Is it time to burst his bubble? How to do it gently...?

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by gcvmom, Apr 4, 2010.

  1. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    My 13yo difficult child 2 got up this morning and proceeded to relate to me all the things he got in his Easter basket. As if I truly did not know. Then he asked me if I got anything (from the Easter Bunny).

    I intentionally did not make some of the bunny "signs" I've done in the past so he would hopefully clue in this year. No more rabbit tracks in the hallway or out the front door. No carrots left out for the rabbit with tell-tale gnaw marks. And asking him if he liked this or that specific thing that only the person who placed it in his basked would know about.

    Last night he started to verbalize what he hoped the bunny would bring him -- as if saying it out loud would make it happen. I'm kinda getting concerned about this. He also insists that Santa is real.

    Do I just spell it out for him? I didn't have to do that with the other two. They seem to have figured it out on their own.
  2. KTMom91

    KTMom91 Well-Known Member

    Since he's 13, I think it's time to clue him in. I can imagine what might happen at school if he goes in talking about the Easter Bunny...and I believe it's a parent's job to tell the child. Do you expect he'll have a complete meltdown? Could he be saying he still believes because he's afraid he won't get a basket or presents if he admits it?
  3. confuzzled

    confuzzled Member

    i just did it today. :sad-very:

    it went WAY better than i could have ever expected. she seemingly knew, deep down inside and seemed a bit relieved. she didnt even shed a tear over it....handled it like a pro.
    of course, *i* am a bit sad to give up the charade!!

    i think, in our case, it truly was for her own good. and, at 11, its no longer an age appropriate "belief"--i didnt want her to either find out in a cruel way, or maybe worse yet, be teased for being a me, that seemed worse than me gently being honest about it. i listened to my instincts for a change, and the timing was right for us.

    but only YOU can decide what is right for YOUR'll know if its time.
  4. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    husband thinks I should just leave it alone. But I remember last year when difficult child 2 was in 6th grade, he got a huge amount of flak from kids in his class when he wrote a story about Santa -- and it the assignment was for a non-fictional account of something that happened to them. I don't know for sure if the kids were razzing him for not knowing the difference between fact or fiction, or for insisting that Santa is real, or both. But difficult child 2 was insistent that his story WAS a non-fictional account.

    I think he has a hard time letting go of fantasy. I need to think about this more...
  5. DazedandConfused

    DazedandConfused Active Member

    You know, I read this a bit ago and wasn't sure how to respond because Son says he still believes in Santa. He doesn't make a huge deal about it and I KNOW that other kids have told him otherwise, but I have left him alone with it. He did ask me one time a couple of years ago if he was real and I took the total coward's way out by responding, "You know, I'm not completely sure, what do you think?" He told me he still believes and I left it at that.

    The last couple of years I haven't made a big deal about xmas because the kids are older and I've got my plate full with so many other things. My Mom always gives my kids a gift from "Santa", every xmas. I am going to see what happens this year and I'll decide from there.
  6. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    This is a tricky one. And the more I listen to you guys, the more I wonder just how much overlap there is between bipolar and autism in its various forms, because the big problems we've had in our household, as been connected to belief systems.

    We've raised our kids to believe in truth, but we are also living in a world where people want children to enjoy a rich fantasy life. This puts us in direct conflict, when we have kids for whom belief is something they MUST have, especially belief in truth. Because if/when they discover we have 'lied' to them about X, then how can they trust Y, Z or the rest of the alphabet?

    We've never told our kids the "truth" about Santa, etc. Instead we brought in a rule - Santa only visits children when they are young, when they reach high school age Santa stops visiting. Instead, Santa then makes it possible for parents to invest more (money, thought or whatever you want to use to interpret this, but only if the child gets stroppy about the extra gift stopping) in the older child's gift.
    And the same rule goes for the Easter Bunny. We actually down-played Easter Bunny stuff once we realised the problems we were heading for with our kids. Experience with difficult child 1 gave us a heads up on difficult child 3, who is ten years younger.

