Friday, December 23, 2005

Coal and Other Currencies

Ho-ho-ho and a lump of coal. This year Sweet M. has gotten the idea that if she isn't good that Santa will bring her a stocking full of coal.

Although we are not proponents of the coal myth, we have encouraged the belief in Santa, patriarchal though it is . . . [patriarchal because all of Mom's hidden elfish work is attributed to a jolly old white guy from the North Pole.] We're assuming that she got the coal section of the story from a cartoon, because it's not a part of the story we emphasize.

Anyway, the coal story has proven to be a remarkable behavior modifier. As soon as she got the idea into her head, she was going out of her way to be helpful and sweet. One night she even brought me a plate of cookies and milk and said, "Here, I've gotta be good so that Santa will come."

But the Santa-coal story is cutting both ways this year. The year is an unusually tight one for us. [More on that in a future post on the hidden costs of having an autie child.] In the midst of my financial tightrope walk, I held-off on ordering from Amazon and eToys until there was cash in the account to cover them. Although we made the cut-off date for standard shipping, the gifts still aren't here and I'm waiting anxiously. Because this year, if her list to Santa doesn't make it, it will mean something: she'll think she was bad.

And that's the problem with this myth, of course. It's a myth that says if you don't get what you wished for that you're bad. It's a myth that says if you're not well paid and always gainfully employed, you're bad. It's a myth that has me wondering, when I look at my bank balance, are we bad?


Octobermom said...

Ah, the Santa debate! This one's always tough at our house as the husband and I try to explain to the kids (well, the 5 year old NT one as the 3 year old ASD one is still too little to attempt the explanation to) that Santa is a really great story but not necessarily real, while not smashing what is probably the sweetest kiddie fantasies there is.

Your last sentence has really stayed with me.

kristina said...

Charlie costs us more than what I make (and I would pay more if I could)--he does not ask for much, aside from his favorite fast-food meals and the toys he used to have and already has. But like your M., my sweetheart boy has been haunted of late with the worry of Being Bad and Something Bad happening as a result.

We have been très low-key about Santa this year and I think we'll just proceed on to the adult reality: Mom and her credit card!

Anonymous said...

Ah, the coal story. I never got a lump of coal, but I was a hyper aspie kid and not always on my best behavior (that's putting it mildly), and one Easter my mom gave me a very large potato in my Easter basket, right in the middle of the candy. (She had been telling me I would get a potato if I didn't behave, but I didn't take that seriously.)

I decided to pretend that it didn't bother me at all, and I convinced my sister (who got a much smaller potato in her basket) to help me make french fries out of the potatoes. When our mom woke up, we were happily making a mess frying potato pieces!

Wade Rankin said...

I have never mentioned the "lump of coal" threat with any of my kids. Christmas expectations are hard enough without that. Even without the overty punitive threat of the coal, however, I always worried about the blows to self worth that can come from seeing Santa treat friends better. Fortunately, by the time my older kids started comparing their gifts with those of friends, they also strated to realize that Santa's work was "outsourced." They have always been pretty good about accepting that their Santas were not able to deliver the same goods that other kids' Santas might have managed.

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