Photos with Santa a Rite of Passage
Will your child love Santa or run screaming this year?
One of my favorite rituals in welcoming the holiday season is taking the kids for a visit to see Santa Claus. It's a fun little tradition but the best part is the memento of the photo that marks the changes in my kids from year to year.
Each year I wonder who will be afraid. Will there be tears? Will there be smiles or ambivalence? It's like unwrapping a Christmas present, you just never know what you are going to get.
Lily was about nine months old on her first visit to see Santa and didn't have a clue what was going on. She also didn't care. She was completely unfazed by the big man in the bright red suit and sat calmly and seriously as her photo was snapped.
In one year's time, her opinion of Santa changed drastically. Despite the explanations I provided in preparation for our visit about who Santa was and what he looked like, she was far from calm for her second trip.
Accompanied that year by her new baby brother, she shrieked and cried waving her two favorite buddies wildly in the air.
She was also somewhat protective. While baby Jack happily slept through the brief visit in Santa's arms, his sister was screaming, "No! Not my baby!" and trying to tug him out of the jolly guy's arms. Poor Santa may have suffered a couple shoves and a swift kick to the knee in the process.
In addition to the photo fiasco that was taking place, Lily also insisted her dad sit with her as she refused to go alone and the expression on my husband's face says it all -- something akin to, "What the heck is going on here?"
In the end, she got a lollipop, the tears were quickly forgotten and Jack was none the wiser still nestled in his newborn comatose slumber.
So, you might imagine that this year, I was wary of bringing them at all thinking Lily might stage a full-on Santa assault. Santa puts up with enough abuse and tears through these regular photo ops that I wasn't going to add my children to his naughty list.
But she is older and wiser this year, a "big girl" and she was "so excited to see Santa!" that I just couldn't deprive her. A visit was worth a shot and so we went, while I fully expected her to freak out in the moment of truth.
But it was Jack I should have been concerned about this year. He is usually such a happy, easy-going guy that I was foolishly unprepared for him to be upset at all. I should have known better.
Within seconds of being placed next to Santa, his whole face turned red, he let out a mighty yell and a cascade of tears followed. He screamed his little head off.
Meanwhile, Lily was starstruck and when asked what she wanted for Christmas, she answered in the quietest of whispers, her response discernible only to myself. When we were leaving, she regained her voice and cheerfully waved calling out, "Goodbye Santa! See you soon!" with last year's meltdown was the furthest thing from her mind.
At the moment, I was concerned for Jack and went to rescue him quickly. But in retrospect, it was somewhat amusing -- the juxtaposition of one screaming child and the other quite happy. We had come full circle in one short year with their temperaments.
Recently, I had the opportunity to take Santa photos for Canton-area children that came to see Santa at the Canton Public Library. It was a brave group of children that paid Santa a visit that day as there were very few tears and no meltdowns to speak of. I have to admit, I found myself oddly disappointed and left wondering why my own children seemed to have such visceral reactions to a jolly bearded man in a red suit.
But, I quickly realized I was not alone in my amusement for crying Santa photos, and my children were in good company as friends and family alike shared their Santa snapshots on my Facebook news feed.
Of course, the photo is truly the best part. A moment in time, a memory made and captured on film to look back on, and smile or even laugh a little bit and share with friends and family.
Yes, I will even admit the wicked side of me rather prefers Santa photos with screaming kids. It's a little reminder that life is not perfect and you just can't plan or control everything when little ones are in the mix.
I can't help but look back on and smile at crying Santa photos of years passed. One day my children will be big and grown, and have no time or desire for such holiday rituals. And there is something incredibly endearing about having captured them in the innocence of these years when they feared Santa.
No, I don't think I wouldn've change the tears if I could.