Does anyone else's kid hate Santa?
Here me out. Not the idea of Santa or the fact that Santa leaves them gifts and eats the mince pie they leave out. I'm referring to the man that you need to queue for.
The person who (god love him) sits hundreds of crying children on his knee every day of December, wearing an uncomfortable-looking face-wig. As my 4-year-old calls him, Santa's helper (she happens to be one of those tiresome kids who looks for the bands of the fake beard and announces to all that he is not, in fact, the real Santa. He's an actor Santa hired during the busy season. I blame Miracle on 34th Street for this revelation.)
Yes, it is a magical time of year. But the yearly visit we do to Santa's grotto to get THAT PHOTO is not so magical. Every snap I've ever taken has a similar theme. It began with crying when she was one and more tears at her second Christmas. The last few Christmases shes looked at him almost frightened, doubt and uncertainty on her little face.
The theme is uncomfortable. The heat of the venue- whether it's school Santa or shopping centre Santa, it's almost always sauna Santa. The impatience brought on by endless queueing. That one child that cries through the whole thing (it's been my child twice). Unsurprisingly, both mother and daughter leave the annual Santa visit feeling uncomfortable.
So why do we do it? Why do we dress them up as if we are decorating a Christmas cake, make them sit on Santa's lap with a big fake smile (if you're lucky.) Even the conversation is uncomfortable. You're praying that your kid won't comment on the fake beard or say/do anything else incriminating.
When Santa asks 'have you been good?', your little one looks back at you remembering the freaker they threw in the queue. Every child is 'good' until you decide to force them out of their comfort zone and make them sit on a strangers lap: 'Darling, do you remember that conversation we just had about not talking to strangers and body boundaries? Yeah, well forget all of that for a second and just SMILE'
Of course, not all Santa visits are as unsuccessful. I've seen many a photo of other peoples kids beaming at the camera. But what if those weren't millisecond snaps but the Harry Potter-style images that moved, the tell-tale stories that surrounded that happy moment? What would that look like? I imagine a lolly-pop in mums back pocket as a bribe.
Or the anxious expression on their little face as you hand your baby over to this tired man in a red suit. Or the relief on their face when they scurry back into your arms, thankful that the ordeal you hyped up to get THAT PHOTO, is finally over.
What do you think? Is it for them, or for us?