When I was growing up in England, one of my favorite parts of the holiday season was visiting Hamley's, the worlds largest and oldest toy store. Nestled among all the trinkets and displays was a winter wonderland, complete with elves, snow, and, of course, Santa himself. I loved visiting Santa back then, but the struggles every mom faces when get her kid to take a picture with Santa. has made the entire ordeal, um, kind of a pain now.
The first time my son posed for a picture with Santa he was just under a year old. He smiled sweetly but, to be honest, I think he couldn't differentiate Santa from any other adult. So, I won't really fault him for having a less-than-excited reaction, as he certainly didn't know he was in the presence of a magical being. The second time he visited Santa Claus, he was unsure and stared intently at (an authentic and very real) beard. He didn't speak or smile at all, so the picture looks like a ransom note.
This Christmas season he spent twice his allotted time on Santa's lap, telling the kind and understanding man he had been good this year, so he deserved everything on the extensive list of things he wanted. My son also questioned Santa on where his sleigh was, where the reindeer's were waiting, and discussed the snowy weather, so this Santa had his work cut out for him.
Every year I get better at navigating the inevitable struggles every mom faces when trying to get her kid to take a picture with Santa, including but certainly not limited to:
Choosing An Outfit
It's my goal to select a cute outfit for pictures with Santa; something festive and red and damn adorable. Of course, whatever I decide on is something my son will hate and, as a result, refuse to wear. Ugh.
Choosing The Right Santa
There are some Santa's that were meant for the role, and there are some that just don't quite look right. Call me a traditionalist, but if Santa is sporting a fake beard, I'm just not into it.
Choosing The Right Mall
You have to expect crowds when you plan on visiting Santa during the holidays, but some malls can feel more like a zoo than a shopping center. I mean, a crowd of overzealous shoppers is overwhelming for adults, so of course it's going to be overwhelming for little ones.
I like to choose a smaller mall, and plan the visit at a time when I know the facility won't be as busy. (Pro Tip: go during the day.)
Getting Through The Line
What do small children love to do? Wait in long line, duh. Oh, nope. My bad. I meant, "What do small children hate?" That's what I meant, because children absolutely hate it. Knowing that Santa is right there, ready to hear about all the toys you want for Christmas, yet so far away, has to be some kind of torture technique.
This is usually the time when my kid starts to act up; rolling around on the floor, going all floppy like spaghetti, and loudly complaining. Why do I always convince myself visiting Santa is a good idea? Someone? Anyone?
Teaching Your Child Patience
I always feel like my child is the only one misbehaving in public settings. Perhaps even worse than assuming my kid is the only kid that can't sit still, is the feeling that my response to his public tantrums is being judged.
Trying to Encourage Your Kid To Get Close To Santa
Once it's finally our turn to see Santa, and I am painfully aware of all the people behind us still waiting for their turn, my kid decides he doesn't want to meet Santa after all. Instead, he wants to stand a few feet away from him and, you know, stare at his shoes.
Getting A Good Picture
Once I have convinced my child to get close enough to Santa to take a picture, I have to do some super embarrassing "mommy dance," waving my arms, making silly noises, and trying to encourage him to smile joyfully.
Inevitably the one picture where my child is actually grinning is the one where Santa is cross eyed or looking the wrong way. This is just the best.
Making Sure Your Kid Says "Thank You"
Santa usually gives each child a small gift or candy cane after all is said and done. Not only do I think my kid deserves it (because, hello, that line was the worst) but I think it's the perfect opportunity to practice manners. Unfortunately, my kid doesn't always say, "Thank you," on command. We're working on it.