In one of the tales from childhood... you know, the ones Mom or Dad insist on telling every chance they get, my father explains how he came to never use Santa as a weapon or bargaining chip. I have tried desperately to keep that same lesson with my own children. Sadly, I am at a point where Santa might be the only behavioral lesson they just might learn.
Last year my oldest received Christmas gifts from the family, but nothing from Santa. Days before Christmas he stole a gift out of the Toys for Tots box at my workplace. I believed that had to be something so rotten as to deserve a "no Santa Christmas."
The thievery has continued for much of this year. A sneak here or there, coupled with a few events at school (twice in three days) and big monetary loss when collectable coins were stolen. Add the inevitable collusion with a brother who worships him so much that he would even take the blame to protect him, and we have a big batch of naughty.
I have come to the conclusion that no matter how much positive attention we give our oldest, he still desires to be punished. I realize there are psychological reasons behind his behavior but enough is enough. According to our therapist he is most certainly secure in our loving home and attachment is not the issue. Therefore we are at a loss as to how to help him overcome the deep dark angry monster that eats at him every day.
While the two younger boys, who are not innocent by any means, will be receiving replacement items for those stolen earlier this year (by real thieves, not big bro), he will not. Santa will not be coming for him this year, much to the consternation of Nichole who believes we should replace the stolen bicycle, along with the scooter and skateboard. I on the other hand hope to prove a point when the little ones see their new bikes and his is non-existent.
So now comes a new dilemma. Our second oldest is beginning to act out based on his need to relieve some of big brother's frustration. Together they are sneaking and getting in to things meant for Christmas. Do I hold them to the same standard? Should child #2 also loose out on a visit from Santa? Or is there a way around it, like remove one gift and tell him it went to the orphans. Maybe I should let him open a few gifts and then immediately remove them to be given to the orphans.
It is hard for me to discipline the boys in what they would deem equal treatment. They each have their issues that manifest differently and they each respond differently to certain punishments. So how then do I do this in a fair manner where my oldest doesn't see favoritism?
Christmas is not about Santa or gifts. It is about family, love and most of all Christ. It is the only "birthday" that the guests receive gifts rather than give them to the guest of honor. But that is an adult understanding, not a child's. My faith teaching is that love forgives. But my social upbringing teaches me that although love forgives, discipline or punishment is part of the penance paid. To be dramatic and cliche', "do the crime - do the time." Once your time is paid up, then the slate is clean and forgiveness granted.
I love my boys more than anything. My heart aches for them each time they suffer. All I really want to do is fill them with love and guide them to the goodness that is within. I want to be proud of their accomplishments and for their accomplishments to outweigh the disappointments. I want them to be good citizens with good values, and to know that some of that goodness came from us and the way we raised them. It is every parent's dream. Is this too much to ask?