The Naughty AND Nice List
“What if there was a ‘Naughty AND Nice’ list, Mommy?” my oldest asked me. We were in the living room enjoying our daily viewing of The Polar Express.
“What do you mean, honey – not either-or, but naughty and nice at the same time?”
“Yeah. But that wouldn’t be possible…” he said, dismissing the thought. At seven, he sees the world in black and white.
“Well, hold on just a minute – remember the coal…?” It was in a little dish on the side table in our dining room.
I’d picked it up at our oil company last year as I was walking past it down the rail trail one day. I had told the kids that if they didn’t change their “Gimme-that-it’s-mine-shut-up-poopy-idiot-whack” behavior, Santa would bring them coal instead of presents for Christmas. But I’d realized how ridiculous it was for me to say that, because what did they know about coal? When we barbecue it’s with a gas grill and we heat our house with oil.
My initial intent was simply to illustrate the threat, though I began to get a knot in my stomach as I waited for the office manager to pause in her conversation with an older gentleman. “Uhmmmmm… do you mind if I pick up a few pieces of coal from the shed?”
She laughed politely. She herself has children, so I am sure she knew what I was thinking. However, not at all amused, the man sitting with her said gravely “Oh, no! I got coal once when I was a kid and I’m still in therapy over it!”
I knew then without a doubt that it was wrong for me to attempt to control my kids’ behavior with threats of coal in the first place. It would ultimately be meaningless when they received the stockings full of treats and the presents under our tree that Santa had promised them in the letters he had sent. I wasn’t going to be the one to shake their belief and trust in Santa Claus.
“Where’d you get that?”
“Is that chocolate?”
“Oh, no! Don’t put that in your mouth!” I snatched a hunk out of my then 18-month-old son’s little fist. “It’s coal, boys. It’s supposedly what Santa Claus brings to naughty children. Remember?” Their eyes grew wide.You don’t have to be perfectly good to deserve presents. We all mess up sometimes. Click To Tweet
But I couldn’t bear to let them squirm.
“Don’t worry, boys. I am 100% certain that Santa is not going to – nor would he ever – bring you coal. You don’t have to be perfectly good to deserve presents. We all mess up sometimes. Let’s just try not to be any more naughty than we’ve been. Deal?”
“Deal!” They quickly agreed, obviously relieved.
“Now go and wash before we eat, please.”
This year I’d put the coal out again as a reminder that it’s never too late for a “do-over.”
“Yeah – I’d be on the ‘Naughty and Nice’ list,” my middle son interjected. He knew I’d about reached my limit with his recent bad language and name calling. He was the child for whom, when filling out his kindergarten paperwork the year before, I’d answered “Potty Talk” in response to “other languages spoken in the home?”
I ruffled his overgrown blond buzzcut. “We all would, angel. We all would.”