About 10 years ago, I was working part-time and we had a sitter who came to the house to keep my kids while I worked. The young woman was highly recommended and generally did a nice job playing with the kids and taking care of them for the few hours we needed her each week.

One December day she decided to warn my son, who was 3, that he “Better be good or Santa will bring you coal for Christmas.”

He promptly replied “Great! I can play with it with my dump truck!”  He loved that dump truck.

This story is stuck in my head this week for 2 reasons.

One, is that I want to find the ability to be that creative and grateful.

Could you really give this face coal?
Wasn’t he cute?

The second thing is that I think about how the babysitter was so confused about how my child didn’t have the “normal” response to her words. It is pretty normal to get upset when you find out you aren’t going to get what you want. But my son was happy to work with whatever he got. Honestly, he could have made a glorious mess with a stocking full of coal and the tiny strip job that would have appeared in my living room Christmas morning would have given me a nervous breakdown. But he would have been happy.

Good or Bad?

The poor babysitter also didn’t realize that I had never told any of my kids they had to be “good” to get gifts. I give them gifts because I love them. That doesn’t change because of their behavior. And no matter what they did, I didn’t ever think of my kids as “bad.” Sure, they would do things that frustrated me, hurt their siblings, or made a mess. They did “bad” things. But that doesn’t mean they were bad.

So, when I actually asked my son about this story, more or less he replied that he knew it wouldn’t matter if Santa brought him coal. Mom would give him presents anyway. He was right. Nothing quite as messy as coal, though. Trust me, moon sand is far less mess!

He did not get coal. Instead he got a train set and a tiny hammer. Still less mess than real coal!

Ever Since

Each holiday season since, I have tried to channel the level of gratefulness and enthusiasm my son had that day. The ability to see fun and potential where others don’t. That is my goal. It isn’t always easy. Sometimes, both real life and presents are lumps of coal or worse. But it is up to us what we do with them.

So, if this year feels more like lumps of coal than toys, I hope you have someone in your life who can help you plan a glorious mess with what you have!

Happy Holidays

If there is a holiday that you and your family celebrate in the winter months, I hope you have a wonderful celebration. Please stay safe and warm and take care of each other. Happy Holidays!

About the Author

Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.

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