Virginia O’Hanlon could not be reached for comment. Neither could Francis Pharcellus Church, the New York Sun editor whose tender response to O’Hanlon’s 1897 letter opened with the optimistic affirmation “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
The famed editorial went on to allow as how “Santa Claus exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist” and that the child’s friends in school who denied the jolly elf’s existence were victims of “a skeptical age” who “do not believe except they see.”
That argument used to be good enough. Not anymore. We live in an even more skeptical age — one characterized, moreover, by vengefulness.
Exhibit A is the plight of the California mother who recently told her 6-year-old son that Santa Claus is a myth. He turned around and did what all kids do and told his friends. They in turn told their moms … who turned around and did what far too many people do these days at the drop of hat: They threatened legal action.
The target of their hatred, known only as “crazy_moms_throwaway,” posted on Reddit:
Today via courier (not the mail), I received a rather threatening letter from a well-known, local, elite law firm threatening suit due to emotional damage, flagrant disregard to parental rights, and facilitating the loss of innocence of child wonderment. Yeah, seriously.
I should mention that one of the kids is related to a lawyer at this law firm, I believe a brother of one of the angry mom’s works there.
The letter has 8 kids [sic] names that were “traumatized” by my son’s “negligent actions” and demands that he stay away from them at all times, he is to never interact with them.
Here is the icing on the cake, in lieu of suit: the letter states that I need to pay for a fully interactive “Santa Experience” whereby a hired Santa will be hosted at one of the kids houses for a “Santa Experience” where he hands out presents (at my expense), sings songs with all 8 kids, and offers general Christmas cheer. The purpose of this is to “reverse the damage my son caused and re-spark the child like wonderment that surrounds the holidays.”
They have given me until the 15th of September to “rectify this unfortunate situation.”
As a single mom, I really do not have the cash on hand to hire a lawyer. I am tempted to take this to the school principal for assistance…any advice here would be appreciated. I could honestly not give to [sic] flying f*cks about these kids (I seriously doubt they are traumatized), but I need to protect myself and my little boy.
The post has received 776 comments, a fair percentage of them from attorneys willing to take on the case pro bono. Other writers took a posture no less vindictive and venomous than that of the litigious mothers. One wrote:
Some public shaming of this law firm is in order. They are attempting to extort money out of you by intimidating you. Post the letter on Facebook (or on Reddit), and I bet they will back down pretty fast after they realize what a fool they have made of themselves.
This mentality merely pours oil on an already out-of-control conflagration and is as unwelcome as crazy_moms_throwaway’s gratuitous profanity — which frankly makes her a less sympathetic figure.
In its own treatment of this story, the Daily Mail quotes Pauline Haycraft, “a leading childcare expert,” who insists that “the complaining mothers have done ‘far more damage to the magic than the little boy’ in this situation” than the painful revelation shared:
As a parent all you need to say is “okay, that’s what they believe in their house but in our house we believe in the magic of Christmas.”
I would suspect that these kids don’t believe at all now because mummy has gone berserk — every child should be entitled to talk about what they believe in.
That seems like sound advice, especially if it can help the kids grow up to be more responsible as parents than their own.
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