Forget Elf on the Shelf. I don’t have time to move the little guy around each night because I’m spending my whole life on the phone with Santa.
It started out small. We were potty-training our toddler and said, “If you go pee pee on the potty, Santa will be very happy.” The look on our son’s face as his eyes widened told us everything we needed to know: this worked.
So we handed him a book while he did his business, and before we knew it, he was potty-trained. (Disclaimer: It was not before we knew it. It was at least a month later. But still.)
Then our son started preschool. His behavior turned wild as he adjusted to the new environment. The teacher said he was “energetic and active,” but her eyes said “rowdy and mischievous.” We tried every technique: talking to him, reassuring him, being tough, being lenient. No dice. Our house was utter chaos. Anarchy. Until we remembered jolly old St. Nick.
“Do you want me to call Santa and tell him you were being naughty at school?”
“Then let’s stop being naughty at school.”
And so our son behaved. (Disclaimer: It was not quite as easy as that. But almost.)
However, as with any trick, its effectiveness soon wore off. “Do you want me to call Santa and tell him you hit your sister?”
“Yes. And can you tell him I want the train set instead of the firefighter costume?”
Um, what? No. That wasn’t how this was supposed to work!
“Oh, I’ll call him alright, but only to tell him not to send you any toys.”
And so it escalated from there.
I spent half of September and all of October on the phone with Santa, in between sips of wine and discussions with my husband about what to do. I upgraded my phone plan to include the North Pole and upgraded my wine cabinet to hold way more bottles.
We decided to back off the Santa talk and attempt logic and reasoning instead. We listened to our son and tried to understand what the issue really was each time. His behavior improved. No man-in-red-suit necessary. (Disclaimer: It was definitely not that easy. But it wasn’t too bad. Plus I had so much wine!)
Things went well until fall break. Being off school for two weeks (Two weeks! Will someone please let me go back to school?) completely disrupted his routine. Goodbye angelic behavior, hello smacking his sister in the face with her teddy bear.
And that meant goodbye effective parenting technique, and “Hello, Santa? It’s me again.”
The renewed novelty of the tactic worked. For one whole day. But then our son was back to seeing right through our ploy.
“If you hit your sister one more time,” I said, phone in hand, “I’m calling Santa!”
“OK!” Then he hit his sister and waited with wide eyes.
He was calling my bluff.
So I had to call Santa.
“Hi, Santa? Yep… ha ha, I really should put you on speed dial.” Great, now I was joking with the imaginary person on the other end of the line. I’d really lost it. “Anyway,” I continued, still with no one on the other end of the line, “Leo’s been naughty again so you can just keep his toys this year… OK, great, thanks… Yeah, sorry to bother you. Again.” Click.
SMACK. He had whacked his sister in the face with her teddy bear. Again. She started to wail while he just sat there expectantly.
Then Papa had a suggestion. “How about Mommy calls Santa back and tells him to give all your presents to your sister?”
Our son thought about it for a second (don’t ask me why we waited for his response to a rhetorical question) and said, “Yes! Great idea.”
Why was he so excited? Was there a loophole we hadn’t foreseen? Oh… yep. He realized he could just steal his sister’s presents. Crap.
Enough was enough. I set the phone back on the hook. I vowed then and there to stop calling Santa. This 3-year-old mastermind was going to outwit me at any game I tried to play. So it was time to stop playing games.
No more Santa threats. No more relying on an external device when instead I needed to address the problem head-on, no matter how tough it would be. No more calls to the North Pole.
Well, maybe just one. “Hello, Santa? It’s me again. I’d like a case of wine for Christmas. Thanks, old friend.”
About the Author
Vicki Lesage proves daily that raising French kids isn’t as easy as the hype lets on. She penned three books in between diaper changes and wine refills: “Confessions of a Paris Party Girl,” “Confessions of a Paris Potty Trainer,” and “Christmas Confessions & Cocktails.” She writes about the ups and downs of life in the City of Light at VickiLesage.com. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.