When I was younger, one of the events I looked forward to the most was opening gifts from “Santa” on Christmas Eve. As part of the tradition, my parents always told me that naughty kids received coal in their Christmas stocking instead of a present. It was a story that that was meant to tip the scales towards good behavior for the rest of the year.
I never really took it seriously. When my cousins and I played to together, I was the one who cried; I was not the one who would make others cry. The coal thing was irrelevant, until I was around five, when I did get a piece of coal from Santa.
There were still presents, but that coal stood out like a mark of shame. The most vivid part of that memory was the embarrassment of having to pull out my hand from that stocking, gripping a crumbling black lump.
Years later, when the whole Santa thing has been explained, I asked my parents what I did to make them put coal in my stocking. They said that I really didn’t do anything wrong. They just wanted to motivate me to be better.
This story turned out to be one of the funnier stories of my childhood. However, I can’t say I would pass on this tradition to my own kids.
Now that I’m older and expecting my own kid, I find myself disagreeing with a lot of things that my parents say, especially when it comes to advice on parenting and my career. My parents are the most wonderful parents I know, but the truth is, I want to do things my own way.
It’s a strange thing, this new dynamics. As kids we think of our parents as infallible. As teens, they become strangers then ideally, friends. As an adult, I’m realizing more and more than they are just like me, struggling to do their best. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this realization turns me into a gentler, better child (because no matter how old you are and how different you turn out, your parents are still your parents). Hopefully, my kids will return the favor and forgive me for my own parenting mistakes.