The First Visit with Santa
Last year was my daughter’s first Christmas. My husband and I went back and forth with the idea of bringing her to visit Santa. You never really know how your baby is going to react to the strange man in the red suit, long white beard, and tummy that shakes like a bowl full of jelly. We did not want her to be frightened, but we also selfishly wanted the memory of her first visit to see Santa Claus.
She was nine months old and happily playing with a toy and babbling away in her stroller as we waited in the ridiculously long line for what seemed like eons. We were even interviewed by a Japanese news station while in line about our experience.
There was a language barrier, but I believe the news team was quite dumbfounded by this American tradition. Again, I questioned subjecting my daughter to this ritual, but the holiday tunes coupled with the smell of pine and cinnamon had me in a trance-like state.
Santa had taken residence in a local outdoor mall within a carefully constructed Norman Rockwell house for the holiday season. At first, my daughter was awestruck by the lights and the giant Christmas tree. She did not even notice when we delicately placed her upon the knee of Good Ol’ Saint Nick.
Santa is Bringing Me a Lump of Coal!
All of the sudden, realization hit. She locked eyes with me, standing behind the photographer, and acknowledged that she was no longer in my arms, but bouncing on the knee of a stranger! She let out a scream like a wild banchee and the photographer captured the image on film forever.
I clutched my daughter to my chest and was riddled with guilt. How could I traumatize her like that? What was I thinking? I am the WORST mother EVER! Then, in the blink of an eye, she was over it. I was the one with tears streaming down my face while she was contentedly looped strands of my hair around her tiny fingers.
A Second Meeting with Santa
This year, my daughter is twenty-one months old and again, my husband and I discussed whether or not to subject her to the Santa visit once more. I thought perhaps she might enjoy the experience if I better prepared her.
We read books about Santa. I pointed out Santa in holiday displays and in movies like Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer (her favorite). Santa was not as cool as a puppy in her eyes, but she seemed to like him!
My husband and I also decided to avoid the lines and visit Santa on a weekday. We went to another outdoor mall where Santa’s abode was shaped like an igloo. My daughter loves ice cubes, so we were off to a good start. Santa himself welcomed us into his dwelling and tried his very best to be kind and nonthreatening. No tears. Yet another good sign. And then we tried to take a picture.
While my daughter did not cry or scream, she did clutch me for dear life. In fact, she squeezed me so tightly, that I am pretty sure I blacked out at one point.
The picture above was candid and taken while the photographer was checking the light. Although we did take several shots with Santa standing behind us and out of my daughter’s line of sight, this picture perfectly encapsulates my daughter’s feelings about visiting Santa.
If my daughter had the vocabulary, I believe she would say, “Oh…HECCCCCKKKKKK no!!!” or “Mama and Dada, you must have lost your ever-loving minds!” or “Payback is a B and don’t even think about sleeping tonight!”
Again, five seconds post visit, she was giggling and pointing out her favorite holiday decorations. So, I am left with a conundrum. Should I have taken my daughter to visit Santa when she is too young to even ask for toys? (If you are reading this, Santa, she loves paper towel holders and empty boxes. And water bottles!)
She will never remember these visits, but my husband and I do find a certain amount of hilarity when we look at the pictures. That face! What is done, is done, but I cannot help but to cross my fingers and hope that Santa does not leave a lump of coal in my stocking this year.
Is this time-old tradition worth it? Are visits with Santa fun or frightening? Please comment and share your experiences below!