My children — a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old — have never sat on Santa's lap. No picture exists of them perched upon or even flanking St. Nick. The best I have is one of my daughter standing tentatively at his side. My son won't get close enough to get in the same frame. I do this because I don't believe children should be forced to show affection to anyone they don't want to, a principle that can be found throughout my parenting style. That said, you shouldn't shame moms who make their kids get pictures with Santa.
Last year, my colleague Danielle Campoamor wrote about how she was shamed for taking her child to see Santa (of course on social media). The passive aggressive poster used terms like "rape culture" and "trust" and "disgusting." Look, I get you on some level. It's why I've never made my kids sit on Santa's lap. Like you, I want my children to have the final say in who they touch and don't touch. However, when you get as bent out of shape about a parent having their child partake of an inveterate holiday tradition once a year for approximately thirty seconds as as you do about human trafficking, it's time to step back, think critically, and dial down the rage-o-meter. You know, just a hair.
I'm not one to suggest, "There are worse problems in the world than this, so let's not ever talk about this ever again!" You can be concerned with more than one thing at once. However, let's take scale and scope into the equation, right? Let's be willing to admit that while there may be aspects of this tradition that people don't like (myself included), and with a legitimate reason that's worth being explored, ultimately it's not that big a deal.
Don't Be That Person
No one asked you and it has nothing to do with you. Besides, shaming someone is never the right way to persuade someone to your way of thinking anyway. You're just going to make them feel like crap before they eventually decide you're a douchebag. They aren't wrong.
Sometimes It's Important To Face Your Fears
Sometimes you just kinda have to grab the bull by the horns, ya know? A kid who is terrified of Father Christmas might be cured of that fear if they go and chat with him for a little bit. Once the kid realizes, "Hey, this Santa chap isn't such a bad fellow," they could turn a new leaf and decide they can't wait to go see him next Christmas. I've certainly gone kicking and screaming to movies, bars, and parties I had no interest in whatsoever, only to wind up having a great time.
The Kid Gets Over It In About Two Seconds
Seriously, I don't think I've ever encountered a child who didn't stop whimpering within five minutes of a negative encounter with Kris Kringle. Besides, kids shriek about everything. They're ridiculously dramatic. Have you ever seen a toddler who believes his sock is "on wrong?" Kid, whether or not the sock is "on wrong," (which isn't even a thing, by the way) it's not made of knives, which it would have to be to justify your wailing.
It's not like parents are leaving kids with a mall Santa for a couple hours while they get mani-pedis, deaf to their child's wailing and fear. Parents are right there and, more likely than not, scoop up their little one when they realize something is amiss. The whole business of placing the child, taking the picture, and getting over any unhappiness the aforementioned steps may have caused is over and done within minutes.
Parents Are Likely Establishing What Will Eventually Become A Beloved Holiday Tradition
Sure, the kid hates Santa now, but next year they are going to be obsessed with the dude. Then they'll have a chuckle-worthy side-by-side pictorial journey of their personal growth.
How Do You Know A Kid Won't Like It Until They Try?
Maybe mom didn't know her little one was going to loathe sitting on Santa's lap until the kid go there and the shutter clicked. A toddler can't necessarily voice a desire to go see Santa, so some moms choose to be proactive about it. Sometimes that proactivity will be misplaced. Oh well.
If you can't look at a child screaming when faced with the human embodiment of merriment and joy and laugh then I'm sorry, something important has died inside of you and I don't think I or anyone else can fix it. You're on your own.
(Again, they get over it very quickly: I can't stress this enough.)
You Don't Actually Know How This All Went Down
Maybe within ten seconds of the picture being taken the child decided Santa was their best friend and they gave him a hug. Maybe the child was totally chill with Santa and only started crying when they snapped the picture. Maybe they had begged to see Santa but when they got there it was all too much and not what they expected. Maybe those are tears of joy. You probably don't have much context, and context counts.
He's a kindly old man who understands children on a spiritual level no other adult can ever possibly realize and gives them presents. What's not to love here? Name a better figure, real or mythical, whom you could possibly introduce your child to.
Maybe Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Or Oprah. But for real, that's about it.
Barring Extraordinary And Specific Circumstances, No One Ever Sustained Long-Term Damage From Sitting On Santa's Lap
I mean, guys. Come on now.
Seriously, You Are Blowing This Out Of Proportion
I'm not saying you're wrong in holding whatever opinions you hold. Like I said, I'm kind of in your boat here. However, I abandon ship when you feel the need to judge someone else on something you know, in isolation, isn't harming children, but you've decided to place your need to feel morally superior over common sense.
You can talk about this with your friends without being a jerk — try having an actual discussion of the matter in lieu of ranting about it. Moms get enough judgment from literally every other direction: they just want a cute goddamn picture of their kid with Santa. Just let them have it.