa did not exist, which caused her to cry even harder at the loss of this icon.
Steven, with his autistic tendencies, never did admit that Santa existed. He was used to his strict schedule, and gifts from a stranger were not a welcome change. He would wake up every Christmas morning, walk by the Christmas tree under which the gifts sat, go down to the kitchen to grab breakfast, and sit in the family room to watch The Animal Planet on television. It was his familiar routine…he never did acknowledge or look at his gifts. (In fact, to this day I have the SAME bag of gifts. I bring them out every Christmas Eve, and pack them up every Christmas Day, only to be brought out again the following Christmas. It is very selfish to say, but I have saved a LOT of money by not buying him gifts!)
Angel, my son with Dissociative Identity Disorder, (multiple personality disorder) had a great time each year developing his very eclectic request for gifts to satisfy his many “parts”, male, female, baby, toddler and his appropriate age. I am sure that not many other boys asked for a complete manicure set along with baby rattles, Superman and Spiderman toys, and a complete bow and arrow set, (don’t ask…) The problem that developed was that Angel had finally begun to trust me, a conviction he had previously not held in his four other foster placements. Everyone else had lied to him and let him down. But here he was in our family with a family he could finally trust, a family that would not lie to him, a family in which he felt safe. When he found out that Santa Claus was a lie, he felt devastated, furious, betrayed, conned, tricked and misled. This lie has left an indelible mark on his life, one which he continues to discuss with a counselor. Every single time I have gone into a therapy session with him, the fact that I am a liar comes up, and that lie is always about Santa Claus. While it is easy for us to say “just get over it”, for him, it has been impossible. If only I knew then what I know now, I would have done things very differently.
Marie, I am embarrassed to admit, was a young teenager who STILL believed in Santa Claus. Learning from my experience with Angel, I have never perpetuated this myth on her, but she came to live with us with this belief. Because Marie is deaf and developmentally delayed, she had few opportunities to “heard” or learn that Santa is not real. This became very apparent to me last Christmas. On Christmas Eve I put out the individual bags of gifts from “Santa”, which included one expensive item for each child, (a DVD player, Gameboy, camera and so forth.) On Christmas morning, Marie woke up before all of us and deftly went through the bags, taking out all of the expensive items and putting them in her bag, leaving the other children with only minor items. She excitedly showed me the wonderful bag of gifts Santa had brought; HER gifts, along with the valuable gifts from everyone else’s bag. I was mortified to think she would be so selfish, and I told her so! I told her that there was no Santa Claus and that I had bought the items and they were not all for her. She tried in vain to argue with me that Santa left them all to her because she had been good, but both of us knew better…
So, this has been a long winded way of saying I DISLIKE SANTA!!! While he may be a wonderful myth to many, for me and my children, he has been nothing but trouble. BAH HUMBUG!!!!!
The Easter Bunny? Hey, SHE’S okay…
Link to my book
The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/