Santa has always been a point of controversy in our house. While pregnant with Phaedra, we announced to our family during the holidays that Santa would not be recognized in our house. This was less my decision than my husband’s insistence. He claims that discovering the truth about Santa was devastating to him, and he refuses to lie to his children. I, on the other hand, have nothing but fun memories of The Santa Years. I honestly don’t remember how I found out that Santa wasn’t real, although my mom insists that I told my brother, which I don’t recall. I do recall thinking a girl in my eighth grade class needed to grow the fuck up when she explained to us on the school bus why she still believed in Santa (reason: she claims she saw his sleigh moving across the sky, or some equally stupid shit like that).
We’re not buying it, kid.
As I was saying, I have nice Santa memories. The year I woke up super early and was scared to go into the living room, lest I catch Santa midway through his work and ruin Christmas; bringing mall Santa Hershey Kisses and asking for things there was no way he could bring me (I asked for a kitten several years in a row, only to receive vague, obscure answers that did not satisfy nine-year-old me AT ALL); leaving milk and cookies out for Santa and carrots for his reindeer; the pure, unequivocal joy at finding a stack of presents under the tree that had magically appeared overnight. Above all, the Santa pictures of my brother and I are probably the most precious to me of all the many parts of The Santa Experience. So, the thought of not having these pictures of my kids was actually the hardest thing to let go of when contemplating a Santa-less childhood for my babies.
My friend Shawn finally helped me settle on a sort of compromise: Santa does indeed visit our house, but he’s not a super big deal. He leaves a present, fills stockings, and we visit him at the mall and take our picture. He’s not responsible for the majority of the Christmas presents under the tree, and he’s not watching my kids to make sure they’re naughty or nice. He’s just a nice guy that happens to bring them a present and candy on Christmas. Problem solved! Rob’s still not super into Santa visiting our house, but oh well. I’m not super pumped about all the guitar amps and suits that have come to visit our house over the years, either, so whatever.
We don’t really talk up Santa. However, I soon found out that remaining mum on the topic is pointless. Santa is EVERYWHERE: movies, TV shows, books, hell, he even showed up to the preschool Christmas party. There’s no need to explain Santa to a child; society and the media do it for you.
Kind of like sex.
Nobody in this picture looks happy, Santa included. However, nobody (who had verbal skills, anyways) objected to this picture. Phaedra sat on that lap willingly. Bella, to be fair, sits on no one’s lap willingly unless it’s my lap. You could Photoshop anybody’s face, including Jesus and any of their 5906 grandmas, into this picture and it would be the exact same story. Even Grandma Power has no effect on this child.
So, last Saturday, I got the kids all snazzied up (i.e., I changed them out of pajamas and wiped their faces off) and prepared for this major event. Phaedra was excited, but a bit nervous.
“Where is Santa?”
“He’s at the mall.”
“Oh. The market (mall) is kind of far.” (Code: “kind of far” = “This new place is out of my comfort zone”)
“Not really, it’s across the street from The Popcorn Store.” (Code: “The Popcorn Store” = Target)
“… I’ve never met Santa before.”
I should have known when I heard that phrase that no good would come of this. But, I was optimistic. When I started to realize that there was no way we were going to fit all the stops I wanted to make into the time I had to make them, I asked Phaedra if we could postpone our Santa visit until another day. “NOOOOOOO!” was her answer.
Fine. Let’s head to the mall.
Two minutes after leaving the house, I asked her, “So, what are you going to ask Santa to bring you for Christmas?”
“Tinkerbell and the Fairy Rescue!” (Mental note: figure out a way to buy this movie before Christmas).
So far, so good.
Five minutes after leaving the house, I decided I should probably explain how going to see Santa works. I like to prep Phaedra ahead of time when we’re going into new situations; she doesn’t like just being thrown into things. I explained how we’ll say hi to Santa, sit on his lap, take a picture, and that’s it.
Uh oh. Two minutes later, I hear from the back seat, “I don’t want to see Santa. I want to go home. I want to go home and eat ice cream.”
Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. “Why don’t you want to see Santa, honey?”
“Santa’s not nice. Santa takes your toys. I don’t want to go see him.”
Santa went from “awesome dude I’d like to meet” to “scary criminal that steals my shit” in less than ten minutes. (To be fair, she has similar theories about Shrek and Barney as well.)
“Well, let’s do this: we’ll go to the mall, so Bella can see Santa. If you don’t want to sit on his lap, you can just stand next to him. Or, if you don’t want to see him at all, that’s okay too. You can just watch while Bella takes her picture with Santa. Is that cool?”
“No. I want to go home and eat ice cream.”
“Ohhhhhh, adita!” (Code: who the hell knows. She says this for everything)
I decide to persevere and see if she’ll change her mind at the last minute. I pull in to the mall parking lot, park, and prepare to open my door. At that instant, Phaedra loses her mind at the thought of coming face-to-face with the man that has apparently been sneaking into our house and stealing her toys.
“NOOOOOOOOO MOMMY PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME GO IN THERE I DON’T WANT TO SEE HIIIIIIIIIIIIIIMMMMM!!!!!”
Fine. I’m not going to force her. What’s the point? What good is a souvenir of the day you terrorized your daughter into sitting on a stranger’s lap? What kind of life-lesson is that? Also, the thought of two screaming kids in the middle of the mall was too much for me.
We went to The Popcorn Store instead. They have snacks there. And The Princess Game (don’t ask, but if you have girls, and are a frequent Target shopper, I feel like you know what I’m talking about).
The next week, at Phaedra’s preschool Christmas party, Santa was scheduled to make an appearance. I shared Phaedra’s new theory about Santa with the mom of the little girl we sat with during the party. “That’s exactly what [her daughter] told me!!” These two reserved little girls were the only ones not going crazy when Santa walked into the room. They both politely said thank you when they received their present from Santa, but that was about it. Phaedra did smile and tell him her name when he asked, but she had no other conversation to make with him.
Later that day, Phaedra said, “You know what Mom? You were right. Santa IS nice. Maybe we can go see him and take our picture with him!”
Ugh. Sorry kid. I think you missed your window of opportunity. I don’t think I can stomach going to the mall this late in the Christmas game. The Easter Bunny picture is just going to have to stay up another three or four months.