As the Family Goes

JP II Quote

"As the family goes, so goes the nation, and so goes the whole world in which we live." John Paul II

Monday, December 16, 2013

To Search

This is a quick collection of my thoughts in the minutes when I am supposed to be starting school, but I wanted to get them down while they were still concise in my head (and besides, we're not going anywhere today, so I can pull off a bit of a late start and work a little later into the afternoon.  It's all good!)

I did morning prayers this morning on iBrievary, something I had eagerly taken up a couple of weeks ago, and then promptly lost ferver with.  It's been a few days, and I was out of the habit.  But as I scrolled through my facebook newsfeed and checked my favorite blogs for updates, the time for school fast approaching, I remembered - I should pray.  And so I did.

This morning this beautiful psalm was part of the morning prayers.  It is a psalm dear to my heart because of a Praise and Worship song we used to sing based on its words.  I can remember the fire of a young heart newly converted to the Lord, for the first time in her life really understanding what it means to choose to love God for herself (and not out of duty or habit), shouting out those words and meaning every single one of them:

My soul is longing and yearning
Is yearning for the courts of the Lord
My heart and my soul ring out their joy
To God, the living God

These many years later, I read these same words, but with an attitude of repetition.  I often lament the loss of my youthful ferver, but I think in many ways it's not a bad thing that I've grown beyond it.  Those are some of the best memories of my entire life, and have laid a firm foundation that I continue to depend on every day.  But I was not meant to stay there, I grew up.  Faith became something that didn't come easy, that wasn't all flash and excitement, that took work.  It is the zeal that springs us forth, but it is the steadfastness that causes us to endure.

And yet, I couldn't help but feel a pang in my heart as I read those words.  It has been a long time since I longed and yearned for the Lord.

Advent is a season for searching.  I often talk to the kids about what that first Advent must have been like. The people had waited many thousands of years for this Messiah, this promised one - and now all the signs they had been taught of were coming to pass. They knew this was it, He is coming!  They must have been overflowing with anticipation.

But - here's the thing - it's not over.  He hasn't already been here and gone, and we don't just commemorate something that must have been really cool, but is so far removed from us.  Because we are all making our own journey to Christ, to Heaven.  In a very real way, Advent is the story of us.  And yet, for me, it seems I have forgotten.  I take each day as though I already know Christ, that He has already been revealed to me.  I do the things I need to do, but lacking that joyful anticipation.  Or maybe it's not even joyful, because sometimes a search is desperate too.  One thing it's not though, is complacent.

This is where the wisdom of the Church's liturgical seasons is so profound for me.  Because while we spend most of our time in Ordinary Time, we really are an Advent people.  If however, we never changed seasons, it would be too easy to forget that, to stop searching, to become mundane.  And so, in Her wisdom, the Church sets aside four weeks ahead of one of the most important feasts of the year for us to really enter into the search, to remember that we are not just coasting along aimless.  We too have a journey to make.  This is not just a history lesson, it is the drama of our whole lives.

Like the Magi who studied for years and readied themselves to know the signs of the Lord's coming, and the Shepherds attentive to the messages from the angels that the Lord is near, may we be both studious and attentive to the ways the Lord makes Himself known to us each day, so that when He does enter into our lives we find ourselves ready.  We can only long and yearn if we have been active in the search.  May we make ourselves ready.

We see so little, stayed on surfaces,
We calculate the outsides of all things,
Preoccupied with our own purposes
We miss the shimmer of the angels’ wings,
They coruscate around us in their joy
A swirl of wheels and eyes and wings unfurled,
They guard the good we purpose to destroy,
A hidden blaze of glory in God’s world.
But on this day a young girl stopped to see
With open eyes and heart. She heard the voice;
The promise of His glory yet to be,
As time stood still for her to make a choice;
Gabriel knelt and not a feather stirred,
The Word himself was waiting on her word.
(Malcolm Guité, The Annunciation)

Sunday, December 15, 2013

My Advent Bubble

There was a time when Christmas for me was as harried as it was for the next busy Mom.  And yet as I think upon the last couple of years, it has not been so.  Not since I began homeschooling three years ago, well, actually, three years ago in January.  Three years ago at this exact point in time, I was home with a very new baby boy, an excellent reason to bow out of the Christmas craziness.  My dear husband, who has always loved shopping and picking out the perfect gift for everyone, took the lead that year, and it seems he has kept it ever since.

