Posts from the ‘Negotiating Non-Violence’ Category

And She Said, “We Don’t Do Santa!”

I follow several natural parenting blogs. One post caught my attention the other day. It was titled “We Don’t Do Santa” and it was about the blog-her’s decision to attempt not to expose her children to Santa (good luck, the fat, jolly, old fellow is everywhere). She cited three reasons for this: (1) too much commercialism; (2) she felt  like she would be lying to her children; (3) and she didn’t like the idea of conditioning gifts on behaviour.

Now, I could relate to some of her concerns. I can be a bit squeamish about Santa. Especially, when it is time to go the mall and sit my children on some strangers lap!!! Those of you who know me well, can just imagine my skin crawling and my eye twitching! But to “not do Santa” at all?

Ge’ez, in our quest for conscientious parenting are we taking the magic out of Christmas?

I don’t see perpetuating the myth of Santa as straight out lying to my children.  I like to think of it as a fantasy or magic. It is magical. Think back to when you were a child. Wishing, waiting, imagining, leaving cookies, trouble sleeping, and the delight in the morning upon discovering that he had visited when you were sleeping. I have yet to sleep through a Christmas Eve and I am thirty-three years old!

I don’t even remember when I realized that Santa wasn’t real. It obviously didn’t traumatize me, make me think that my parents were liars, or cause me to lose trust in them. I have issues, that is for sure, but it wasn’t from disillusionment about the Santa myth.

I agree that Christmas is too commercial. I actually feel physically ill on Christmas morning when the family room is a mess of paper and gifts. I want to be sure that my boys are not greedy and that they appreciate each gift that they receive.  Asking  Santa for a list of wants probably encourages this commercialism. However, perhaps kids could think of their Santa letter as more of a prayer. A thank you, a request for others, a request for themselves.

We try to  actively pursue the spirit of giving, especially during the holiday season.  We donate gently used and new toys, fill n Christmas Child Shoebox, make other donations through our Church and workplaces, etc. With our jobs, my husband and I are exposed to families who are struggling. We can, in turn, share stories of what life is like for other families with our own children. We are trying to instill the idea of being appreciative for what they have and of sharing with others. I think that we can still do this and “do Santa.”

In participating in religious activities at our Church, we stress the reason for the season. We do advent activities and the boys participate in the Christmas Nativity. Last  year they were Baby Jesus, a chicken, and a donkey. Who got the best deal there? The other night the boys said that Christmas was about the birth of a King, it is Jesus’ birthday. phew….

I am totally down with not making Santa’s gifts conditional upon being “nice” and not “naughty.” The only concept that my boys have of Santa’s so-called naughty or nice list has been picked up somewhere else. I want my boys to behave for the sake of behaving, to be responsible family members and citizens, not for an extrinsic reward. So, we never warn “Santa is watching….”, etc. The other day my oldest son asked it it was true that Santa only bring presents to little boys and girls who were “good.” I told him that I like to believe that Santa brings gifts to all children, who celebrate Christmas, because he wants them all to be happy. He liked that idea. Then he punched his brother because after all he was going to get a gift regardless. I am totally kidding!!

So, we are going to continue to “do Santa” and I am not going to apologize for it! Besides, Santa is getting older and I’m sure that he is grateful for any action that he can get!


To Game or Not to Game…….

We are video game free at our house. This includes hand-held systems. We aren’t luddites. We have cable, a laptop, and an iphone. But we just can’t bring ourselves to get a gaming system for our three boys. We have made a conscious decision to avoid any form of gaming because we want our children to play outside, participate in imaginative play, read, do puzzles, build with LEGO, and be tuned-in to family.

Discussions about video games are controversial. There are many different studies and like most things, drawbacks and positive effects have been found. One of the most common criticisms of video games is that they can increase the violent tendencies among youth, including bullying. Now, I know that my children are not going to get a system and then start playing Halo at six and four years old (although I know that there are some children who do……disturbing) but it is a slippery slope. They can start by playing Animal Crossing and end up playing War of the Worlds. I don’t want the boys to be exposed to violence on games or on television. They probably see enough deviant behaviour on the schoolyard (but that’s a whole other post).

We don’t want the boys to be consumed by playing video games. We want them to play with one another, invent games, build things, or run around outside. We don’t want their nose to be in a game while we are travelling. We want them to be looking out the window, sharing family discussions, playing word games, or reading.

Last year a friend in my son’s grade one class came over for a play-date. He asked where our video games were and if they could play something. He looked at us like we were aliens from another planet when we told him that we didn’t have any. I suggested that they play outside or build with LEGO. Heaven forbid they actually have to talk to one another, use their imagination, share, get active. When I was a child you couldn’t keep us inside. We were on the run from morning until night. My fondest childhood memories are of all of the neighbourhood adventures that I had with my best friend, Cayley, and her sister.

