Stranger Danger and Santa Claus: A Muddled Message

I always vowed I wouldn’t force my kids to sit on Santa’s lap, for a few reasons.
  1. I didn’t like to do it as a kid.
  2. Most “mall Santas” look so inauthentic I envisioned my 3-year-old seeing right through the plastic boots and fake beard and ruining the magic of Santa before it had barely begun. Seriously, aren’t most of them sort of creepy and sad?
  3. I figured why spend all year teaching them to stay within their own comfortable boundaries with people — not forcing them to hug relatives, not making them talk to strangers we pass at the store — and then go and plop them on some random guy’s lap and expect them to talk to him like he’s their grandfather?
  4. I was reluctant to start the tradition of gift expectation. “Tell Santa what you want for Christmas” is something that hasn’t occurred to my son yet; he has no idea that he can ask for a certain present this time of year and Santa very well may deliver it. I’m sure that day is coming, but I rather enjoy the freedom to shop without any pressure of a child’s expectations.
So for those reasons listed above as well as our general laziness, bringing the boys to a local Santa hadn’t been on our holiday Things to Do list. Funny how the magic of Christmas finds you, though, even when you’re not searching for him. Er, it. We were in York this past weekend and stopped at a local nursery and market we’d heard about for a bite to eat. We’d barely sat down when this guy showed up.

Most Adorable Santa-Related Candid Ever.
He looked so sweet and genuine that I could literally feel all my icy-cold, heartless “Reasons For Not Liking Mall Santas” melting away right there inside the greenhouse. Suddenly I was a puddle of commercial Christmas mush. I started planting seeds before our sandwiches were even delivered to the table. “Do you want to sit on Santa’s lap?” I asked Evan. “Let’s take your picture with Santa Claus after lunch!!” I prodded Kostyn.

I didn’t like myself, but I couldn’t help myself. Suddenly I wanted that elusive perfect picture with this perfect Santa. I was regretting the outfits I’d put the boys in this morning. And the fact that both of them are about a month overdue for haircuts. And every time Kostyn smeard ketchup on his shirt, I winced.

As we ate, the boys watched other children get their pictures taken with Santa. Evan kept chanting “Santaaaaaaah!” like an obnoxious frat boy; I thought he’d be a sure thing for Santa’s lap.

Not so much.

Within 3 seconds of walking up to Santa it became obvious I was going to have to sit with him too if I wanted my boys to come within 20 feet of the bearded fellow. Thank goodness he was on a bench big enough for two, because there ain’t no way I was giving Santa’s lap a spin.

Evan felt the same way.

Holding on for dear life.
We tried to coax Kostyn over to sit with us, but he was not havin' it. Until we bribed him with the promise of a candycane. At the mention of sugar his face brightened and he high-stepped it over to us. The next thing I knew, Santa was hugging Kostyn. Or Kostyn was hugging Santa, I'm not sure which, but the whole thing caught everyone off guard, including the photographer.

The look on Kostyn's face is how I envision 90 percent of kids feel when placed atop Santa's lap.
Luckily, sugar always makes a kid smile. (Mine anyway.)

We left with two happy boys holding candy canes, no perfect picture on Santa's lap, and a mother who finally regained her sense of What's Most Important Is That My Kids Feel Comfortable.

Which is probably why the more I look at this picture, the more I love it.

Happiness. Wonder. Excitement. Christmas.

1 comment:

Jules said...

Those are great pictures!

What do you mean by "I figured why spend all year teaching them to stay within their own comfortable boundaries with people — not forcing them to hug relatives, not making them talk to strangers we pass at the store..."

I haven't heard of this before. Where is the line between teaching them to be polite and respectful and building a comfort level?