‘Tis the season to take your young children to visit Santa. Whether you decide to do it at the mall or at a community event, there are families that you see every time.
There are the new parents with small babies, just weeks or months old, wearing the cutest little holiday outfits. These Santa visits are purely a photo op for the parents as the baby is too young to care or cooperate.
With any luck, they will get through it with a nice memento and not a picture of a grumpy Santa who has just been peed on.
Then there are parents with toddlers. They kids look adorable and are excited by all of the decorations around St. Nick.
Harried moms and dads are busy trying to keep them from unwrapping the fake presents and knocking over the tinsel and plastic reindeer. These tykes are done waiting and just want to move. Sometimes, the grandparents have come along in the hopes that more adults can keep the young ones better entertained. This is a hit or miss strategy, but worth a try. Finally they get to Santa, who terrifies them. A stranger with a beard! Yikes! This is the age of the picture of a smiling Santa and a crying and/or screaming toddler.
My son was so afraid at the age that Santa had to work to hang onto him. We thought we would be ok because daddy had a beard. Not so scary, right? Think again.
But now we have come to what I call the sweet spot. The kids are between, say, 3 and 6. They believe in Santa and his magic. And they are suckers for all of the advertising on TV. They may be a little shy, but parents or elves usually can coax them to at least stand next to Santa as they mumble to him about the Lego set or doll or robot they want him to bring. Usually you get pretty good pictures at this point and there is much rejoicing.
Finally, we come to the parents who are almost through with their Santa trips, but are desperately holding on. Sometimes, there are older children who have been either bribed or threatened so as to keep them from telling their younger siblings that Kris Kringle isn’t real. These parents are thrilled watching their youngest with Santa, but it is bittersweet. Will this be the last time before the child stops believing?
The common theme here is not just Santa. It is hope.
Hope for a magical picture keepsake and a wonderful holiday memory for themselves as well as their children. And whether you believe in Santa or not, we could all use that reminder and renewal of hope, especially during the holiday season. This is why you will see me there with my son again this year, capturing our yearly dose of hope and holiday spirit.