Making mall Santa memories.

What Inever realized before my dad-life was that once you have a kid there are things that you, as an American parent, are obligated to do for your child that you never had to think about before. I’m not talking about sending them to college or making sure they take swimming lessons, but smaller things that aren’t as critical but are still a part of being a kid. Yesterday we took part in one of these small tasks – the Santa visit.

Let me say first that my baby, a whole four and a half months old now, is a genius at getting her photo taken. We dressed her up in her Christmas outfit, waited in line for almost an hour, and when it came time for her to shine, she dazzled. We put her on Santa’s lap, walked behind the camera, told her to smile, and BAM! She lit up the east end of the mall right in front of the Sears like it’s never been lit up before. But I digress…

Everything on the surface was pretty much what I expected, a long line, lots of kids, and a Santa with a real beard. Here are the things I wasn’t expecting:

  1. There are three types of kids that go see Santa. The young babies to pre-toddlers (who either smile or freak out uncontrollably with stranger anxiety), the young true believers (who are easily the most fun to watch), and the kids who are way too old to be visiting Santa. It’s this last group that bummed me out, as they were all obviously there because their parents needed that photo of them with Santa so much that they couldn’t let their pre-teen have a little dignity. One dad even yelled at his son, “Come on Wade, SMILE.” Um, hey idiot, maybe your kid can’t smile because he’s too self-conscious about sitting on a stranger’s lap. My wife said that Wade should just close his eyes every time they tried to take a photo until his mom and dad gave up. Unfortunately Wade just smiled and got it over with.
  2. There weren’t any candy canes. One thing I remember from doing this when I was a kid was that at the end after you told Santa all the things you wanted, you got a candy cane. We got a "The Original Holiday Classic Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Available Now on DVD" CDROM instead from Santa, that has holiday games for the kids to play and a fresh AOL install. I guess everything has to be a marketing opportunity nowadays.
  3. Even the adults who have children who have no idea what’s going on call him Santa. What else were we supposed to call him? His name is probably Jim or something, but if I don’t call this dude Santa, well then who am I ever going to call Santa?
  4. According to Jim Santa, the most popular item for kids was a Nintendo Game Cube. The most surprising item lots of kids were asking for: electric guitars.