Not long after that, we did away with television. Not even in the least bit on purpose.  I wish I could say we had some grand piousness that caused us to sacrifice that which I depended on so greatly in my house (and bitterly, bitterly resisted any suggestion of its limitation!)  But the truth is, we disconnected our satellite to replace our roof one summer, and went a full month without it.  And we noticed something strange - not only could we survive without it, in the summer, no doubt! but we found we were better off.  So we decided since we had foolishly already paid for one month we had not used (no reason in particular, just that we kept forgetting to hook it back up) that instead of reconnecting the dish, we would disconnect the service all together.  And just like that the media's reach into my home plummetted.

Those two facts are important because they help me stay sane in the midst of a busy time of year.  In my house, we are not bombarded with Christmas marketing.  Because my kids don't attend public school there's no talk of which new toy to get this year, or making Christmas lists a mile long.  When the Sears wish book arrives on my driveway in September, I promptly toss it in the trash.  No disrepect to the fine folks who paid for it to be assembled, printed and delivered, but I am really starting to learn that I am the one in control of my immediate surroundings.  I didn't make it this way, but it just sort of happened - I found myself in a bubble.  And you know what?  I kind of like it there.

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas as much as anyone.  But I have always been about the waiting, the anticipation. Growing up I was the child who never snooped for gifts, except that one time I did and discovered a pair of shoes my Mom bought me for Easter, and I felt so guilty I told her about it!  Never again did I want to spoil a surprise.  Waiting comes naturally to me.  And so Advent makes sense. I'm not over the top, I won't get mad if you wish me a Merry Christmas, nor will I correct my children if I catch them singing a Christmas tune (even if it's not about Jesus).  Our game plan this year is to just go with it, to be attentive to the rhythm of life at this season.  We are getting ready!  Getting ready for winter, for Christmas, for Jesus.  There is so much to do, and so many things we could never prepare for, that to plan away this season I feel would only be asking for disaster.

And again, lest you get the wrong impression of me, I have not set out to do this.  It just happened.  Not because I planned it this way, but because I didn't. I didn't plan to go to this event, or decorate on this day, or go shopping on this day.  In fact, I didn't really do anything out of the ordinary at all.  We went shopping one day last week, because my husband had a vacation day and his mother had kept the kids overnight, leaving us with a rare free day together.  We put the tree up this weekend, nearly three weeks after the start of Advent (we normally try to put it up the first week of Advent) because that was the first opportunity we had to do it.  We're keeping gifts simple this year, and we've just about finished all there is to get ready, save maybe putting up a few decorations and doing some baking.  But there are no plans for those either, I'll do them when I can, and trust the Lord to provide a time sometime in the next ten days.  It's all good.

I've been trying to do some extra reading.  I recently downloaded Steve Bell's e-book, "Pilgrimage/Advent" on Snippet (an app for iPhone/iPad) and it has been really great.  I have long been a fan of his music, but it is his storytelling that first drew me to him, and this book is a wonderful collection of stories, reflections and music.  It has been a real blessing.  Today I read these words, which really rested in my heart:

"During Advent, when Christians encourage the world to 'Keep Christ in Christmas,' we may do better yet and encourage each other to keep ourselves in Christmas. It is my sense that Christ really doesn't need our defense. It is we who have not understood our place in this astonishing story. We might ponder deeply, and internalize profoundly that this season is not just about revealing the truth of God, but the truth of humanity as well." (Steve Bell)

I had never thought of Advent in this way before.  And so, as we begin the third week of this season of preparation, I pray that the Lord will help to keep Christ in me as we approach the feast of the Nativity.  Christ born into the world, as a baby and through a person, what an amazing thing.  But it can't end there.  Because He's not just a person who lived and was born once, and died and went to Heaven.  He continues to live in each one of us, in me.  Christ born so long ago in a stable in Bethlehem - Christ born, at this very moment, in ever moment, in us.  How beautiful!

