We practice Santa Claus in our home as in he comes on Christmas Eve and leaves some of the presents that my kids asked for in a letter. He flies to our home like he flew to our childhood homes and our parents’ homes and our grandparents’ homes every Christmas Eve.
We see it as a tradition not as an emphasis, and we do not participate in the SANTA WON’T BRING YOU GIFTS threat. First, because we would never ever follow through on it, but more importantly, if my kids are being good so they can get gifts, they’re missing the entire reason we are good.
Our words and actions are all we have in this world. I want to teach my children that we are kind and thoughtful and listen well because that is who we want to be. Period.
Does this mean I never reward my children for good behavior? No. They have gotten a toy for good listening during errands or candy for practicing a lesson. But they also do well in stores and don’t get a toy, get toys for just being E and N and eat a piece of candy every day because YUM CANDY.
I don’t believe that using Santa as a carrot creates mindless, materialistic children. As a child, I worried about my status with the Claus, and I am neither mindless nor materialistic (most of the time) nor are most of the children I know who grew up with the Santa threat. However, for a long time, I thought that every good deed needed to be noticed and counted — counted towards my goodness or to blame for my bad days. And I spent more days than I’d like to admit being resentful at people who forgot to say thank you.
Did Santa do that? Not exactly. But I think our society is set up on Santa scale. We are good so people will think we are good. We are angry because no one appreciates us and our sacrifices. We believe that good people deserve more, deserve better, deserve heaven, or at least deserve less bad.
What our society doesn’t reinforce is that being good, in and of itself, is the reward. Each time I chose to be understanding, kind and gentle for no other reason than because it is WHO I WANT TO BE, I feel better about who I am and what it is around me. I can look myself and the world in the eye. I have esteem because I do esteemed things. I am less tired because I’m not keeping score. I am less angry because I’m not waiting for the thank you that may never come. A thank you is nice but it becomes unnecessary.
I want to teach my children that doing the next right thing is about our hearts and our spiritual status. I don’t do good to get stuff or to prove my worth — doing good is an act of reflecting God’s love into the world. It is precisely because I love God and my fellow human beings that I want to be good.
I’d like to think that Santa is coming to town because he wants to be a good person, too.
A version of this piece originally appeared on LateEnough.com.
About the writer: Alex Iwashyna went from a B.A. in Philosophy to an M.D. to a SAHM, poet and Christian liberal by 30. She spends most of her writing time onLateEnough.com, a humor blog except when it’s serious about life, parenting, marriage, culture, religion and politics. She has a muse of a husband, two young kids and a readership that gives her hope for humanity.