rudolph the red nosed counterfactual

Sara, I’m not sure if Santa is alive AND parents give you presents or if it’s really just parents who give you presents.

That’s a pretty serious question, Finn.  How do you think you could find out the answer to that?

Well, I saw Santa at the Zoo. 

So, did seeing Santa tell you that Santa is alive?

I’m not sure.  Because Rudolph wasn’t there.

Was there another reindeer with Santa?

No, it was a zebra!

Really, a zebra?!

You know, with the stripes.

That sounds like a zebra.

So, next year, I’m going to tell Santa that if he’s really Santa he has to bring the real Rudolph.  Otherwise, it’s just mommies and daddies who give you presents.

9 thoughts on “rudolph the red nosed counterfactual”

  1. Jeremy – as much as I’m theoretically in favor of unraveling the whole Santa lie, I learned in this conversation that I dread the possibility that I’ll be the one who exposes it to one of my friend’s kids.

    C&S – Indeed, unfortunately, the animal with stripes at the SF Zoo was not a zebra.

    Reading about that horrible incident this morning brought back a strange memory. My high school’s colors were orange and black. Therefore, someone thought it would be clever to have a tiger on the stage for one of our big pep rallies (orange and black, get it?). Unbelievably, the administration agreed and arranged for Marine World to send a tiger and its trainer to our school for these purposes. As you might imagine, the tiger found an auditorium full of screaming teenagers to be rather upsetting. Being a tiger, it promptly lunged, first for the cheerleading squad and then right off the stage (dragging the trainer along for the ride) and mauled a football player (he was injured, of course, but not critically), before the trainer regained some measure of “control.”

    My recollection of the event is conditioned, I think, both by the fact that I was sitting far from the stage and also by the incredulity I felt even at that time. My strongest memory is of thinking “no way could that be a real tiger; no one would let that happen,” just as it lunged, thereby convincing me that it was (and that I wanted to get out of that auditorium as soon as possible).

    Likewise, I remember thinking it was really strange that I had to call my parents to reassure them that I hadn’t been mauled by a tiger that day at school.


  2. Good Lord! Did you go to school in the SF Bay Area? The Marine World ref. I did.

    On Santa: my oldest knows and now that Christmas is over I will confirm it to my almost 8 year old. I want the myth busted by me in my way which is to say that the reason we perpetuate this story is because the idea that all children should be happy and cared for is a goal that all adults can support (leaving aside the religious exclusion stuff). Santa symbolizes the idea of selfless giving and because that is an idea that I want my children to believe in, I bust the myth and say all of that. And then connect that to the volunteer work we do as a family and the homeless shelter int he basement of our church that we support financially, etc. etc. The first took it in stride and now we will see how #2 does.


  3. Re Santa, I never “told” my children, I just did not try very hard to keep the secret, so it was obvious to them what was going on when they were old enough to think about it. This is my own memory of my childhood: I reached a certain age and it was obvious what the deal was. No trauma. Little children are magical thinkers. We stuck a note on the hall mirror once that just said: “Ha, ha, you’ll have to find your treats” and asked our four-year old daughter, “Who put that note there?” “The Easter Bunny!” she shouted. But a few years later, she would say, “Why does Santa’s handwriting look like Dad’s?” I’d say, “What do you think?” When my children asked about Santa, or the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy, I told them it was “magic.” Their grandfather is a magician, and they know he does sleight of hand tricks. When they’d ask me what I meant by “magic,” I’d say, “You know what magic is. Your grandfather is a magician.”

    Some parents go to extraordinary lengths to make older children “believe.” This seems unreasonable and unfair to me. Some older children continue to believe or pretend to believe because they fear that once they don’t believe in Santa, they will stop getting all the goodies. Encouraging this belief also seems unfair to the children.


  4. Sorry to be so late in responding to your question, C&S. I did grow up in the Bay Area – San Mateo, to be specific. You?

    Also, thanks to you and OW for your thoughtful comments on Santa. I especially like the idea of emphasizing the ideal of selfless giving…


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