Saturday, December 17, 2005

My Aversion To Santa

We took Jayden to see Santa Claus today against my better judgment. Here is a warning for parents: there is a Santa spoiler coming.

There, that is out of the way. I do not believe in lying to children the way many parents do indiscriminately. "We cannot afford that" when the truth is "I don't think you should get that." Or "We don't have time" when you just do not want to do something. I view Santa as along the same lines. I do not believe in telling my children that a magical creature brings their gifts. There are inherent problems in the Santa story, such as what to do when good children do not get gifts because of poverty. How do we explain Yuletide charity when Santa Claus is supposed to bring gifts.

This point is one of the few disagreements about parenting my husband and I have had. He grew up in a comfortable upper-middle class family while I had a more working-class up-bringing. He believed in the magic and beauty of childhood, and I saw more of the harsh realities of life. Still, he felt strongly about it, so I relented. Jayden can believe in Santa until he is four, and then we will tell him the ugly truth - Mom and Dad have to be able to afford it!

Still, taking a baby to see Santa is a little different because like many moments in my baby's life, Jayden does not understand what is going on. As far as he was concerned, it was a smorgasbord of babies today and a fun time at the mall playground when he was done with the Santa picture.

So, today was the day when we took him to the mall, the most evil creation of the twentieth century, to have his picture taken with Santa. After standing in line interminably, we got up to the front of the line. Jayden had a wonderful time laughing and babbling with the other older babies in the line, and the truth is that I enjoyed his excitement.

The excitement stopped when we neared the Red Guy, however. My husband took him up to Santa, and Jayden started crying. And not just crying, he was bawling. We both went and sat next to him. He was so precious. He would stop crying and start sniffling, then turn to look at Santa again and scream. He could not get over it. Even with me in his hands and his trusty bear Slumbers, he could not deal with Santa Claus. Babies are too young for psychological games, so there is no saying, "Santa's feelings will be hurt if you don't sit in his lap." And the truth is that Santa did not look like he cared one way or another. He seemed accustomed to babies screaming at the sight of him, which made me think that maybe being a mall Santa is not what it is cracked up to be.

While everyone in line stood and laughed at Jayden's outbursts at Santa, the elf snapped the picture, and we got in line to pay. Luckily for us, at least two other babies had meltdowns when they got by Jolly Old St. Nick, too, so I did not feel so bad. It was really funny to see Jayden as we were paying for the picture. He kept looking back and Santa, and his little lip would quiver again. Since the prices were outrageous and we did not want any wallet-sized Santa photos, key chains, or Christmas cards, we only had to wait for one picture to print. That is lucky for us because the baby behind us, who was about Jayden's age, was hysterical and hit Santa in the midst of her fear.

After we got out of Jayden's line of sight, we got out the picture and checked it out. We were both in it, so it is a nice family shot, but Jayden is adorable! You can tell that he was crying. His face is mostly faded pink, and he has one glistening tear underneath his left eye. Ah, the Santa picture will go in the scrapbook and become a wonderful story to tell my future daughter-in-law. My future daughter-in-law? I am so glad Jayden is still a baby. Maybe believing in Santa is not so bad after all.

By Brandi Rhoades

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