I was chatting with my parents on the phone the other day when the question came up.
"So are you taking Nora to see Santa this year?"
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"Nah," I said, and I could tell right away that was the wrong answer.
I hate malls all year round, but especially this time of year, I explained. It just isn't worth stressing everyone out by dragging them to the mall just to pay $30 for a photo of my kid looking miserable. Maybe, I said, if we happen to bump into Santa somewhere, I'll think about it, but otherwise we probably won't bother this year.
She's only 3, I pointed out. I think she kind of gets Santa (she points him out on TV or in books, and she looks for his photo every day -- 365 days a year -- in the newspaper), but I'm not sure she really cares about seeing him in person yet.
My mom, I think, was scandalized.
"But we took you to see Santa when you were 3. You loved it!" my mom said. And she's right.
There's photographic evidence to prove it.
But -- and I don't mean to sound ungrateful for the effort my parents went to for that Santa trip – that's all it is, photographic evidence. Not one bit do I actually remember the visit with Santa that year.
Which makes a strong point, I think, about not driving yourself crazy trying to create "Christmas memories" for young kids. Christmas memories are more about a pleasant feeling, I think, which requires non-miserable parents and almost never involves overpacked malls blaring terrible holiday songs. When I think about my favorite Christmas memories, there are plenty to choose from, but they're all fairly quiet moments. Waking my parents up super early Christmas morning, opening delightful surprises under the tree, sticking bows to the dog's head, etc. Nothing forced, nothing contrived. Simple.
That said, the day after this conversation with my parents, we did, in fact, bump into Santa at the Garner tree-lighting. We jumped into a short line on a freak 75-degree December evening and briefed Nora on what was going to go down. When we made it to Santa's little barn, she broke into a huge grin and went right to his lap. She talked his ear off until we had to (gently) drag her away.
She might not remember it, but we will. And misery won't be part of the memory.