My youngest son doesn’t like Santa Claus. No, I mean he really doesn’t like Santa Claus.
“It’s the whiskers,” he explained after our latest visit with Old Saint Nick. “There are too many of them.”
Yet year after year, I have taken Jackson and his older brother, James, to see the man with the long white beard and big red suit. And every year, Jackson has cried.
I don’t do it to be mean. Jackson, 5, doesn’t like unfamiliar people and situations. I hope he’ll eventually overcome some of those fears and want to do things like talk to Santa.
So I keep encouraging him. I keep pushing him. And I keep thinking that each year with Santa will be different and better for him than the last.
So far, that hasn’t happened.
When it began ...
Jackson first met Santa Claus in 2008. He was 10 months old. It was my first year as a mother of two, and I was naive. I dressed the boys in matching outfits, excited for them to sit with the man, smile big and pose for the perfect holiday photo.
It didn’t turn out the way I thought it would. Nothing with kids ever does.
I ended up disappointed and frustrated. Jackson had a meltdown and only lasted a few seconds in Santa’s lap. And I barely managed to take a couple of shots.
One of them, however, turned out to be pretty perfect.
That photo, an image of a smirking 3-year-old and a crying baby, is the first in what would become a series of six years of Santa pictures with one kid rolling his eyes and the other one screaming.
From that photo on, my idea of the perfect holiday photo changed. Memories would come from real moments and stressful situations, not matching outfits and fake smiles.
A family tradition
Our trips to see Santa have become a holiday tradition. Friends and family members start asking to see the latest photo right after Thanksgiving.
Each year, the images make the rounds on Facebook, our family calendar and school projects. And pretty much everyone – including Jackson, I must add – gets a good laugh from them.
At almost 6 years old, the boy still cries at the sight of Santa. But as soon as the visit ends, he wants to see the photos – every one of them – over and over and over again.
James, 8, knows he’s never going to get the chance to tell Santa what he wants for Christmas. So every year, he sits patiently – a little frustrated, a little sympathetic and a little amused – and hopes for once that his little brother will just smile.
I look forward to sharing these photos with future prom dates and spouses. They’ll forever serve as a reminder of the short-lived years of my kids believing in Santa. My kids being kids.
One year soon, Jackson and Santa will trade smiles and share stories. The crying will stop, and I’ll take that as a sign that my littlest boy is growing up, venturing out and trying new things.
And in that moment, I’m pretty sure I’ll shed a few tears of my own.
Giglio: 919-829-4649 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @shoptalk_nando