This Advent as we approach the Nativity in our Lord, may it be not just as a solemn event marking a holy day many years ago, but as an event taking place in our own hearts right now.  He is coming, He is coming, He is here!  Glory to God in the Highest!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Oh Boy!

We were at the grocery store yesterday, and the cashier commenting on our large family looked the kids over and said, "well at least you got two girls, that's good."  I smiled and responded, "yes, but I also got four boys, and they're pretty great too."  I get that reaction all the time, and I never really know how to react.  A passing moment seems too little time to affirm to a perfect stranger what a gift my boys are to me, and yet, I always feel the need for the sake of their listening ears to make sure they hear me rejocing in them just as much.

The fact is that when I dreamed of my family, I never considered the scales would be tipped in favor of boys.  I never thought I'd have more girls either, I guess I always just thought there would be lots of kids in equal numbers.  There was a time, particularly after my first two boys were born, that I really pined for a girl, but I underwent a real conversion during my pregnancy with my third child, who was blessedly also a boy, and who solidified the fact that my heart was made for little boys.  When he was born I felt so full, so complete, and for the first time in my life I felt as though if I only ever had little boys, that was okay.

Of course, I did have girls, two of them.  And they are wonderful.  But, so are the boys.  I attended a birthday party recently where some of the Moms were sitting back watching one precarious little boy.  My eyes were shining for this boy, the glimmer of mischief in his eye, his unmistakeable curiousity and energy that is completely boy, and as the other Moms talked about how spirited he was and how they could never handle it, my heart exploded.  Boys are so full of life, and it manifests itself so much different.  Yes, sometimes (most times) it's crazy!  But it's also beautiful.

Don't get me wrong, there are times when they drive me absolutely mad.  I wish my walls were a little less dinged up, and that my basement didn't constantly sound like a herd of elephants was trampling through it.  But having boys has changed me too, it's helped me to loosen up a little bit.  I was out with some friends one day and a group of boys (including my own, and a few older boys) were playing around, and one by one several Moms came out to wonder if maybe they were being too loud?  They probably were, and I apologized that under my watch they had gotten so rowdy, but I really didn't hear it.  What I saw was a group of boys, laughing, playing, and having good boyish fun.  It didn't seem loud to me, because it wasn't any different than any other day.  In hindsight they were being quite loud, so we quieted them down, and I joked about it with the other Moms, because it's so funny to me that I can be in the midst of all of that and not hear the noise of it all.  Before you get a picture of a blissfully content Mom patiently allowing her boys to experience the full joy of everyday life to the best of their boystrous ability, think again.  I am overcome by it far too often.  But that day, I wasn't.  That day, the Lord allowed me a little glimpse into the joy that is boyhood.  It causes me to look at my life, my vocation, my unique circumstance, and be grateful for the way it has changed me for the better.  I don't know why God gave me so many boys.  But I do know one thing - I am infinitely blessed for it.

Being a parent is not like winning a lottery, you don't keep trying and trying until you finally get the child you always dreamed of.  Every child is a unique and joyous gift.  Don't feel sorry for me that I didn't have more daughters, and don't feel like things are alright because I finally got my girls.  The Lord knows me better than anyone, and He has personally chosen these people to share my life with.  How could I be anything but grateful?  They have enriched my life in more ways than I can count.

Whatever your family composition looks like, be assured that God had a specific plan in mind when He chose those children for you. And rejoice in the gift of each one of them, as your Heavenly Father rejoices in you.

Monday, December 9, 2013


Telling your kids the truth is not always easy, but it's something I've always vowed to do from the time my first born took his very first breath.  As they get older and ask harder questions, that's not always easy (and I'm sure it will become increasingly more difficult as time goes on).  I'm sure there will be plenty of discomfort along the way, but I'm doing it for one reason and one reason only - because I want them to always trust that when they ask me a question, they will get an honest answer.

