“Adoption—the Santa Claus Syndrome”

As I reflect on my childhood, I now am uncomfortable with the concept of Santa Claus.

Today, I would not intentionally lie to my children, but I did, because their father and I went through our children’s early childhoods taking them to see Santa in the Mall and we dutifully laid out cookies and milk and hid presents under the tree.

I now see that I was guilty of imposing the Santa Claus Syndrome on my children. As an adoptee, I should have known better. But I fell for the cultural bias of the times. And I now despise what I did, and I despise the way I was raised, too, with lies of all sorts.

Sure, as a young child I was delighted, but when I realized that the wonder of Santa was a lie, I felt deceived.

Just as my childhood was ending, at 18, I got the biggest shock of my life. That’s when I was found by siblings I was never supposed to know. That’s when all the lies told to me by my adoptive parents began to unravel. That’s when I saw, for the first time in my life, that I had a birth certificate in the name of Joan Wheeler, but I also had one in the name of Doris Michol Sippel. And, like Judith Land, I also had two baptismal certificates, each handwritten and certified by the Catholic priest at our parish, the parish of my birth and baptism. So many lies. As Judith says, this lying and perjury “is not acceptable behavior”.

Adoption Detective | A True Story by Judith Land

“You don’t have to be a child to be a victim of Santa Claus syndrome. Anyone who has ever been intentionally lied to, is aware of the hurtful feelings of deceit. Santa Claus syndrome is the intentional deceit of others with the rationalized ideal that tarradiddles, falsehoods, untruths, lying, fair tales and perjury are acceptable behavior.” —Judith Land, Adoptee

Santa Claus Syndrome There are things in this life that we must come to terms with at some point in our lives. Some childhood awakenings are quite simple, while others become quite traumatic.

The threat of being judged and exiled has a strong effect on the human soul and the fragile psyche and the spirit of an adoptee. “Santa Claus only brings presents to good little boys and girls. If your behavior doesn’t improve, we’ll send you back to where you came from.” I know these feelings from firsthand experience. I had never had an honest or open conversation…

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