    So what is the holiday custom in our family - the "Santa gift" (usually with a small stocking of sweets) would be left unwrapped for the child to find on Christmas morning. All other gifts would be wrapped under the tree and could not be opened until the whole family assembled after church. This meant that the younger ones who can't wait as patiently as the older kids get one gift early on Christmas morning, and it also spreads it out a bit for them so they don't get so overwhelmed by an avalanche of gifts. Of course, there would be kids at church towing their entire haul of gifts to show them off, which used to tick off our kids no end - not everyone has the same family custom!

    We tended to choose the Santa gift by choosing the one that would have been most difficult to wrap - a bike, for example, would be an ideal Santa gift.

    With the Easter Bunny, we would leave an Easter egg (or similar - we have Easter bilbies here in Australia) on the child's bed so they'd find it when they woke up. Hiding eggs in the garden can be risky unless you have European-style manicured garden. We have an Aussie bush garden because we like to encourage the wildlife, especially birds. We have masses of bright-coloured native flowers in tight tangles everywhere, it's Indiana Jones territory, and hiding eggs, let alone hunting for them, risks someone finding something potentially dangerous. The last thing I want to do on Easter Sunday is have to rush to the ER with a spider bite. OK, nobody has died from a funnelweb spider bite since we developed antivenin back in the 80s (plus we now have a brilliant first-aid treatment that also can save lives fast, even without antivenin) so for us, the Easter Bunny has been less of an issue.

    However - I do not agree with telling kids, IF those kids are so intensely reliant on belief. You cannot risk undermining a child's faith in you as the guardians of truth. The damage has been done, when the belief in a fictional character was permitted to be established.

    That establishment of the character happens all too easily - it is such a lovely thing to believe in, because it requires little form the child that is not already expected ("be good") and it gives generously in return. Who wouldn't want to believe? When you, the parent, shatter the child's belief, you risk the child then questioning everything else you have encouraged them to believe. If you are a family with religious convictions (any religion) then you can find this is the beginning of the child starting to question the religion. "If Santa doesn't exist, maybe God doesn't either?"

    We tried to raise difficult child 3 without any Santa myth, without any Easter Bunny or similar. The problem - too many other people (stupid adults generally, rarely other kids) would take great delight in telling him. I would get so cranky - but then get told, "It's a grandparent's job, to do this."
    yeah, right. Or they would say, "Isn't it wonderful to see the enjoyment in their little faces when you tell them these stories?"
    In other words, the adults doing the damage here are doing it because they are getting a big kick out of telling pretty lies to children, but they will be long gone when we have to deal with the consequences. We did try to avoid it, we tried so hard, but other kids, teachers at school (from pre-school and even childcare onwards) and the media, all play a part in undermining a parent's resolve to never lie to the kids.

    Your child is currently getting flak at school for his belief. It's not nice, it's not fair, but I think that is the path you have to take. Do not tell him when he comes home looking for reassurance, "Don't worry darling, it's OK, they're all wrong."
    Instead, you take the opportunity then, when it arises, to share with him that the gift of giving is something that doesn't come easily to people, and we are too suspicious and always ready to look for an ulterior motive. So we like children to enjoy receiving a gift without needing to think about what they have to do in return. A Santa gift or Easter bunny gift should never have been a big thing, it is simply a token, something to help the child enjoy the wonder of the occasion. But the desire to make other people happy is in us all and it is that desire that is where Santa and the Easter bunny really live. Not the north pole, not down a burrow, but in our hearts when we do something kind for someone else, at any time of the year.

    A little child doesn't understand this, but an older child can learn to become Santa and the Easter bunny, by trying to see what kindnesses they can do for the people around them. Sometimes a smile is a gift to a total stranger. Picking up someone's shopping that they dropped is another gift - every time you do something kind for someone and don't expect anything in return (because what gifts did we ever give to Santa or the Easter bunny?) you are keeping that spirit alive inside you, and all the gifts you received as a little child are now coming back into the world, to share again. And if the child still wants more, that's OK too. He can learn to become part of the giving process, he can set up an Easter egg hunt for younger children then stand back and watch the fun.

