We had a lucky surprise last week while out on a "Christmas Adventure." Our neighborhood holiday walk was taking place and I thought it'd be a good chance to take a little stroll up to the candy shop for some hot chocolate. The website said that Santa would ride by on a pedicab and would later be at the art center for kids to meet him. I thought perhaps we'd get a glimpse of him riding by out the window. If not, no worries - we had plans to meet the big guy at a party over the weekend.
As we sat sipping our hot chocolate the pedicab pulled in front of the candy store. Santa got out and was greeting people on the sidewalk. Betsy spotted him through the window. She watched him, tapped the glass in an attempt to get his attention, waved to him, then simply sat enjoying her treat while gazing at him lovingly.
A few minutes later, it got even better. Santa came into the candy store and approached Betsy. He asked to sit with us and began chatting with Betsy. She was a bit starstruck and he took the opportunity to tell several (corny, over her head) jokes. Betsy clearly enjoyed the encounter. Santa was very "jolly", yet seemed to be watching her to assure that he kept a distance and a tone that was agreeable. He took time to sit with us long enough that she could recover from her initial surprise and process what was happening. In short, he was respectful and looked to her guide to the interaction. I was thrilled. Treating children with respect is something I feel very passionate about, and try to model in my family and in my professional life despite it's rarity in our culture. Santa... quite frankly... nailed it.
The encounter had a big impact on Betsy. Her excitement about Santa grew more and more as we talked and played about it over the next few days. I lost count of how many times she told me - out of the blue - about meeting Santa and how, "that was very exciting!" She also re-enacted it several times with her dolls. It was such a positive experience and bringing her so much joy! When we headed to our holiday party this weekend I knew she'd be excited to learn that the big guy would be there again.
Unfortunately, I quickly realized that this was NOT the real Santa. First of all, his beard was fake. We had to stand in line to talk to him. When it was our turn Betsy asked to be held. I picked her up and approached Santa, who asked her to give him a high-5 then stood up to talk to her. So far, so good. He asked what she wanted for Christmas, she whispered in my ear and I told him (a blanket and pillow for Bonnie and a blanket and pillow for herself).
He then asked her to sit in his lap.
She clung a bit tighter to me as I asked her if she wanted to. She said "no thank you," so I started to walk away. He blocked our exit saying, "here let me just hold you" and took her from me. He then sat down and put her on his lap. As she protested, he asked, "what if mommy is right here?" and gestured for me to stand behind her. I did and put my hand on her. She seemed nervous but not panicked. I was attempting to read the situation and wanted to be prepared to pick her up, but was also cognizant of not wanting to startle her or scare the other kids who were nearby. All of a sudden, I felt a hand on my leg. Santa was pushing me away from them. What?! I stepped around his arm, asked Betsy if she was done, and picked her up. He again stood, blocking our exit, and took her hand. As I held her, he touched each of her 5 fingers and said, "Don't be naughty. Quit giving your parents sass. Clean your room. Brush your teeth. Clean up your toys."
I was stupefied. This Santa clearly did not have any respect for Betsy or for me. Additionally, he seemed convinced that she was inherently "naughty" and that his role was to scare her into compliance - a role that Santa certainly does not hold at our house.
|Faces removed because I can't stand to look at this fake. Notice his left arm pushing me away.|
I'm still a bit in shock at this in encounter. And it makes me appreciate the real Santa we met at the candy shop even more. Have you seen Santa lately? What was your experience?