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Editor's column: Let Virginia believe what she wants to believe

December 20, 2013
By Per Peterson , Marshall Independent

I'm a single parent of an 11-year-old girl. That presents challenges.

I can't "do her hair;" our taste in clothes is like night and day (she has good taste, I don't); and I know zilch about make-up application or the intricacies of how her body is changing.

When it comes to female topics, I defer to my mom, sister or niece. That's what moms, sisters and nieces are for. But there is another issue with Olivia, albeit a less worrisome one, I'm dealing with myself: She wants to know, once and for all, if Santa exists.

I know she knows he's not real. She knows I know she knows he's not real. I know she get the idea. But she asks anyway, which I like, because since the only way I'll have another child is if I build one in my garage, I try to hold on to those precious childhood moments that are fleeting away much too fast.

Holidays seem to offer up the real memorable moments that are gone before you know it.

Take Halloween. I've gone from carrying her around town from house to house, to holding her hand and walking her from house to house, to not holding her hand while walking with her from house to house, to walking behind her and a friend from house to house, to chauffeuring her and three of her friends from house to house. Next year she'll probably make me use a GPS if I want to keep tabs on her. Or I could linger a block behind her, subterfuge like. Hmm, stalking my own daughter. Nope, my Halloween moments are finit-O.

Then there's Christmas and this whole Santa thing. Dr. Philip O'Hanlon's daughter, Virgina, was 8 when she asked her dad if there is a Santa Claus. Papa passed the buck to The New York Sun, which, as we all know, assured Virginia there was, indeed, a Santa Claus. Power of the press!

O'Hanlon had the right idea. Part of the fun of being a parent at this time of year is doing everything you can to make sure your kid believes in Santa - putting cookies out and eating them before you go to bed, things like that. One year, I went so far as to scoop up a bunch of doggy doo and place it in the snow so it looked as though a line of animals (reindeer) had gathered in our front yard. The things we parents do, right? But at age 11, Olivia knows the score. She knows toys aren't made at the North Pole (unless "Made in China" is code for North Pole); she knows the only Santas we see at this time of the year are our neighbors in costume. She knows there's a better chance Grandma will get run over by a Volkswagen than by a reindeer. She knows it's all fictional, and that stinks, because I want her to believe in Santa Claus - at least what he represents (or what he used to represent anyway).

But a story out of New Mexico where a Santa-clad African-American teen was told by a teacher that he couldn't be Santa because Santa is white reminded me that our eroding society continues to be robbed of the innocence and joy that comes with believing in something we know doesn't exist. Today, we - like Virginia's little friends long ago - are drowning in skepticism. Worse yet, many people are suffocating under their own arrogance and political-correctness and are ruining things for the rest of us.

Someone tell me, why do we go through this every year at this time? Why is there always controversy surrounding Christmas? Why are there people out there who make idiotic statements about Santa just out of sheer stupidity? Seeing stories like this isn't enough to shake my Christmas spirit as much as it further confirms my belief that we are surrounded by Scrooges, Grinches and fools. The teacher apologized, but this bell's already been rung; Santa's warm milk has been spilled and it makes me want to cry. Out of anger.

If we are to presume there is no Santa Claus, then why even comment on a kid's desire to dress up like him just for some holiday fun? Just leave it alone. Let the kid have his fun. Santa's white. Santa's black. Santa's a man. Santa's a woman. Ya know what? Santa is whatever you want him/her/it to be. Santa's fat, too, but no one seems to have a problem with his obvious obesity issues.

With apologies to all the Virginias out there, this is the last time I want to think about Santa Claus this year. Between my daughter being too old to believe there is a Santa and the ignorant comment made by that teacher, I've had enough.

Besides, one of Olivia's wishes on her Christmas list was to spend more time with her dad, and I don't need Santa to give her that.



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