    A big problem with making it part of a belief system, is that kids then feel a need to lie in return about their belief, because if they stop believing, the mythical creature stops giving gifts. easy child was very astute, that is why we had to begin the rule about Santa continuing to give gifts until they reached high school age (about 11, in Australia). easy child actually said to me, "My friends at school say Santa is just your parents, and I know they're probably right, but I'm scared that if I stop believing in Santa, I won't get a gift this year." So that is when we brought in the rule and I said, "It is OK to not believe, you will still get a Santa gift until you're in high school." We figured (erroneously, as it turned out in the boys' cases) that by high school age the kids would understand.

    We've never told difficult child 3 that Santa or the Easter bunny don't exist. Instead, at a predetermined age, the gifts stopped just as they did for the older kids. But we still give gifts ourselves, the kids don't miss out.

    I bought some Easter chocolate for the kids this year. The adult kids buy it for us too, so there is a general exchange of chocolate and cards. I forgot to give difficult child 3 his chocolate bunny before church yesterday (well, it WAS a dawn service and difficult child 3 was too sleepy to get up and come with us!) so when we remembered, I called him in to where husband & I were. I had been about to say, "It's form the Easter bunny," but husband stopped me.
    "Here, son, Happy Easter," husband said as he handed it over.

    Doesn't matter who it's from now. It's all chocolate!

    Regarding belief systems and autism - difficult child 1 has become intensely religious. He's turned his back on a lot of the science we surrounded him with (for me and husband, there has never been a conflict between science and religion) and now he gets a lot of support and validation from his church, so in return he has fully embraced, with fanatic zeal, every belief system they expose him to. I've heard some weird and worrying things at times, totally at odds with my own conservatively religious upbringing and frankly far more conservative, but clearly new ides expressed as "long-held tradition". I know it's not just difficult child 1's church but is actually coming from an influx into Australia of conservatism from elsewhere; my former cleaner would sometimes argue with me about the same sort of thing, he would tell me of doctrine which he was convinced was 2000 years old and when I said, "Yes, I remember when that was first proposed," he called me a heretic.

    So be aware - if your son is so tightly dependent on the belief systems in his life, he may replace one with another, so make sure he embraces the belief systems you want him to, and not anything too way out for you to handle. ie keep him away from Peanuts cartoons and "the Great Pumpkin"! (oh, there was so much wisdom in "Peanuts"...)

    This is the early pattern of his belief systems later in life. How you handle this now will also form a part of this. But only a part - it is also his own make-up that has been responsible for this.

    Not to put too much pressure on you...

  7. ML

    ML Guest

    I think I agree with husband on this one. He wants to believe, perhaps even needs to for right now. Plus, you have an entire year before having to face the bunny again.
  8. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Well, husband is afraid that I patholigze and over analyze every little quirky thing that difficult child 2 exhibits. I think that's part of his issue with me.

    On the other hand, what Marg points out about overlap of autistic traits and bipolar and the whole fantastical/belief system zeal strikes a chord with me and what I see in people in husband's family... certain faces popped into my mind and I'm nodding my head thinking, yup, that's uncle so-and-so, that's pappap, that's... So it's hard for me to NOT believe that some of this is part and parcel of difficult child 2's "disorder". He may not be an official "Aspie" but there are SO many things he does and says that leave me wondering.

    And in that vein, we have a neighbor with a strong family hx of bipolar (father, brother (who also committed suicide) who is similarly "quirky", empassioned by his belief system, often comes out with very strange comments that make you wonder about his perception of "reality"...

    But I digress.

    When difficult child 2 was confronted by his classmates last year, I addressed the maltreatment and not the issue of the belief itself. When pressed on this issue in the past, I've replied with the statement that if you don't believe in Santa, he doesn't come to your house (simultaneously accounting for the classmates who are Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or... and have different belief systems). Maybe he is afraid of losing those gifts, maybe it felt like a threat! (I sure didn't try to convey it that way!) ALthough those aren't the only gifts he gets.