This time of year, there are plenty of articles swirling around the blogosphere about the morality of Santa Claus.  In particular two good ones I've read recently are this post in support of his inclusion at Christmas, and this one arguing against lying about Santa (or greatly exagerating his role).  I'm not going to take a stand on either side of this issue, as I've already mentioned that I think there are good and holy ways to have a Christmas that includes Santa, though this will be our first Christmas with all of our children knowing him only as a member of the Communion of Saints, and not as a jolly red elf who flies around the world on Christmas Eve.

On one of the above posts however, a commenter left a note that really left me thinking.  She listed the words of Santa Claus is coming to town:

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake

And she said this sounds an awful lot like God.  She was not saying that we are equating Santa with God, but rather that if we say these things in the name of a person who is not God and our kids believe it over many years, and then come to find it's a lie, will they think then that all the same things we've told them about God relegate him to the same category we've kept Santa in - something that is fun, teaches a good moral, but ultimately at the end of the day is grossly embelished?   Could that in turn cause our children to question God?  I don't know the answer.

But it did bring me back to the real reason I want my kids to always trust my answers to them will be true.  They need to know that when life presses me into a corner, no matter what I will not lie to them.  No matter how difficult it is.  Because all those things I'm teaching them about God, I want them to know that it's true. Sure they will inevitably still question, in fact I hope they do.  I hope they wrestle with the truth, put it to the test, and come to own it for themselves someday.  What I don't want is for them to throw it out all together because they did not have confidence in my words.  I don't want them to relegate the bigs things in life to a category that is only for childhood, to be packed away when they grow up and only returned to when they have children of their own.

Whether you celebrate Santa at Christmas or not is irrelevant, I think.  It does not alter the truth of Christmas.  What is most important is that my holiday traditions, and in fact my every day life, is lived in a way that is truthful.  I must always prepared to give my children an honest answer even if it's hard, and even if the answer is, "I'm sorry, but I can't answer that right now."  Whatever your celebrations look like, let them be deliberate and truthful, not what the world says they must be, but what you in your heart believe to be the best reflection of the truth.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

We Got This

This morning I attended Mass with all six of the wee ones by myself.  While I do attend weekday Mass with them on occasion, I think this is the first time I ever remember doing so for a Sunday Mass.  My poor husband has been down with a miserable cold all weekend, and could not attend with us.  And so, I braved the chaotic frenzy that is Sunday morning in our household by myself.

I was afraid from the beginning.  I told the two oldest boys (7 and 9) that it was their job to be Dad during Mass - which to them meant they could correct their siblings' behaviour at every turn (one even informed me that his little sister needed a time-out when we got home because she didn't listen to him!)  To me, it just meant stay still.  I knew I would be busy with the littlest ones, and I didn't want to be worried about what my older boys would be doing when I wasn't looking.

We sit in the very front pew at our small country church.  Not because that's where we prefer to sit, but generally because it's the only space large enough to accomodate us that is still empty by the time we arrive.  From these seats we could litterally reach our arms out and touch Father as he is reading the gospel, it really is that quaint.

Sometime during the Gospel reading my three-year-old decided he wanted to stand with his older brother at the other end of our pew.  I let it go for a bit, but when he started rolling around on the floor I asked my second-oldest son to switch places with me, so that I could be beside the little one.  Right as our priest walked down the step to stand, as he always does, in the very front and center of the church to give his homily, my dear little toddler began to sceam at! the! top! of! his! lungs! because he had wanted to follow his brother, and I (mean mother that I am) was trying to make him sit still.  Our dear priest is so patient with us, but I would not subject him to the sort of tantrum I knew was just beginning while he stood a few mere feet away from us!  And so I, baby on my hip, ducked around behind the priest and headed out to the foyer, cranky three-year-old in tow.

I marched him right to the bathroom, about fifteen feet away, hoping that the congregation would not be able to hear his screams.  Frazzled and feeling as though everything might fall apart at any given moment, I angrily sent my toddler to sit against the wall for a time-out.  He screamed, and I walked out of the bathroom and closed the door.  I stood next to the door and waited for him to stop yelling, which only took a minute or so. Then I went back inside and told him that if he screamed like that again, I would take him out to the van, that it is not okay to yell in church.  Only on my way back did I begin to wonder what I might see when I re-entered the church and glanced over at the pew where the rest of my children were waiting.

