Truth be told I have a problem with Santa. Not with the jolly old man with sparkling blue eyes and whiter than snow whiskers. But the myth behind the man. The myth that causes those idle threats that terrify the young. You know the one that’s based on that oh so popular song? The one that has something to do with pouting and shouting? The one with the lists… and checking them twice? Yeah, that one.
You see way back when Rebecca and Christopher were very young I did the same thing that most well meaning mothers do. I would tell them to mind their manners, mind their mother, mind each other, mind their teachers and be good because Someone was watching. Someone was making up lists and Someone would be giving presents to good little boys and girls. I am sure my mother did the same. I am pretty sure that when I was older she told me I was going to get coal in my stocking. I am pretty sure that she did as a teen. It was a joke. But still a cruel one.
The pleasures of the season rival the pressures. This I do believe. As parents we have presents to purchase not just for our children but their teachers and specialists and coaches and whatnots. It can get to be a lot to handle, not to mention pricey. There are grab bags and party favors. Christmas is more than decking the halls and lighting the tree. Christmas is more than a few presents under the tree. Christmas is parties and events and invitations. Christmas is shows and pageants and extravaganzas. Christmas is a crazy, wonderful, hectic, exhausting time of year.
Not only are we rushing around at warp speed, but so are the children. Not only are we getting less sleep and rest, but so are the children. Not only are we wiped out. But so are the children. And they have something that we don’t have. They have something exponentially much more important. They have pressure. The pressure to be good. Not just here and there. Not just for a few minutes at a time. But all the time. All day and all night. And they must go to bed and sleep tight. Through the night. Because He knows when you are sleeping.
You know how draining it is for kids to be good in school all day. Sometimes it takes such an effort for them to be angelic that the moment they see you at the end of the day, their little faces crumple up and the floodgates open and the tears start and they are hungry and tired. Tired from being so damned good. And you embrace them and while you really wish they would save some of that goodness for you every once in a while, you understand the importance of them holding it all together for their teachers. It takes a lot of work and determination. Now, for the most part kids can just let go a little bit at the end of the day. Unless it is December. In December they absolutely can not let down their guards. And that’s the trouble with Santa Claus.
I remember how Christopher and Rebecca went from being such pleasant children (for the most-part) to whiny, terrible, devilish little creatures. I had no idea who these little people were who looked a great deal like my very own offspring. But clearly from the beahiours exhibited, these little people were from another planet.
And then one day 4 years ago I remember having a little talk with Christopher’s teacher who is a wise — one of the wisest — woman. I remember telling her how emotionally drained I was because my children were so terrible, Christopher especially. Mrs. Shannon had an answer for everything. And it was always the right answer. Still is in fact. Well, she looked me in the eye with a look that told me I had to cut the kids some slack. She explained to me that the kids were under terrible, terrible pressure to be good at all times. And then it dawned on me that she was absolutely, positively right!
Christmas is supposed to be a wonderful, magical time of year. Kids look forward to nothing more than stockings and a tree brimming with presents. How magical to go to bed with an empty tree and then to wake up to see presents piled all over the place! But how wonderful is that if, as a small child you worry that one wrong action could possibly prevent Christmas from arriving at all at your house? Not so great, is it?
And that was when I stopped using Santa as a threat. And that has made all the difference. Every once in a while the kids will tell each other that they have to be good because Someone is watching. But I will never threaten them with Santa Claus. Never! I will continue to take away television. Much more effective and better for the family all around!
Just something to think about.