This time of year you have no doubt been seeing Santa pictures hitting Facebook and Instagram in droves. Happy children, nervous children, scared children, angry children – Happy Santas, surprised Santas, grumpy Santas, creepy Santas – you name it.
While it appears that the overwhelming majority of people see the Santa photo as a simple holiday tradition and the crying kid shots an amusing natural consequence of adding toddlers with stranger danger and a big bearded stranger together, if you open the comments section on these photos you will see a small segment of the Facebook police (read this as other people’s mothers) who consistently pop up on these threads wanting to know why people find pictures of crying children on Santa’s lap funny. They throw around the word, “traumatized” and question why any parent would voluntarily put their children through such an ordeal.
Just so you know which side of the fence I sit on..
Before I answer that burning question of why in the world I would take my children to Santa and MAKE them sit on his lap, I’ll add my disclaimer: I can only speak for myself.
So here it is. For all the inquiring minds who want an answer as to why a mother would take her beloved children to see Santa knowing they may freak out and then proceed to take the photos and (gasp!) share them on social media after they DO freak out -Frankly, I do it because it’s really NOT THAT SERIOUS. Repeat after me: “Not everything in the world that is uncomfortable is traumatic.” Maybe that’s not a good enough answer for some people but the simple answer is I find these photos funny because THEY ARE FUNNY. And they ARE funny because humor is subjective and I was raised to laugh at silly things. My child flipping their shit as they sit on the lap of the jolly holiday gift giver who they leave cookies for and speak about for weeks on end is FUNNY. The irony of Christmas’s numero dos Dude causing so much strife among the folks he is targeted to create joy with is hilarious!
And while it’s true that many kids don’t enjoy their Santa visit, I also totally and quiet loudly scoff (PFFT!) at the concept that this is in any way shape or form “traumatizing.” Let’s get literal for a moment:
Really? Really Facebook police? You think the act of being sat on Santa’s lap for 30 seconds and photographed while yelling is on par with lasting emotional shock? Imagine my face looking pretty much like this right now..
If 30 seconds of fear and discomfort equates to lifelong trauma and emotional disturbance then I also subjected my 4 year old to lifelong trauma this morning when he got stuck in his shirt while getting dressed and I giggled before I helped direct him on how to unstick himself. My 4 year old recently did have a slightly “traumatizing” event but it wasn’t his Santa picture. He fell at school, gashed his head wide open and needed stitches. This involved having to roll him up in a sheet at the ER, have me lay on top of him and a very strong nurse hold his head still while a doctor injected him with a numbing agent multiple times on his forehead and then stitched him shut all while he screamed, cried and begged us to let him up and be done already. This was followed by two different restraining sessions over the course of 2 doctor’s visits and 3 hours to remove the stitches which were tightly sunk into his skin thanks to a massive goose egg. He now refuses to lay down at the doctor’s or dentist, has had a higher than normal rate of nightmares since this happened and has been exceptionally careful to avoid situations where he might hit his head again. And despite the fact that he has had real and measurable emotional disturbances following his schoolyard injury and repair, I imagine he will grow out of this trauma over the next year or so and as such I would classify his situation as at most a ” very mild traumatic event.” The only lasting impact he’s had from this four years of Santa photo sessions is some pride that the last two years he hasn’t cried and sticky fingers from his candy cane. It’s not even in the same ballpark people.
Here’s the deal. If YOU don’t want to “subject” your child to Santa that is A-OK with me. I’m a big fan of “you do you” logic and won’t be caught criticizing another parent over something so trivial. And if your child has special needs or a more complicated behavioral/emotional situation and you find yourself in the minority where a stranger’s lap is truly bordering on traumatic then please know this message isn’t for you. I get that there are unique situations that would warrant a different line of thinking. But generally speaking when you look at a child screaming in a Santa photo, that “trauma” is done and over the second they are returned to mom and/or dad and a candy cane is shoved into their pudgy little paws. So let’s be real here and stop describing Screaming Santa pics as “traumatizing.” Not only is it insulting to children and parents of children who actually do have to deal with real and true lasting traumatic events in their lives, it’s also just a real uncool thing to call out parents who probably are doing a kick ass job at raising their little humans even if you don’t agree with every little decision that they make. My kids are amazing little creatures who I love and adore greatly and even though I laugh at their harmless misfortunes I am fiercely and lovingly protective of them when they face life’s REAL challenges. I am quite certain that while I may been setting myself up for some eye rolling and cheek blushing from my boys when I show these to their homecoming date, I am in NO way setting them for a lifelong fear of jolly bearded men in red velvet suits.
Now if I could just replace all those Facebook pitchforks with some heavily spiked egg nog we might all just be able to get along here. Clink Clink and Happy Holidays!
(And just in case you wonder how Easter goes around these parts…)