Not wanting to cause further disruption, I slid back into the first pew I could get to, which (since the door is in the front of the church) turns out to be directly across the aisle from my other four children.  The first few minutes were tense.  Would my little boy listen?  Did the time out work?  I looked at Fr. John trying hard to pretend like I hadn't just needed to make such a harried exit.  I exhaled.  I heard a bit of his homily.  And then, I glanced over - and wouldn't you know those four little Mazerolle children were sitting just as still and calm as anything?  I couldn't believe how good they were being without me directly beside them.  Knowing there was an entire aisle and a priest standing in between us, and therefore that I could not have done anything to stop them, they were all sitting there being good.  I'm still amazed!

And it was in that moment that I realized how God uses imperfect instruments to bring about His glory.  I wish I could tell you they are good because I am a good parent, and because I am always consistent and firm and patient, but it's not true.  They are not good because of my perfection, but in spite of my many imperfections.  If I had a nickle for every time lately I have second-guessed a discipline strategy I was in the middle of, or thought myself too inconsistent, thought myself too hard (or too soft), I'd be a rich woman.  The truth is that I try my hardest, and yet I am often any one of these - far too often.  And yet, on this glorious second Sunday of Advent, there they were.  Almost like God Himself was patting me on the back and saying, "cut yourself some slack, you're doing better than you think."  Of course, I know there is still plenty I could be doing better, and I am a very (very!) long way from perfect. But after the last few weeks, I really needed the encouragement.

Thank you to my very dear children, for behaving well beyond your years at the exact moment when I needed it the most.  May the Lord continue to mold me into the Mother He has destined for the raising of each one of your precious souls, and may you be infinitely blessed for the gifts you are to me.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Make Haste to Help Me

My parents got me a banjo for my birthday last month, and I have been relishing in the joy of learning a new instrument.  It has been a good many years since I took up a new instrument, but my Dad being something of a musical prodigy I like to think that it's in my blood.  I have been having so much fun learning and seeing the slow beginnings of a new art.  Mostly though, I am completely drawn in to the beauty of music, and how it mirrors the beauty of life.

I am learning bluegrass banjo, which is made up of roll patterns of the thumb, index and middle fingers playing the strings in quick succession.  Learning these rolls at first requires patience. I am using a youtube series of instructions (Mark Wardel, if you're interested - he's awesome!) and he highlights how important it is to get every note right before picking up speed.  "Go as slow as you need to," he says, "speed will come with accuracy."  And so that has been my focus.  I couldn't help but think about how life is like that, that we can't rush through anything without first being accurate and deliberate, or the result is a jumbled mess.

When it came time to learn my first song I was slow and steady.  I was happy when, after a few steady days of practice, I could speed it up little by little.  When I got to the point that I was pretty good at that one, I decided to learn another.  This one used a different roll, and I approached it with the same steadfastness.  With song number two under my belt I tried to play my first song only to discover that I was not as good as I had been the day before.  That learning a new song made me have to think harder about what I thought I already knew. The rolls that came so effortlessly a mere day before were now confused with the new one I had learned, and my fingers and brain struggled to make the sound come out clear.  As a musician, I hated it!  I had to go back to basics, "speed comes with accuracy," but slowing down was so painful knowing how quickly I had once played it.

That was a surprising lesson for me.  And yet, I am living the same thing in my life.  Isn't it funny how the more you learn, the more you need to revisit those things you thought you had perfected? 

Phew, where to start?  I have hit a wall with my day-to-day.  Perpetual frustration, unmotivated students, whiny-whiny-whiny children, batty from being inside all day long as the winter weather looms, and cranky, cranky mother who really should know better by now than to let these circumstances get the best of her.  Haven't I been here before?  Haven't I learned this lesson already? Why am I not as good at this as I was yesterday?

Because I am not the same person I was yesterday.  I have lived just a little longer, and my experience requires me to go back and keep working at the things I already knew. I'm not checking things off a list, I am developping an art.  For as long as I walk this earth, I will be a work in progress.  I must never consider that turning a page means I can't revisit its content.  Sometimes going back to an earlier point in the story helps to make our present a bit more clear.  Sometimes before you can build the structure any higher, you must cement and firm up the base, because what was adequate before may need reinforcement.

