You’d better watch out!

I love Christmas.

It’s not the festive decorations, the delicious food, the warm-hearted traditions, the gathering of family and friends, and the timelessness of the Child in the manger.  All those are good, but try their utmost, they cannot instill the Christmas spirit in parents if said parents’ children do not cooperate.

In other words, if KID=BRAT, then MOM=CRANKY.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  You see, Christmas is the one time of year when I can threaten and bribe for good behavior– and still remain an upstanding parent.

I always swore I’d never be one of *those* moms who dangles no Santa and a toyless Christmas over the little ones’ heads to make them mind.  Yet it’s so hard to resist such a tried-and-true method of behavior modification.

It all started the other night.  As usual, the Maiden was trying to worm her way out of bedtime.  As usual, I wasn’t buying it.  As usual, we were at an impasse.  But this time, I had a brain flash: “You know,” I hinted broadly, “Santa can see you when you’re not listening to me.”

She paused.  Could he?  She wasn’t sure.

“Yes, of course,” I said, searching my mind for the demand for proof that I knew would follow.  Got it! “In fact,” I continued, “it says so right in the song!”  I caroled a few lines from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town,” putting special emphasis on “He sees you when you’re sleeping,/He knows if you’re awake.”

The Maiden’s eyes were wide.

She doesn’t believe everything in books, which is good, although I think it’s because she doesn’t always believe we’re reading verbatim from the story. (Which, to be honest, we aren’t.  I confess to skipping a few redundant pages of Cat in the Hat yesterday, saving myself 15 seconds of torture.)

But a song, that’s a different matter.  You can’t mess with a song.  What’s there is there.  Official.  Gospel.  To be believed.

I heard a whooshing noise, the sound of my perfect parenting skills going down the drain.  I ignored it.  This was way too good an opportunity to lose, Bad Mommy Award or not.

Keep saying stuff, keep reinforcing, I told myself.  “He knows if you’ve been bad or good…” I finished the song.

The Maiden burrowed down in her covers and put her head on the pillow.  “Do you think Santa sees me going to sleep?” she asked.

“Oh, certainly he does,” I said, glad the dark room hid my victorious smile and slightly embarrassed face.

I hate to reduce Santa to a CIA operative.  But how can I not, when zeal for presents means the Maiden is dressed and ready for school on her own initiative?  And although the legend portrays him as a jolly old elf, isn’t old Claus in reality a spy?

Think about it.  He maintains a list, with names and addresses.  He keeps an eye on our children, stalking them both during the day, and, what’s scarier, at night.  He knows when they’re asleep!  Shouldn’t someone call the cops?

Of course, he could be a good spy, not a creepy one.  He’s certainly helping us out in the behavior department, he wants what we want for our kids (as in, them sleeping a lot), and he takes credit for presents we pay for gives free loot to our kids.  His name is “Claus, Santa Claus.”  And he likes his egg nog shaken, not stirred.

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