Do you have a child? Do you plunk him onto Santa’s lap? Does he scream? I’d like a word so that I might spare one child this confusing ordeal. Please do not drag your reluctant offspring to the mall and deposit them onto the lap of a grown-ass stranger. Please do not giggle nearby while this cloaked, furry, moveable mountain contains your unruly octopus, spraying her with saliva as he bellows, “Ho Ho Ho!” And for all that is holy, please do not post the picture for all to see. “LOL! Her tears and misery! Her instinctual fear of this hulking, quasi-human with foggy glasses dressed like a scary, cotton-puffed Grandpa!”
We read about how to keep our kids far from predators and explain they are the bosses of their bodies. We encourage them to speak up if their consent is violated and empower them to say NO. We call their genitals by anatomically correct names instead of “Mr. Dangle,” because child predators are more likely to use such pet names. So why must we undercut these boundaries? Why do we teach our children to be wary of strangers, yet bribe them to smile through their tears on Santa’s lap? WhyWhyWHYYY!?
I’m no Scrooge. If your kids spend December chomping at the bit for their big moment, well, I can see the beauty in that. Jazz hands your way to the front of the line and upsy-daisy. But if begging and bribery (yours, not theirs) precede your holiday mall-jaunt, there is no beauty. No. Beauty.
Hello, parents who caption pictures of their distraught toddlers with the tear-streaked, laughing emoji and some stupid comment like, “Braxton still doesn’t like Santa LOL.” I have a request for you. Go to a crowded place where everyone wears stilts, so they tower over you. You might get woozy from the competition of 137 perfumes as you wait on an endless line, but cooperate when your most trusted relation thrusts you toward a crimson, sweaty giant. Relax into the lumpy polyester of his hot lap. Allow him to grip your body in places you don’t want to be touched. In return, you’re going to get gifts, so smile! Seriously, smile. This costs money, you know. (No ice cream for crybabies.) Take comfort as your traumatic episode is shared with the masses to pepper some comedy into their Instagram.
But don’t children enjoy this fun holiday tradition?!
1. If he unleashes a windmill of scissor kicks and screams, “NO/HE’S SCARY/DON’T MAKE ME/PLEASE GOD, HELP ME” -- he does not enjoy this fun holiday tradition.
2. If she is nonverbal and soaks multiple tissues with tears/mucus -- she is not feeling this fun holiday tradition.
3. If he chews your clothes, cuts off your circulation, or begs just to watch the other kids -- you are not on the same page regarding this fun holiday tradition.
4. If she’s too young to process who the hell Santa is but old enough to know she can’t stand strangers -- she is, you guessed it, not ready for this fun holiday tradition.
5. If he vomits/pees/shits pants because he is distressed/nervous -- he is Not. Friggin. Into it. Ya dig?
Those examples are the opposite of permission. Can we up our game recognizing what the hell permission looks like and respect that? Who has the most fun during this venture? Your kid? That’s promising. You? Get a grip. Nobody? Bake cookies.
It’s in their best interest, you say? Kindly note you are not facilitating a vaccination from Diphtheria. So cue the alarm that intermittingly whispers, “Crappy parenting call...” Listen to it. It’s the same alarm that should ring when you let visitors tickle your kids and pinch their cheeks. Do you like that done to you? Thought not. It’s never too late to stop requiring your child sit on the lap of [insert distant relative who annually demands a lap photo even though your child doesn’t know them.] And quit forcing that hug with Weird Uncle Willy. Why do you care more about helping some needy, boundary-crossing adult recover from this rejection than honoring your child’s body autonomy? In the wake of the recent Hollywood shit storm, do your part. Do. Your. Part.
This is not Santa’s fault. It’s not your screaming child’s fault, either. I’m not looking to put the freelancing Santas out of work nor drown in hate mail from the seasonal elves. And I’m not on a high horse. In fact, I’m a floor dweller most of the time with my three kids under six who have likely amassed a laundry list of things I’ve done that will land them in therapy. Still, I shudder at the sight of toddlers unglued on Santa’s lap (or the Easter Bunny’s, Mickey’s, or any other furry character they protest.)
If my blasphemous request gets your goat, consider writing an article! I’ll suggest a title: “Ten Reasons Why I Force My Child onto a Strange Man’s Lap and Photograph It.”