And so, last week after a particularly bad couple of days I found myself in the van with my children, on the way to somewhere that was just a small portion of that busy outing week.  I always find being in the van with the kids helps me to clear my head, and evaluate my day in a different way.  Something about driving away from the house and leaving my problems behind coupled with having all the kids in a small space and focused on me makes for a good time to pour my heart out.  And so I told them I knew something wasn't working for me.  I knew full well what it was, I had lost the habit of regular and frequent prayer. 

My husband is fond of praying the liturgy of the hours, a beautiful series of Catholic prayers that are attached to specific hours of the day (morning, mid-morning, noon, mid-day, evening and night). You can even get an app (iBreviary).  He would carry his iPod with him through the day and pray as often as he thought to.  He said that it centered him, and helped him focus more on God, that if everything in his day was taking him away from God, the more he made the concious effort to orient himself back towards God throughout the day, the more chance he stood to end the day not as far from the Lord as he may have otherwise been. He explained it like this:

It was becoming painfully clear to me that I had allowed myself to become too much like the first diagram.  I decided to start using that little app on my phone.  The kids were inspired too, and offered (on their own) that they should find more time to pray as well.  And so together we journey, the slow, steady work of becoming accurate and deliberate with our prayer life as a family.

The daytime prayers begin with God, come to my assistance; Lord, make haste to help me. And every time I pray them it is not lost on me how much I need God's help.  I need it - I need it now!  It is good to say that prayer often through the day.  The words of the prayers are often so personal to me (Make me grasp the ways of your precepts, and I will muse on your wonders.  My soul pines away with grief, by your word raise me up.) At other times, they are so far away from me that I almost feel like a hypocrite reading them, and I pray that the Lord will help to make them true so that one day, I won't feel like I'm lying (To prove my innocence I wash my hands, and take my place around your altar, singing a song of Thanksgiving, proclaiming all your wonders.)  

I had been so consumed with the busyness of life that I had let my devotion fall to the wayside, and just like banjo rolls that are fast but not accurate the result was a frenzied, offensive mess that could not hold a candle to the true beauty it was meant to be.  A good musician knows when the time has come to slow down and get back to basics.  You have to be willing to step down, to lower yourself even to a level you thought you had surpassed, for the sake of your craft.  Going on in stubborness only gets you further away from where you want to be.  But making time to do it right, consistently and frequently, is what leads to true greatness.

May I learn to love the constant work that is growing in faith, so that I can truly become the artist you have called me to be.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Jolly Old St. Nick

Advent has barely begun, but already the conversation about whether it's okay to teach your kids about Santa has started.  (Likely because feast of St. Nicholas on December 6 is fast approaching!)  As a Catholic family raising children in a mostly secular world, it's a logical question.  Can we enter into the magic and wonder that is Santa Claus, without having the real meaning of Christmas completely railroaded?  Can we be straight with our kids about where their gifts really come from without crushing their spirits or destroying their innocence?  Once again, as with Halloween, the Church has issued no clear directive on what good Catholic families ought (or ought not) to do about Santa.  In her wisdom, she leaves it to us to discern and pray about what is best for our family, with the hope that we will come to a devotion that truly honors the solemnity that is due this joyous day.

Santa was outed this summer in our house by my husband, after I encouraged him to come clean about the tooth fairy (after three nights of not putting money under someone's pillow - poor kid!) I had been struggling with the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny for a while, because they don't have the same nice Catholic roots as St. Nicholas. Truth be told, I was quite happy with our efforts to let St. Nicholas point to Jesus, and since we don't watch TV or listen to radio we aren't bombarded with media to the contrary this time of year, so it worked. I felt like Santa was in his proper place in our home. So I was disappointed when all of my kids ran in one day and said, "Mommy, Mommy, we know that Dad's Santa and that you're the Easter Bunny and that there's no tooth fairy!!" And I was like, "Whaaaaaat??? This is not what we talked about!" 

