What to say when your child asks: 'Is Santa real?'according to dolto
I am continuing with my little series on Francoise Dolto. This time an excerpt from 'Lorsque l'enfant paraît.' Volume 1, pg 94-96. A rendition of the radio program she used to have in the 70's. People would call in with their questions on child rearing.
Dolto responds to a question about Santa. Will children not be very disappointed when they find out that the parents lied to them about the existence of Santa? Her answer:
'I think that this is posing the wrong question. Children need a lot of poetry, and adults too, since they themselves keep wishing each other a merry Christmas, right? What is a real thing? By the way, a lot of money is made due to Santa: is that not real? When one makes a lot of money, then it seems to be a real thing, right? But, I think that this listener worries that the child believes in Santa as in a lie, and that talking to his child about Santa is lying,' But a myth, is poetry and has its own truth. Of course, this does not have to go on too long, and don't tell that Santa won't bring presents if the child does not listen to the parents...
When the parens 'add on' to this belief and seem to take it too seriously, then the child herself won't be able to tell them anymore: 'You know, my friends tell me Santa does not exist.' At that moment you explain her the difference between a myth and a living person, who is born, has parents, a nationality, who has grown, will die, and who lives like all human beings in a house on earth, and not in the sky. (French Santa seems to live in the Sky - Note by An)
I want to let you know that this listener is strongly opposed to Santa's, especially the ones walking around in the streets.
Maybe he feels rightly so that those dressed up people depoetize the real Santa, the one in which he believed, and the one one did not ran into during the whole month of December. It bothers him. Or maybe he is a person who does not have much poetry left inside. In any case, I don't know whether you still believe in Santa, but I still do. I can tell you a story - as everyone knows I am the mother of the singer Carlos - when Jean (that is his real name) was in Kindergarten, he asked me one day: 'How come there are so many Santa's? There are blue ones ... purple ones, red ones!' We were walking down the streets and they were everywhere. I told him: 'You know, that Santa there, I know him, it's Mr So and So.' It was one of the salespeople at the toy store or the bakery, who had dressed up as Santa. 'You see, he has dressed up as Santa, and that other one too. He is a salesman dressed up as Santa.' He asked me: 'But what about the real one?' - 'The real one is inside of us, we carry him in our hearts. It is like a big gnome that we imagine. When we are little we like to imagine that gnomes and giants exist. You know that gnomes do not exist. Neither do giants from fairy tales. Santa. he was not born. He does not have a mother or a father. He is not alive. He is only alive on Christmas in the hearts of all those who want to surprise and celebrate little children. And all the grown ups regret not being little kids anymore. That is why they like telling kids: 'That is Santa.' When one is little, one does not make the difference between real living things, and things that you can find only inside, in your heart.'
He listened to all that and told me: 'So, then the next day, he does not take off in his sleigh, with his reindeer? He does not fly through the sky?' - 'No, as he is in our heart. - 'So, when I hang my stocking, he will not give me anything?' - 'Who won't give you anything?' - 'There won't be anyting in my stocking?' - 'But yes.' - 'But who put it there?' I smile. 'You and daddy will put something in it?' - 'But of course. - 'Then, can I be Santa too?' - 'Of course you can be Santa.' We will hang our stockings, your dad, me and Mary. You will put things in it. You will know that you are Santa for others. And I will say: Thank you, Santa; it is you who will be thanked, but I will act as if I do not know. For your dad, I will not tell him that it was you, that will be a surprise.' He was delighted, happy and he told me on our return: 'It is now that I know that he does not really exist, that Santa is really good.'
The child's imagination and poetry is not gullibility, nor childishness, but intelligence in a different dimension. '
From: Francoise Dolto, Lorsque l'Enfant parait.
To contact An, call: (530) 321-2970.