Now that all the stress, anxiety, frustration and craziness of Christmas is over, let me tell you a little story about Santa Claus.
Every parent knows that it is tradition to get the annual and obligatory ‘Santa photo’ at your local shopping centre. Every parent also knows that you will line up for hours, pay an exorbitant amount of money and then store the pictures in some plastic container, never to look at it again.
Oakland’s first Christmas fell when he was only 4 months old. This meant he was still young enough to be happy about being handed over to complete bearded strangers, and the result of his first ever Santa photo was a cute, chubby kid, not looking overly fussed about whatever the hell was happening around him. Being my first ever Christmas with a kid, I went overboard and bought the top photo package, complete with calendars, wallet photos and other random items that no one other than me wanted a bar of. I even went the extra mile and bought the snow globe with the photo inside. (Side note: Oakland finds this great to play with at the moment).
Last year, things were a bit different. Oakland was no longer a trusting little chubby bubby. He was now a suspicious, wary and tantruming toddler who did whatever the fuck he wanted. Knowing damn well that he would not play nice, I went with one of his little friends and they got in the photo together. This still didn’t work. No way in hell was Oakland going near this terrifying man in a red suit. I sucked it up and got amongst the action too. Even with me there, the absolute best I could achieve was a photo of Oakland sitting on the opposite side of me from Santa, with as much room between him and the Big Man as was physically possible. Slightly nicer photos were the ones where he pretended Santa wasn’t even in the same postcode, and he just played in the fake snow and got on with his day while Santa looked on disdainfully.
Given the events of last year, this year I expected one of two things. Either Oakland was going to be of an age where he understood Christmas enough that he would be excited and curious about Santa, or the more likely option was that he was going to be old enough to comprehend that this giant, jolly dude was fucking terrifying, and he would want to be wherever this creepy old man wasn’t. Guess which option he chose?
I tried so damn hard to encourage a love and excitement of Christmas within him. We watched endless Christmas movies, went to tonnes of carols and we did a drive by of every Santa at every shopping centre we went to, still keeping a safe distance. Things were going well. Oakie was super keen and every time we saw a Santa all you could hear was his little voice screaming “OH MY GODDDD!” with pure joy. I thought I had it nailed so I decided the time had come. We were going to do this shit.
After speaking with lots of mums and sussing out all the local Santas, I picked the one that was for us. I lined up behind a million shitty, crying kids for over half an hour.Luckily I had Alee’s sister to help manage Oakland and keep him busy while I kept our spot in line. We were three families back from Old St Nick when a man came to inform us Santa had to “feed the reindeer” and would be back in 30 minutes. Well fuck me. Perhaps have a sign at the entrance advising what times Santa would be on break guys? Maybe tell people as they line up that there won’t be time for them, instead of standing there watching us and herding us like cattle. I thought well fuck this, I am so not losing the spot I fought so hard for. I sat down right where I was and waited, while eyeing off every other parent with a look that said “don’t even fucking think about pushing in mate”. Oakland and his aunty went off to draw and decorate gingerbread men while I sat and counted the clock. Santa walked past me in his weekend clothes and went to put the suit back on, so I called Oakland over. By this time, it was about half an hour past his nap time, nearly an hour past when he should have eaten and of course, I noticed that he had in fact shit his pants. Too bad kid. Mumma had to get a bit ghetto to keep this spot in line and we were not losing it for anything.
The line started moving again and luckily the kids ahead were old enough that they didn’t have to stop and have mum wipe their tears or bribe them to smile. They jumped up, got their photo and lolly and moved on. We were the next in line at last! It had been well over an hour at this point, Oakland’s nappy was pungent and filling the room and he was getting pretty dirty at the world at this point but we made it. That was when the camera and computer decided to take a page from Oakland’s book, and also shit itself. The 15 year olds in charge of making family memories didn’t know what to do. A complete technological meltdown was obviously not covered in their 20 minute training brief. They rang IT and we waited, and we waited, but nothing happened and no one came. The three kids sitting awkwardly on Santa’s lap started getting fidgety so their mum whipped her phone out, took a photo without a word and left. What a champ. It was then that I decided no one was ruining our Santa photos. I had to mum the shit outta this situation. I went up to the young kid who was having a bigger meltdown than the computer and said exactly this “I’ve been waiting here for over an hour, my kid has shit himself, it’s past his nap time and he’s starving. I am putting him on Santa’s lap and getting a photo with my phone”. This poor kid looked like he was going to join the party and shit himself too. Again, a psycho mum on a mission was not a scenario covered in training. He didn’t know what else to do, so he moved aside and up we went.
I just want to make a note here that the entire time we had been in line, we had drummed into Oakland that he was meeting Santa, which he agreed to. We asked him about a million times if he was going to sit on Santa like all the other kids. He agreed to this too. So what do you think happened when I was about a metre from Santa? Oakland started thrashing and screaming. He was absolutely terrified! He stunk, and he screamed and there was no way he was sitting on or near Santa. I think Santa was probably grateful for that, I sure as hell wouldn’t want some feral kid with a warm ass sitting on me either. The best we could manage this year was a shitty Iphone photo of Oakland on my lap, looking like he just witnessed a murder, my regrowth was insane (clearly I hadn’t planned on being part of the moment) and somehow, I am still smiling. I think this year’s Santa photo was our best yet.