We have six kids ranging from ages 1 to 9, so they are still pretty young. But as we approach our first Christmas with them knowing we are the ones who buy the gifts, I have to say that it's been really freeing. The kids are not disappointed in the slightest, there is still plenty of magic in this season for them to enter into. They still talk about Santa, and I let them get into it because he is based on a real person, who lives forever in the communion of Saints, and left a real legacy of selfless giving. The letters to Santa hoping against hope that he will come through with that one big gift Mom and Dad have said they just can't buy are what have stopped, which is a real blessing. I can be straight with them and say, "look, don't ask for that, it's too much" and I don't need to worry about them being disappointed on Christmas morning because they were really hoping Santa would bring it anyway. We have talked very little about what they want, but a whole lot about what they are going to do for each other, and I think that is what St. Nicholas intended.

In our home, despite our best intentions, Santa was always about the gifts they were going to get.  And so this year, as one boy wrote a letter to Jolly St. Nick (which I did not discouraged), he informed me that he was asking for a drum set - a gift he had already asked for, and I told him "No," because we had just bought them violins, and they also take piano lessons, and even if I had the money to actually buy a drum set (which I'm not going to lie, is enticing, because I love the idea of being a musical family!) I think it's important for them to slow down, and get good at what they have.  That just because they have a budding desire for music (maybe because their toddler brother got a toy drum set for his birthday last week and big brother is eager to be the expert of everything?  Who knows!) does not mean we should run out and spend ridiculous amounts of money on instruments they may or may not ever use (who knows?)  In any event, he was heartbroken.  Even though he knows we buy the gifts, not Santa, and even though we had already been clear with him that he was not going to get anything so extravagant, he asked for it anyway, and was dissappointed.  I told him that this was not what Santa had intended, and that I'm certain he would be so sad at what we're doing with his name in today's world.  He went into people's homes at night, in secret, so that when they discovered their gifts they wouldn't know who left them, and would thank God for His goodness.

Of course you can still teach this lesson without giving up Santa's secret all together, and you can do it really well.   You can continue in the spirit of anonymous giving by not telling your kids it's you, and teaching them about St. Nicholas so that they will thank God for His goodness, and not enshrine Santa.  But you don't need to make a case for that.  What you really do need to defend is why you would tell your young children there is no Santa.  Since making this decision, we have encountered so much shock from people who really can't imagine how we could do such a thing.  I don't blame them, that was my first reaction (Why, Jeff!)  It's so counter-cultural, and we've been raised to believe that Santa is the core of the magic of Christmas, that if we take them out there's nothing left but that boring religious stuff that the won't even get until they're much older.  

I'm not against imagination, or myths, or fairy-tales. I'm not against playing along to kids' fantasies, especially the ones that foster goodwill.  But the real debate here isn't whether to keep or ditch Santa, but what to tell our kids about him.  Because the fact is he is a real person.  And we have never once told our children that he isn't.  We simply are no longer telling them that he's the one who delivers their gifts on Christmas Eve.  The magic is still there, he is still a legend whose story is worth telling over and over again.

There is nothing wrong with encouraging fantasy and imagination, especially with the intention of teaching a good moral lesson (think Chronicles of Narnia). But when you read those stories to your kids, they know it's a story. If they ask you if Aslan will come bounding into their world through a wardrobe in their room, you'll tell them "no". It does not diminish the experience, the story or the lesson, but I am truly coming to see that it sets everything in its proper order. Aslan does not save, but teaches a story about the One who really does. Similarly, Santa Claus does not shower with gifts well beyond the means of the family, but Jesus lavishes with graces well beyond what we have. Is it wrong to teach your kids about Santa? I don't think so. Can it be done in a way that glorifies God? Absolutely. But in my experience it is also true that kids can be just as imaginative, have just as much wonder, and enter into the season of Christmas just as much if they know that their parents are the ones buying gifts, and that Santa is not sailing around the world on Christmas Eve. People worry that we are making our kids grow up too early, or that we are robbing of them of their innocence, but I have seen the very opposite. I have seen children delight in the simple truths of giving, and in the birth of a little baby, in the life of a Saint who really did amazing things, and in whose name we continue to give today, always pointing to Christ as he did.