When my oldest child was a baby, we took her to see the Easter Bunny at the shops. I’m not sure what I was thinking, but as a first time mum, I thought it would make for a cute photo. I dressed her up in her cutest, pinkest, frilliest dress and bow all ready for an adorable photo opp. Then, I placed in in the lap of a giant fuzzy, somewhat scary looking creature, and she burst into tears.
Maybe it was the new mum hormones, but I felt so sad for her. Why would I subject her to that giant, scary bunny? What was the point? For a picture?
Sure, I smile a little when I see the picture now, and I’m sure she’s not having nightmares about that incident in the shopping centre when she was nine months old, but since that time, I decided I wouldn’t push things like that for a photo. So, when it came to Santa, and she refused year after year after year to sit in the old man’s lap, even though she KNEW that he would bring her presents, I was totally OK with it.
I don’t see sitting in Santa’s lap as a rite of passage, or something we must force on our kids for a photo. I see it as kind of mean, and unwarranted to force it, especially considering that we made the guy up and it’s not like he’s REALLY the one bringing the presents.
I was surprised when my third kid came along and wanted to go talk to Santa. Knowing his personality now it’s not as surprising, but since he was my first to ever want to, I was unsure. But, I let him, and he got his tiny candy cane, and sat next to him (not on his lap) and whispered one thing he wanted and then got out of there as fast as he could.
Do we really blame kids for not wanting to sit in a stranger’s lap, and take a photo? And, why are we forcing kids to do this? So we can get a good laugh?
Of course, most kids aren’t going to be scarred for life by the whole sitting in Santa’s lap experience, but at the same time, it sends a bit of a mixed signal when we force kids when you think about it.
Hey kids, don’t talk to strangers, but you HAVE to sit on this particular stranger’s lap, so I can get a good photo. And, who cares if he doesn’t look anything like Santa, it’s Santa, I promise.
While we totally play along with the Santa thing in our house, hasn’t always been my favourite part of parenting. The whole forcing my kids to sit in his lap thing? I’ll, pass thanks. I have also realised, however, that it’s fun for the kids to believe. And, the longer I’ve been a parent, the more I want the magic to stay alive a little longer.
In an age when we need to be teaching our kids that they are responsible for their own bodies, and that they have the right to say no to affection from relatives and strangers alike, why are we then sending the mixed signal that they have to sit in a creepy old man’s lap? Are we bribing them with gifts or candy? If so, that certainly sends yet another mixed signal.
By all means, take your kids to see Santa if they want to go, but don’t force it. Sure, you’ll have a funny photo later, but is it worth that really?
For me, it’s about teaching my kids that I respect them enough that if they say no to Santa (or anyone else for that matter) I’ve got their backs.