    We did not attempt to hide the fact that husband hid the eggs in the yard this year. And nobody batted an eye, not even difficult child 2.
  9. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    I think you should tell him the truth, but let him know you will carry on with traditions. One of my brothers didn't catch on to the very obvious clues, and when us siblings told him the truth at age 11 the first words out of his mouth were "Mom and Dad lied to me."
  10. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I agree with SRL. I can see your husband's point of view if your son was a few years younger and was questioning a rumor he'd heard at school, but at 13yo and not having severe cognitive problems, in my humble opinion, it's in his best interest to let him know the truth. I've heard that the best approach is to let them start figuring out, then somewhat encourage them to think it through and brag on them for being smart enough to figure out, then before they get it completely, tell them the truth so the "lie" part isn't so hard on them. This worked well with my son at age 10yo- I told him it was a fun things for parents and those who loved young children the most. He still cried and blamed me for lieing but it only lasted about 5 mins or less, then he was asking if he'd still get the presents and surprise and of course, he did. Oh- and he got to start playing santa with me to fill our dogs' stockings, which he still loves doing. I do believe that at 13yo, the bigger issue is that he's believed his parents so long in spite of any harrassment or joking he's gotten at school.
  11. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    We've used the history of traditions to help over the "but they don't really exist" hurdle. For example, the Santa Claus stuff. Some years ago (about the time easy child was heading for high school) a nearby church parish we'd once belonged to, had a very involved Christmas pageant. As an old hand when it comes to acting, I volunteered for the storyteller role and had a range of stories and legends about Christmas to share with people, pitching them at different levels according to their ability to understand. I did have a script, but I found I needed to either dumb it down for tiny tots, or to add extra (accurate) detail for the adults.
    Among those were the stories about the origins of Santa. I actually went home and did even more research so I could expand with accuracy. This could be a way out - perhaps read up on Easter Bunny stories around the world and discuss where they come form. In Germany, for example, there is the "Osterhase" or Easter Hare. In fact it could well be the "Osterhase" being introduced to the US by the early German settlers in the Pennsylvania area, that has led to the US traditions today.

    Here is a Wikipedia reference you could use to begin with.

    Easter eggs have a separate origin, I'm almost certain. We're actually far less caught up with Easter Bunny in Australia than it seems you are in the US. But we very much have Easter eggs, that's for sure. Remember, for us Easter is in autumn, we don't have the Spring fertility angle here. But from a Christian perspective, the egg not only symbolises new life (and fertility, for the pagans) but it also is round, like the stone rolled away from the tomb. Orthodox Christians boil their eggs in red dye, often with bits of leaf material wrapped up with them so it leaves a leafy pattern on the egg. Easter Sunday is also a day of feasting after the long Lenten fast, so it is traditionally a time of plenty, especially (in the Northern Hemisphere) anticipating a time of plenty in the Spring and Summer to come. Again, doesn't make a lot of sense that way to us Down Under...

    We've got a bit of Australian individuality with the Easter Bilby (it's discussed at the bottom of that Wikipedia link).

    So if he needs enlightenment, you could always try Knowledge... it van make it not so bitter a pill, when the time comes that it gets forced down his neck.

  12. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    I agree with that, Marg! I later did discuss with difficult child the tradition of giving gifts to children- and it comes in all different forms almost all over the world- then went into the spirit of giving and so forth. Just the minor activity of letting him prepare the dogs' stockings and seeing them get so excited when they get their goodies got him over it and understanding pretty quickly- it's the joy of giving that counts the most. And it's even more special when it's a young child.
  13. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    Well, the opportunity came just a bit ago in the kitchen. difficult child 2 wandered in to tell me something about one of the items in his Easter basket. He got stuck in his telling to me and couldn't think of the word he wanted to use -- so I naturally helped him out since I knew exactly what he was talking about because I bought the item! He seemed a little surprised that I already knew about the detail of this thing, so that's when I asked him if he believed the Easter bunny was real. Of course it is, mom! Isn't it?...

    I supressed a smile and opened my eyes wide and kept looking at him. He insisted there was no way I could have hid all the candy from him. :rofl: Then he admitted that he'd had his doubts, but still... (he just won't let go of this!)

