Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Fat Man – when does it start?

One of the purest joys of childhood is having a vivid imagination, sprinkled with unbridled creativity and fantasy. I love watching the short one being taken to a land far away in her imagination as she plays with her toys. 

It does however, bring me to the point of that great unanswered question…when do you introduce the notion of Santa Claus?

At what age do they begin to understand that it is perfectly normal for some hirsute overweight stranger dressed in red and white to break into your house in the middle of the night and leave a whole bunch of stuff at the end of your bed, eat your food, drink your grog and then proceed to do the same in every house in the whole wide world, all before sun up?

I recently read some bah humbug claims by a Sydney academic saying parents "should not create a fantasy where children are not given any basis for knowing what's real and what's pretend". She went on to say that parents shouldn’t lie to their children about Santa, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy.  Whilst her press coverage was fortuitous for her (she has just published a book), it created much discussion and debate. Obviously it is a topic many feel very strongly about.

It brings me back to my first point – imagination and fantasy – rites of passage in any childhood.  Creativity is the byproduct of these notions.  Give a paintbrush to any child and they will create with no inhibitions.  Give that same brush to an adult and they are likely to say, ‘Oh, I’m not very good,’ ‘I can’t draw,’ or ‘I am not very artistic.’  What happens in between?  Where does that unbridled creativity go?

Sir Ken Robinson, world leader in creativity and education, once quoted Picasso as saying that "All children are born artists. The problem is to remain an artist as we grow up". Robinson believes kids do not grow into creativity, but grow out of it, or rather educated out of it.

Kids are risk-takers; they have little fear of getting things wrong; creativity is borne out of taking that risk and simply having a go. ‘If you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never be able to come up with anything original.’

As overly cautious adults and politically correct educators, are we at risk of diminishing all that is the innocence of childhood?

Despite the notion of the modern day Santa being a Coca Cola marketing phenomenon dating back to 1931, I can’t help but feel compelled to do whatever it takes to create that little bit of fantasy in our home. Besides which, I remember when I was a child and discovered the truth about the Fat Man, I just never let on to my parents.  I didn’t want to spoil their fun!

Santa Claus as depicted originally in Coca Cola advertising

1 comment:

  1. Having children believe in Santa Claus is all part of the magic of Christmas, and in this day and age, a little magic is wonderful.