It happened today. Not for the first time, but for the first time this year. I was at the shops with my boys, and the you turned to my 4-year-old and asked, “Is Santa going to bring you some presents soon?”
There are (at least) three things I find objectionable about this question.
- “Soon” is a relative word. We’ll be going home “soon”. Daddy will come home from work “soon”. If you’re good, you may get a chocolate “soon”. But when you’re four years old, 50 days is absolutely, definitely not “soon”. So thank you for encouraging my son to ask me every fifteen minutes whether it’s Christmas yet. I’ll send my liquor bill to you.
- You have no way of knowing whether we celebrate Christmas. This may come as a surprise to you, but not every person in the world considers Christmas to be a sacred holiday. We could be Jewish, or Muslim, or Pagan, or Jehovah’s Witnesses. Or, in fact, any religion other than Christian. So thank you for potentially alienating my son by assuming that he subscribes to the same religious doctrine as you.
- Even if we do celebrate Christmas, we may not necessarily share in the “Santa brings presents” mentality of Christmas. Whether through religious beliefs, personal beliefs, or financial necessity, Santa may, in fact, not bring gifts to our home at all. So thank you for potentially making my son feel that he’s missing out on the presents that we are going to buy him.
Now, I understand that you work in customer service. I understand that, as a retail sales assistant, your very job depends on you finding something to talk to people about. I understand that you’re in a store full of Christmas decorations, Christmas music, and Christmas sales targets. I get it: Christmas is on your mind. And, really, what else do you have in common with a 4-year-old boy?
I understand. I do. I worked in retail for 15 years. I know what it’s like.
But there are more appropriate ways to begin that conversation. How about:
- Are you looking forward to Christmas?
- Are you excited about Christmas?
- Do you like our Christmas decorations?
- Do you like Christmas?
These, at the very least, don’t focus on Santa or gifts or an indefinite time-frame, and allow for the answer to be, “No. In our family we have <insert alternate celebration of choice>.” And if the child loves Santa, he’s going to immediately tell you all about it.
But if you must ask my son about Christmas, then I ask just one thing of you. Please, please, please, whatever you do, don’t ask the question that one retailer did last year:
“So, is Santa going to give you a bike for Christmas?”
Unless you’re prepared to buy that present, don’t suggest it. Because that just leads to tears on Christmas morning when Mummy and Daddy couldn’t afford one this year, and a mythical fat man didn’t pop by at the last moment and leave one under the tree.