    So while we were on the subject of holiday mythology... I asked what he thought about Santa. That was a tougher nut, specifically because of the family tradition we've had since he was a baby with an elderly couple that dresses the part and comes to sister in law#1's house every year. It was impossible for him to think that was not the "real" S.C. because he looks the SAME, mom! Well, I tried to explain that older adults don't change a whole lot in their appearance from year to year, and that kids change a lot because they're growing. And yes, the man has a real white beard. And yes, that was his wife. But they were hired by Aunt and Uncle every year to do this for the family. We did this for the children because it was fun. And just liket he Easter bunny idea, it's something we do to make others feel good and to express our love.

    He still wasn't completely convinced. Said there's no way we would have/could have spent all the money we would have had to on the gifts over the years. No way we could have hidden all of it. He's just not reconciling it. Sigh.

    He wasn't upset, just not convinced.

    Then he came back in the kitchen and wanted to know how I'd made the rabbit tracks in the hallway all those years... I told him I'd reveal my secret when he's a bit older. But mom! I want to know so that I can do it for MY kids! Like I said, son, when you're older! I'm still chuckling.

    The fact that he is SO convinced, even in the face of my confession, is also worrisome just in terms of his gullibility. That could really be a problem for him later.
  14. klmno

    klmno Active Member

    Oh, it sounds like he's got it- just still digesting it. I'd suggest staying consistent and talk some about how much enjoyment he'll get out of doing this for his kids and seeing them be happy- since he brought that up. To me at least, this sounds like a normal process of him "getting it" and I wouldn't be too concerned, unless you stay consistent with what you are saying and he still refuses to accept it after the next round of holidays.

    I did hear about one challenging boy who told his parents around age 11yo that he KNEW there was a real Santa and what the kids told him at school about it really being your parents could NOT be true- why? Because there was no way HIS parents would do all that for him. LOL!
  15. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Wanting to know so he could do it for his kids - that reminds me of when I was about 4 years old and a neighbour dropped in with her daughter. The little toddler was wearing corduroy trousers and had short hair, I overheard her telling my mother that people kept mistaking her darling for a boy. After they left I asked my mother how they knew the baby was a girl - I didn't want to have kids of my own one day and not be able to know for sure if my baby was a boy or a girl. I was annoyed tat my mother wouldn't tell me what the difference was, she just said that I would know when I was old enough. I wanted to know how I would know, especially since she clearly was refusing to tell me!

    My mother was a tad overprotective when it came to my knowledge about sex etc.

  16. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Though it sounds like you've gone way beyond what most parents do to make it appear believable. I don't know of any parents who make rabbit signs, rabbit tracks, or leave out carrots. Everyone I know just leaves out the baskets and eggs. We always did the cookies for Santa thing and one year my dad went outside and jingled some bells in the dark of night, but other than that nothing extra to make the fib more believable.
  17. Shari

    Shari IsItFridayYet?

    I am chiming in quite late on this, but in my case, the realization that the character wasn't real was quickly paired with the opportunity to play that role for someone else.
    I asked my grandma about Santa Claus, and she never would say he wasn't real. Instead, I was told about St Nick being a real person. A real person who was very charitable and giving, and his spirit lives on in each of us, by continuing the traditions he established. And then my grandma took me to the store where I bought an item and gave it to someone else in the "name of St Nick" or, Santa Claus, and it was a really great feeling to be a part of that. Still is.
    Obviously, even tho I'm odd, I knew the difference between fact and fiction, but it was an easy transition between the two...Santa isn't entirely fictitious.
  18. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    We used to leave bunny tracks and bunny droppings for the boys. We havent done that for the grandkids yet, in fact, had forgotten about Guess it has been such a frantic ruckus most of the time with them so far.

    Im not entirely sure when my boys stopped believing in the characters but they continued to hunt eggs until Jamie left for boot camp. They loved that tradition. Really Jamie was the one who wanted it to continue so when he left it stopped. In fact, the first year he was at his barracks, we went and hid eggs for the MP's who had to stand guard at the gates at Quantico That was a riot.
  19. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    That's too funny about Jamie, Janet!

    difficult child 2 is still digesting this. I haven't brought it up again, but I'm sure it will come around eventually.