So, what about when my sons go to someone else’s house for a playdate and they are faced with playing video games? Well, I won’t mind (too much). I am realistic becoming more realistic about what I can and can not control. But there are some issues that playing video games at other people’s houses present. 1. Will my sons be completely inept when attempting to play video games and then find themselves alienated from their friends?; 2. Will the games be violent, disturbing, and scary?: 3. Will my sons be really drawn to the games…….. like video game crack?

Well, we may have found a happy medium. My husband’s parents have a Nintendo Wii. So, when the boys go for a visit over there a few times a year, they are allowed to play wii sports and Mario Kart. So, they get to “practice” a little in preparation for playing at a friend’s house when that comes up in the future. They really enjoy playing the wii for awhile and then they wander off to play in the toy room or the backyard. It isn’t as enticing as I was afraid of. They also haven’t asked to have a wii at our own house. Although, my six-year-old has recently made a request, in passing, for a DS. I hope that he forgets this, especially in time for the Santa letter. (Some of you might be thinking, “Hmmm, she lies to her kid about Santa and then is concerned with the effects of video games……”)

I do have the nagging feeling that supervised and time-controlled video gaming isn’t all bad. There are benefits of improved hand-eye coordination, problem solving skills, and some of the games are teaching tools. There are games that might be educationally beneficial. Should I be teaching and trusting my children to accurately gauge right and wrong when it comes to video game violence? Is completely sheltering them, teaching them to think critically in a technological world? Will they break free and become future video gaming junkies? I know that  younger generations are being raised in a much more technology based society. Will my children be somewhat left behind?

So, as you can see this decision to game or not to game is a continual struggle. Perhaps one day we will have a gaming system in our home. But for now I think am good with our decision to avoid it for our children.

Please weigh in………………

Wonder’in where the lions are……….

I have three sons, 6 1/2, 4, and 13 months. So far, in the world of Hallowe’en, I have successfully avoided the commercial and the creepy.

We have dressed up as chickens, monkeys, lions, kangaroos, pumpkins and even a Native Canadian (okay, maybe not so PC but better than Spiderman, in my mind anyway). I have steered the kids away from Batman, Spiderman, Star Wars and other such costumes that I have deemed to be too commercial and bordering on violent.

So, this year when I craftily sang the praises to my two oldest sons of dressing up as matching lions for Halloween, my boys jumped aboard. Yes! Another year of being cute.! Another year of being cute, furry, cuddly animals. Another year that I have successfully held Spiderman or Darth Vader at arm’s length.

But then one day when I was walking my oldest son E, in grade two, to school I heard some boy’s talking about what they were going to be for Hallowe’en. There were vampires, ghosts, SuperMario, Spiderman, and Storm Troopers on the list. I was suddenly filled with a sense of dread. Oh no, poor E was going to have to say that he was going out trick or treating as a lion. And to make it worse, he was going to be a matching lion to his younger brother in junior kindergarten. Was I putting my own issues above the happiness and well-being of my child? Was I going to cause my son to be a social reject? (I had already gone through this dilemma about eating cupcakes in junior kindergarten……..)

Well, several days later when we were at the grocery store my sons spotted some costumes. All of the costumes that I had never even let them discover, let alone try, were all laid out in their commercial plastic-masked glory. So, I broke down. I let them each pick a new costume.

My oldest son ended up with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume which he unknowingly called “Superturtle.” We read the tag and found out that it was Leonardo. My son had the brilliant plan to write Leonardo’s name on a piece of paper and put it in his pocket. That way when the kid’s at school asked him what he was being for Hallowe’en he could pull out his trusty piece of paper and declare…..”Leonardo: SuperTurtle.” Maybe I should have made him be a lion………..

My four-year old picked a “Bad Black Batman” costume. I negotiated a deal that he would have to be the lion at the school costume parade. I would even sweeten the deal by painting his nose brown. (My kids have also NEVER had their faces painted……but that is a whole other post). This lion decoy costume is less about the teacher wanting “non-violent” costumes and more about me avoiding discomfort…actually the full-on mortification of sending my child to school in a batman costume.

I am coming to grips with my decision. Is the world going to come to a staggering halt when “Superturtle” and the “Bad Batman” Halloween 2008 put on their costumes for Hallowe’en? No.

So, I decided that I was going to own this decision.  That was until my four-year old said, “Mom, why does everyone else have scary Hallowe’en decorations and all of ours are cute?” That’s where I draw the line…….for now.