As a mom, I’m not one for empty threats. I’m not overly fond of threatening my kids at all, but in my world, when all else fails, threats work. After 4.8 billion times of making the same request to an audience that’s chosen to ignore you, eventually you’ll start chucking anything out there. “If you don’t pick up your toys I’ll throw them all away.” The problem with that threat is, it’s usually an empty one, which you realize when you’re astute and stubborn child says, “Fine, I was tired of these toys anyway.” That’s when it dawns on you how much time, energy and money it will cost to follow through on that threat and you change your tune. Now your spawn has you by the balls, and they know it. I learned this early on, when I only had one child. Now I only make threats I’m damn sure to follow through on.

At least I thought I did.

While getting ready for school this morning the 3-year-old was being his normal,willful, 3-year-old self.

“Okay, let’s get dressed,” I repeated once, then twice, then many, many more times, over and over again before he finally muttered, “I not listening to you.” That was plainly obvious. That’s when I whipped out the big guns. SANTA threats. “You know who really doesn’t like when little boys don’t listen?” I answered in a very serious tone… “Santa.” His name hung in air as I spoke it in a type of whisper, almost like Harry Potter speaking the name of Albus Dumbledore… with reverence. The monkey’s eyes grew very wide. That little shit was listening now. Gotcha. “Yeah, Santa is watching everything you do,” I continued, “and if you aren’t being good, and listening to Mommy and Daddy… {here it comes, the kicker} he’ll give you a lump of coal!” The 3-year-old looked relieved? {Really? What?} “Yeah, Cole doesn’t like to listen either.”

Oh shit.


“No, not Cole your friend, a lump of coal,” I tried to clarify, failing miserably. “What’s a lump of coal?” he said curiously.

And there you have it, the emptiest threat of all! A threat he doesn’t understand.

As I started to think about how to explain coal to a 3-year-old I found myself laughing. Sure, coal is mined and widely used here in the United States but we live in Florida. You don’t have coal miners here. Sure, we have charcoal, but that’s not coal. Have I ever even seen an actual lump of coal myself? I just accidentally broke the cardinal rule of dealing with a toddler, “It doesn’t exist if I can’t see it.” This is Mom 101 here and I’m failing like an out-of-state Freshman. I had to come up with something quick to cover my ass. Something he’d understand. Something that would make sense to him as the equivalent of coal, as the anti-gift from the jolly Saint Nick that would leave him spinning in place all day, thinking about how he needs to start listening so he doesn’t get screwed on Christmas morning. It had to be real. It had to be tangible, and it had to be something that wasn’t an empty threat.

“Coal is a brand new iPad without a charger, and no one else’s charger will work either.”

The monkey got really quiet.

“I’m gonna listen from now on, okay Mommy?”

Mission accomplished.

I’m sure this will come back and bite me in the ass when he eventually learns about fossil fuels.


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3 Thoughts on “It’s the Most Threatening Time of the Year

  1. You might have said “a smelly, old diaper” instead of coal. Germain reference, you know.

  2. deb Mulford on November 11, 2014 at 3:13 pm said:

    I just say, you’ll get nothing. Lol I’ve already had to dish out the Santa threats in my classroom. 🙂

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