With only a few days to go before ‘C Day’, yesterday I had to pull the big guns out of my parental bag and threaten the ultimate in punishments. Cancelling Christmas. Or rather informing my daughter that if she didn’t quit with the naughty and start delivering more of the nice, then she’d be waking up to find a rather sad and empty stocking at the end of her bed.
This is obviously not something I’d ever want to do. It would ruin my day for a start – and then leave me with the problem of what to do with all those presents rattling around under our bed.
But the problem is, when you spend a large percentage of the year telling your child that Father Christmas only comes for those children who’ve been good, it does rather put you in a difficult dilemma when they then go and act like the devils spawn.
To be fair it’s not that she’s particularly naughty, as children go. She doesn’t have a criminal record or a HASBO to her name. She doesn’t even wander the streets with a penknife and a can of spray paint, mugging old ladies as she goes. No, her problem – along with every other 8-year-old in the world – is that she just doesn’t bloody listen. To me. Ever.
Everyday, or so it seems, I am met with the blank look, sulky pout or miserable face of a child who just doesn’t want to do what she’s just been asked. Which I could well understand if the asking in question was about going outside to kill a chicken for dinner, or working down a coal mine to earn her keep. But it’s not. It’s more of an eat your dinner / brush your teeth / hurry up and get into the car sort of ask.
Of course I’m sure when I was her age I was probably a right royal pain in the backside at times. But that’s a while ago now, my memory is sketchy and that’s beside the point. As I keep saying to her, I really don’t understand how hard it can be to just go along with what I ask, listen from time-to-time, and use her ears more than her mouth.
So what’s a parent to do? Threaten the worst and then follow through? Or fill them with the fear of a present-less Christmas, and then relent at the end?
My husband could probably quite easily go through with the first option, and still sleep well at night. I, on the other hand, couldn’t. Christmas for me has always been about the stocking.
Nothing beats seeing the sheer excitement on my children’s faces as they attempt to haul their body weight in stuffed stockings across our bedroom floor. It’s the highlight of my day. Or rather my night, as this inevitably happens a mere 15 or so minutes after we’ve wrapped the assorted presents, deposited them at the end of the beds and finally gone to sleep ourselves.
So once again I have had to explain and outline to my daughter the terrible consequences that naughtiness can bring. This was followed up by returning the ‘missed call’ I’d received on my mobile from Santa. With my incredibly concerned child hovering in the next room, her ears wildly flapping like an African elephant, I apologised for her bad behaviour, promised she wouldn’t do it again and wished him a safe flight.
What I hadn’t taken into account in my oh so cunning plan, was the steam railway trip we had planned to take them on the very next day – to see the very man himself. My poor daughter was so nervous about being told off she practically had to be shoved past the overgrown elf and into the grotto.
Not only did this make me feel like total and utter crap, but as I had to hurriedly reassure her that she hadn’t been quite bad enough to get no presents at all, it also made the whole point of my exercise completely pointless. Marvellous.