Playground apologetics

I hadn’t planned to get involved in the discussion and was only peripherally aware that the boy, about 9 years old, was arguing with Peter and Mary about the existence of the Tooth Fairy.  Peter and Mary did not seem to be overly interested in the conversation, and Peter had just last week, on the occasion of Mary losing her first tooth, been instructed to keep his opinions about the Tooth Fairy to himself.  I focused my attention on Fritz’s last soccer game, and felt that the conversation in front of me would eventually fade away to other subjects.

But then the boy turned to me and demanded, “Tell them that the Tooth Fairy isn’t real.  Tell them that you are the one who gives them the money!”

“I’m not going to tell them that,” I replied.  Really, I didn’t want to get involved.  Keep in mind that losing teeth is not an extremely big deal in this house.  The going rate for most baby teeth is a quarter, and even my 5 year old knows that isn’t a tremendous amount of money.  Often payments are late…days late…especially if the teeth came out of the mouth of a 10 year old.  But when you are 5 and you go to bed with a tooth under your pillow and the next day it has magically transformed into a coin, it’s pretty cool.  I generally don’t give specifics about the process.  “Put it under your pillow.  They say there’s a fairy who leaves you money for it.  See what happens.”  

But I couldn’t get into the nuances of the imagination with this kid. 

“If you don’t, you’re a liar,” he said.

“But I didn’t say anything…” I tried to object.

“And liars go to the fiery pit of hell!” he declared.

Well, now.  I wanted to explain that liars actually speak lies, and that remaining silent is not the same thing as lying.  I also would have liked to point out that honesty does not consist of always speaking everything you know to be true all the time.  Or openly sharing your opinion with everybody.  And make-believe/fiction is morally legitimate.  But having been officially labeled as one of the damned, he probably wouldn’t have listened.  And he was too busy moving on to his next topic: Santa Claus.

First he said, “Santa Claus isn’t real.”

Peter objected, but the kid tried to shout him down, and turned to me to see how I would respond to that one.

“Santa Claus is another name for St. Nicholas who lived in Myra, which is now Turkey,” I told him.

“He was an evil man,” he told me, “Santa is another name for Satan.”

“No, St. Nicholas was a very good man,” I said.

“No, he’s Satan!”  “Is not.”  “Is too.”  “Is not.”  “Is too.”

Really, this is what I was reduced to.

Finally another mom, unrelated to him, told him to stop arguing.  I was embarrassed.

And I do feel a bit bad about countering another parent’s catechesis of her children.  But if you tell your kids stuff that simply isn’t true, and then set them loose to tell other people that they are going to hell if they disagree, oh, well.  I’m sorry to have to correct your understanding of the history of Santa Claus, and I’ll happily loan you a book or two if you wants some facts.  I agree, Santa Claus, as is commonly portrayed in today’s media, might possibly be a force for materialism and gluttony.  But he’s not Satan.

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10 thoughts on “Playground apologetics

  1. I have had those situations arise during the years. I shut them down by just saying, “You are being disrespectful and you will be quiet right now. You do not speak to adults that way.” Makes my hackles rise though. Grrr.

  2. Good grief! Kid sounds like a real charmer… One feels he will enjoy debate club very much in a few years.

  3. Wow. I agree with Renee – “you can have your own opinion, but you're arguing with me and that's disrespectful to adults”. Sassy children are the worst. Including my own. Any update on the boy scout letter?

  4. Dear me, that last incident with the scouts and now this. The good Lord keeps you hoppin'! But I reckon you can't help but take pity on the belligerent boy – what an unfortunate sort of childhood he must have, and such a very messed up concept of faith.

  5. He sure knows how to speak his mind. Hopefully, someday, he will use that gift to glorify God.

  6. Reminds me of the Church Lady skit where she has board with magnetic letters. The magnetic letters spell SANTA. “Now, who could it be? Could it be..” She moves the N to the end of the word. “…Satan?”

  7. Tommy, these are the Church Lady's kids.

    I actually don't mind the arguing so much…just wish it were more substantial than is not/is too. But that's all he had: Mom said so, so it must be true. I do admire his tenacity to his beliefs, but I am sorry that he's wrong! Also, I hope that I am teaching my own children to be less judgmental.

    And Kimberlee, I do it is an unfortunate childhood to have so little fun and imagination. This family does not celebrate Christmas, although they are Christian. No decorations, no presents, and presumably no Secret Santa or fairies doing nice things for you throughout Advent.

    Kris, tell my kid to do his schoolwork so I have time to post the follow up to the camping situation!!!!

  8. I always think that Santa and the tooth fairy are the few fun sneaky things that I do for the kids and they enjoy them so much. I always wonder what happened to people who feel so strongly that they will “never lie” to their children that they feel the need to pop right out with info on Santa et al.

    I'm a horrible liar, and I've managed to keep Santa etc a fun mystery without ever lying.

  9. It is possible that the boy's family is Jehovah's Witness. Too bad they didn't instruct the child to respect other people's beliefs like my Witness friends do.

  10. Mom, they are messianiac Jews. There's a huge population of them here.

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