My child has been a bit of a handful lately, especially in the evenings. It’s probably a result of too many things packed into a week, fatigue, and the excitement of the holidays. The last couple evenings have been particularly trying.
In our home, we talk about Santa as a spirit of generosity and giving; Santa does not deliver gifts to our house. The spirit inspires us to give to each other. We honor this seasonal spirit during our Twelve Days of Solstice observation with prayers of gratitude and offerings of milk and cookies. Tonight, after my daughter was being exceptionally bratty about bedtime, I took a deep breath, and calmly explained what many people tell their children. She’s aware that most of her peers think Santa himself brings gifts. Today I shared another piece of that story – that parents tell their children Santa will not deliver gifts if he sees them being naughty.
“Right now,” I said, “I sense Santa’s disappointment because I am disappointed, and we are wondering if we should not give you some of the gifts we’ve picked out.”
Of course, she did not like the sound of that.
Then I took it a step further. I told her about Krampus. I think most of you know who he is. If you don’t recognize the name, go ahead and google him.
“Many of our ancestors believed in the Krampus. He is kind of a mean looking spirit who punishes naughty kids around the holidays. He puts them in a bag and beats them with his sticks!”
She became visibly shaken by this story. She asked if Krampus is real. Now, as an animist, I believe in spirits, but I also believe in the power of metaphor. My husband is very agnostic, and he feels it’s also important that we show our child different sides of belief and thinking.
So I say what I always say. “Some people believe in him. No matter what, the story of Krampus exists for a reason. Long ago, parents told their children that Krampus would do those things because winter is hard. If children don’t listen to their parents, and if they don’t help with the house, they could get very sick or die. Other people in the house could get sick and die. It’s important that we take care of ourselves, keep our bodies and homes clean, and help to make life easier for each other. So in a way, if you are naughty, you call naughtiness into the house. Naughtiness, meanness, dirtiness – it’s kind of like a spirit. We can get sick, we get stressed, we get upset. Santa is a different kind of energy. He is joy, safety, comfort. We want that kind of spirit in the house, right?”
I explained that it’s the same with school. If you are a good student, you have a happier teacher, friends who want to play with you, a clean school, a safer school. Being a good person who tries to help, rather than make like more difficult for others, is usually going to be happier. There will always be exceptions, of course… but I think it’s important to understand the value of cooperation*.
That really clicked with her. Do good things, attract good things. Give good energy to cultivate it.
And you know what? She calmed down. Assured that we work hard to keep our home safe and positive, she finished her job for the night. We went to her room, I read her a peaceful Winter Solstice story to remind her of the very happy energy about the occasion, said our prayers of good rest and protection, and it was great! I reinforced just how enjoyable it was to quickly finish her bedtime chores so that we had time (and I had energy) to read a book and sing a song.
I’m not posting this to encourage other Pagan parents to go about things this way. I just wanted to share my experience. It was interesting. As I was talking to hwe, I realized I was verbalizing a belief that I hadn’t fully articulated in the past. My relationship with Santa has evolved since I was a child, and I really felt close to that spirit tonight. Krampus, too. I don’t really think of him as a malevolent, evil being – definitely a spirit deserving of respect and distance. But I felt I understood his purpose – to remind people of the importance of helping your family, working together to prepare for winter’s dangers, and to teach our children that there are consequences beyond simply losing a momentary pleasure like television privileges. It was also probably one of the deepest conversations we’ve had about spirits, energy, ethics, and one’s reputation.
*Obviously, we want our daughter to feel comfortable with being independent, taking positive risks, not going along with peer pressure, etc. But that’s a different sort of lesson. I just wanted my daughter to brush her damn teeth. LOL