One Does Not Simply “Take the Kids to See Santa.”

It’s 3 days before Christmas and my daughter decides she MUST speak to Santa immediately. Reluctantly, my husband and I agree to take her to the mall (so she can wave at him, of course, we don’t “do” mall Santa). But alas, the  immense eye roll from our walk-by and wave attempt said enough: this kid wasn’t buying it.

Hello, Highway Robbery all dressed in red. We’ll just stand in this flu/shingles/SARS line and wait for you to rob us of every cent we’ve ever made… You know, for a mediocre picture of two frightened children with a man who we’ve never met. I know, I know, it’ll all be worth it in the end when I see my little gumdrops beaming with delight as they tell people about their visit with the strange man… but let me first just make it a point to say that the cost of the picture is NOTHING compared to the ridiculous stress that surrounds this seemingly “easy” task.

One does not simply take their kid(s) to see Santa.

The line at the local mega-mall was entirely too long for an almost-three-year-old (and over-tired 10 monther) to wait out. After some bartering and bribing, we got our daughter to agree to visit the play land and come back when Santa wasn’t so busy.

“I’ll just take them in the morning when the mall opens,” I say to my husband.

And just like that: a comedy was born.

So my grand plan, was to arrive at the mall 15 minutes prior to Santa’s start time, greet the other 3 or 4 parents who had the same great idea and patiently wait for “Santa” to “arrive from the North Pole.” We’d be done and on our merry way before the crowds could find a parking spot.

Sounds easy, right? <insert hysterical laughter>

Well, sparing you the details I’ll just say that everything went AMAZING until  the “Greet the 3 or 4 other parents” part. See, as it turns out, 8,613 other parents had the same idea as I did. Except these people somehow managed to get out the door before me… and with more children in tow. So what? I’m a rookie. The point is, I should have been prepared for this and I totally wasn’t.

So I think, I can handle this. After all, I totally rocked it getting here today anyway. How bad can it be?

I barely finish my thought when my dictator of a toddler whips out her “monster face” and starts screaming for me to move it. “GO, MOM! NOW!” She screams, “CUT THE LINE! GO TO SANTA!” I reply in my best We’re-in-Public-Mommy-Voice and explain to her all she needs to know about patience and kindness. I kiss her head, ignoring the right hook she throws to my face and start moving the stroller back and forth.

The next 35 minutes are a blur. She screams. She kicks. Her “Christmas Tutu” is itchy and she wants to be naked. There’s a juice box, a few offers to let her use my phone, and Cheerios. So. Many. Cheerios.

I’m certain the man in front of me has bruised ankles from my inadvertent stroller attacks and my 10-month-old has now decided that she, too, has had enough of this crap. Screaming toddler. Angry Baby. I look to the nearest set of eyes and say something stupid like, “Isn’t this SO FUN?!” and maniacally go back to rocking the stroller.

Just as we enter the actual North Pole set-up (read: where you’re stuck in the line and you can’t turn back) my kid decides she’s got to go potty RIGHT NOW. I just laugh as she bolts out of the stroller, under the ropes, and into the abyss of people. I want to cry, yet I feel relief all at once. (All that work to get here and just like that, it ain’t happening. Well, I’m $40 richer and we won’t be spending Christmas with the flu!  Awesome, right?)

After the surrounding kind strangers offered to save our place in line, I quickly returned with a much happier toddler and a less-agitated baby. That is, until her sister squeezed her nose and she completely lost her mind. So here I am: one child bullying her sister, screaming at strangers to get out of her way and my other kid acting like she’s got a broken femur from a shark attack.

So in that instance, I did what any respectable parent would have done: I handed my 10 month old a juice box (she’s never had juice… or a straw…) and I shove my cell phone in my toddler’s hands with PBS kids blaring for all to hear. And in an instant, it was quiet.

As we near the front of the line, I realize that my youngest has removed the straw from the juice box and is flinging juice around like her team just won the World Series. My kids are soaked (as are the surrounding patrons) just in time for the Angry Adult Elves to call us over for our turn. My toddler blatantly demands that Santa bring her an Elsa Doll & a Microphone, happily jumps up in his lap for a picture (while I hand him a very confused baby and start dancing on the side lines like a rabid baboon) and in the blink of an eye, the Angry Elves shoo us away and our visit is over.

As we walk to the photo kiosk my daughter looks at me with the most confused look on her face, “Uh, Mom? Where’s my Elsa Doll?” she asks; lip quivering and arms crossed.

Oh child, Christmas is such a lesson on patience. If you think that was a long 50 minutes… try waiting 2 more days for that doll to show up. Meanwhile, I’ll be drinking wine… in the bathroom… with the lights off.

2 hours after we arrived, I finally pack up the girls and begin my commute home. I call my mom and the first thing she says to me is, “Sounds like your visit to Santa went well!”

So, in the end, I paid $22 for 2 prints of a picture that does absolutely nothing to capture this moment of parenthood. I paid $22 to wrangle, bribe, and attempt to reason with two small humans for 50 grueling minutes – and for my daughter to feel completely cheated by the so-called Santa man who supposedly brings presents to kids. And yes, I paid $22 to watch my kids experience and believe MAGIC for the first time in their young lives. And it was worth every penny.

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