The annual trip to visit Santa during the holidays is a staple for many families. It's kind of the best, right? I mean, your kid gets to sit on a jolly fellow's lap, tell him their dearest wish, and enjoy a candy cane while you get an adorable picture out of the deal. What's not to like? Well, there's the crying and abject terror and the stress of the whole damn thing. So, as a parent you have to brace yourself for the emotional stages of taking your kid to see Santa.
When I was little, my mom always took us to see Santa Claus, but what I remember most is how much I loved Mrs. Claus. So, I knew it was a tradition I wanted to continue with my children. For her first Christmas, we took our 7-month-old daughter and niece for Santa pictures with the best Santa Claus in town (I'm all about the real beard). The photographer waved a light-up wand, and the girls were entranced. Easy peasy, and totally adorable. Naturally, I assumed that taking my toddler to see Kris Kringle this year would be a piece of (fruit)cake. *Cue laughter from experienced parents everywhere.* This Christmas, my daughter gave Santa a big, emphatic, "Nope."
Many parents are opting out of the taking their kids to see old St. Nick. They have their reasons (he's a stranger, he sits on a throne of lies, it's traumatic), but I've decided to keep this custom up, for now. You have to take the bad with the good. So join me, if you will, in the terrible, wonderful process of taking your kid to see Santa.
Stage 1: Excitement
It's absolutely magical to watch little kids go all Buddy the Elf when they find out Father Christmas is going to be present. Parents usually jack them up on hot cocoa and cookies, adding to the thrill of the day.
There's excitement for moms and dads, as well. We relive the magic of our childhood while simultaneously focusing on what's really important: the outfits. I'm talking matching pajamas, reindeer antlers, and dress shoes with little pompoms on them. Nothing gets me in the spirit like seeing my daughter look like Christmas threw up all over her.
Stage 2: Anxiety
As you queue up to see Santa, excitement quickly gives way to anxiety. Your kids are starting to get nervous, and so are you. I stood in line with my daughter for Santa three times, and every time her little body tensed up as we got closer to him. I'm already an anxious person, and having my toddler freak out in my arms did not help this mom keep her sh*t together.
Stage 3: Bargaining
I hate to use the word bribe, but sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. I'm not one to threaten my kid with coal, but neither am I above a little incentive. If you sit nicely for Santa, mommy will take you to the trampoline park.
However, you must be prepared for your hush money to backfire. When my cousin was little, Santa tried to get her to come closer by placing a candy cane on his stool. She ran up, snatched it, and scurried away.
Stage 4: Glee
When you see your child sitting happily on Santa's lap, it's a wonderful feeling. Their innocence and utter goodness are on display, and it will fill your heart with joy.
Not that I'd know what that's like. However, my daughter's fit didn't stop me from having a laugh at her expense. Maybe it makes me a bad mom, but I definitely enjoyed a giggle before I rescued her from the "mean man with the presents."
Stage 5: Embarrassment
Kids say the darndest things, and they especially like to say those darn things in public. Prepare to be flustered when your kid asks for a unicorn that craps rainbows, the souls of her enemies, or something capable of full-blown mortification.
My daughter is currently a woman of few words, but she made her feelings about Santa crystal clear as she screamed like a festive little banshee for all to see. All I want for Christmas? The f*ck off this lap.
Stage 6: Guilt
In my heart of hearts, I know I'm a good mom. In almost every situation, I put my child first. At this point in her life, however, getting that coveted Santa photo is for me. I feel terribly guilty when my daughter cries unnecessarily and of my doing. Apparently, I don't feel badly enough for to stop the tiny person lap torture, though.
Stage 7: Shame
When your kid is screeching on Santa's lap, it can feel like the whole world is watching. Well, watching and judging. Nothing like some serious stink-eye from some stranger to make you feel like an asshole parent, right?
If you make the decision to post your sad Santa pic on social media? Well, buckle up for the comments section, my friend; a magical place where people will write mean things they'd never say to your face.
Stage 8: Relief
When it's all over, parents breathe a sigh of relief. The stress of this particular Christmas event is over. For me, putting that precious picture in a frame to be displayed year after year, warms the cockles of my heart. The best part? I don't have to think about it again for another year.