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MWMG Pediatrics

Family Values


Elaine Stone

December 2010

"A Puppy" was the one and only entry on his Christmas List.

His boyhood reasoning confirmed that if the last several years of "a puppy" being mixed in on his list with many other entries, hadn't brought it to fruition, he would up his ante. Surely, if he only gave Santa one choice, he would have to deliver. It was, after all, the one thing he really wanted. He had not, in his young life, met a single child who was disappointed on Christmas morning and according to him, he had concocted the perfect strategy. Dad and Mom said, "Not yet," many times. So bypassing the parents to Santa seemed a sure fire way to get the dog of his dreams.

Does an Unrealistic "Wish" Automatically End the Magic?

Where does "Santa" end and reality begin? How can parents limit expectations without thwarting dreams? Is it possible to believe in Santa and not believe he will deliver everything a child wishes for? Angelica Hidalgo states in her article, How to Deal with a Child's Christmas List, "Children love being surprised and they love being rewarded. This could lead to a Christmas list in which they include all the things that they desire to be theirs for Christmas. Of course, parents would love to see their children be happy, but sometimes a child's specific request cannot be fulfilled. Maybethe request is just not probable; they want a real spaceship. Maybe the request is too expensive; they want a new computer. So how should a child's Christmas list be dealt with?" (

Having children make Christmas lists well in advance of the big day will assist parents tremendously in dealing with unrealistic requests. Sitting down with each child and discussing their wishes gives parents an opportunity to interject realism. Melinda Glover, in her article on dealing with Christmas Lists recommends, "The first step in utilizing your child's wish list is to ensure that they know the list is a "wish" list and that it does not mean they will get each and every thing they have written on the list. Have them highlight to indicate which items on the list are most important to them." (

The Grab Bag of Santa Limits!
Setting gift limits is practiced by many families. This aids children in a realistic formation of their "wishing". When unrealistic expectations of Santa arise, parents may need to instill some "Santa Realism." Santa can have limits. Feel free to grant whatever limits fit your family and
budget and also to place a touch of reality into the Wish List, such as:
1. Santa cannot bring live animals. The trip is too long and harsh and they would not survive in with the sack of toys.
2. Santa's bag is not designed to carry living inhabitants.
3. The elves only make toys and perhaps some clothing therefore, that is all Santa delivers.
4. Mom and Dad can help pay for some of Santa's deliveries – this inclusion of the parent involvement still provides the opportunity for dreaming and magic but brings in a "touch" of reality, especially as children get older.
5. The North Pole has to get some compensation for all of its output and it is ok if parents contribute to ensure the elves have enough materials to construct. This also helps explain the disparity between gifts from house to house.
6. Santa is working on a budget.
7. Santa has to get parents approval; Santa does not know children as well as parents, so he consults to make sure he is delivering the best possible toys for each child. This consultation may occur in letter form, phone call, or even email, but it is always done in secret.
8. Santa can only bring what will fit in his sleigh. This one serves parents well. It is logical and yet restrictive. Cars, boats, nor Disney World can fit in a sleigh, therefore; easy out.

What if I Feel I am Being Dishonest?
Parents act out of love for their children at Christmas. They are essentially reenacting the infamous Saint Nicholas who gave of his wealth out of his love for God. Parents have different views on perpetuating the St. Nicholas practice and experts weigh in with some interesting food for thought. "Parents who strongly believe that they are betraying their children's trust by sharing the Santa Claus tale probably do not need to tell them the story," says Robert Feldman, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who has conducted extensive research on lying and deception. "Keep in mind, though, that in the overall scale of deception, propagating the Santa myth is no worse than saying things like, "You look terrific," or "You haven't gained weight," or "What a great dress," says Feldman, noting that people generally use lies as a social crutch.

"We actually teach our kids that deception is acceptable," says Feldman. For example, he says parents often ask their children to pretend they like gifts from relatives to spare the feelings of family members. "It's no worse than telling them about the three bears, or Goldilocks, or Cinderella, or anything else. It is a story and when they get older, they understand that it was only a fairy tale," says George Cohen, MD, FAAP, clinical professor of pediatrics at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.. Douglas Kramer, MD, a child and adolescent psychiatrist and an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin Medical School, further explains, "Very young children live in an imaginary world, and that world is reality for them. Little kids think there actually might be a monster in their closet or a dragon under their bed. It seems real to them, so it's got to be real."

OK to Set Limits Without Ending it All
It indeed is the season when "sugar plum fairies dance in their heads." Children are blessed with imaginations that make their worlds limitless. They are filled with wonder and excitement at the mere mention of Christmas but it is perfectly acceptable for parents to introduce some limits as the "lists" grow and mature. Santa, after all, can have some logical limitations that assist parents and stifle disappointment in children especially as older children begin to figure out their "Christmas List" can become a tool of manipulation for helpless parents. Don't be outsmarted. Parents can take some control over Santa.

The Puppy?
What about the boy who wanted only "a puppy"? He was greeted on Christmas morning by a bright red scooter with a note attached to the handle bars. Santa left a note explaining why he could not deliver puppies and that his boy's parents would know when the addition of a puppy was best for the family. There was some disappointment in his young eyes but it did not deter him from opening his presents with gusto and spending most of the day/year on a bright red scooter.

Elaine Stone, mother of three, lives in Spotsylvania. Write: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


The Science of Santa

By Gregory Mone

At this point, my daughters are too young to ask the tough questions about Santa, but when the cross-examination does begin someday, I will be ready with a series of scientific what-if's and a very slight smile. But, if the questions get too tough, I will send them to ask Mom!

The Possible Questions:
"How can Santa visit all those homes in a single night?" I'll propose "time travel", using astrophysical oddities called wormholes. 

"How does he read all those Christmas lists?" Easy enough...Santa must own an automated mail-sorter that opens the envelopes, scans the notes, then uses a machine reading-program to decipher the handwriting. Santa's computer helps a lot!

"How do the reindeer actually fly?" I don't plan on supporting the notion that reindeer can fly or that Santa is immortal. I think instead, I will suggest that the reindeer are actually great jumpers (using physics, of course) and a quick Anatomy lesson on the life saving procedures of organ replacement and artificial substitutes.

The point of these responses will not be used to protect Santa's good name, rather as a lesson to my girls that Science is all around us. Science can help border concepts between the possible and the impossible and may help my children think about all concepts from a scientific perspective.

Given the pace of technological progress, some of Santa's advertised abilities might very well be possible in this generation's lifetime: 24/7 Technology and "He-Knows-if-You've-Been-Bad-or-Good Surveillance" is not all that far-fetched these days.

So, thank you Mr. Kringle for adding to the spark in our interest in science. Maybe this Dad's unusual explanations will send them to the library or the Internet for a little more research into wormholes or machine learning.

And if none of this proves sufficient, if they insist on the honest truth, with no wink and no smile, I'll tell them to go ask their Mom.


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Pouches' Community Corner

Pouches Visits the Past


If Pouches' experience at History Camp is any indication, your son or daughter will enjoy joining Washington Heritage Museums and the George Washington Foundation for History Camp in Fredericksburg. The week-long day camp will be held June 25-29, from 9:00 a.m. to noon each day.

Young historians discover American history with hands-on experiences as they walk in the footsteps where the history of Fredericksburg, and a budding America, was created. The camp complements the history taught in classrooms with activities such as soap making, code breaking, colonial crafts, penmanship and much more.