I’m not trying to take anything away from anyone, but I would really like people to stop and examine their beliefs around the holiday season. Specifically, how those beliefs translate to what we expect our children to do at this time of year.
So, here’s a thing that is bugging me right now.
Photos with Santa
I see parents congratulating themselves on getting their children to have photos taken with Santa. I have had parents regale me with tales of all the things that they had to do to get that precious photo with Santa.
Why is it so important that we get a photo of our children taken with a stranger dressed in disguise? If a child is afraid of Santa, or they find the whole experience too overwhelming, why do their parents force them to do it?
Would we do this at any other time of year? Would we force our children to do something that frightens them? I know that there are some parents out there who would. (Hello my parents, who thought that forcing me to face my fears was the best way to overcome them. Hint: It does not work that way.) But is that really what we want for our children? Do we want them to know that when they’re scared or they find something overwhelming, that we’re just going to force them to do it anyway?
Now, of course, there are extra special “sensitive Santas”, “caring Santas”, [insert whichever “special” term you want to here] Santas. What are those exclusionary events teaching our children?
I know people will claim that they’re not exclusionary. People will claim that they’re set up so that autistic children can experience the “joy” of having their photo taken with a stranger in disguise. I know people will claim that because they already have.
But I want you to ask yourself: Who is really missing out when a child doesn’t get their photo taken with Santa? If a child is reluctant to do something for whatever reason, and their parents say “Hey, that’s ok. We don’t need to do this thing.” has the child really missed out?
I think that it’s very possible that the people who are afraid of missing out are the parents; not the children. So, to you who are worried about missing out on getting your children to have a photo taken with a stranger in disguise, I want to say: It’s ok to not do that. Your children probably won’t mind. You don’t have to have a collection of annual photos with different strangers in red and white suits. You won’t really miss out.
It’s ok if your children don’t want to do this thing, even if it is considered “normal” by society. You can make your own traditions as a family at this time. Figure out what would make this time of year special for them, rather than insist that they do things that are considered to contribute to the “joy” of the season. There is no joy in feeling scared or overwhelmed, and having your parents force you to do something anyway.
I can’t say this enough times: Getting a photo taken with a stranger in disguise is a really weird tradition, and I do not understand why parents insist that this must be fun for their children.
Footnote: If your child wants a photo with Santa, then none of this applies, but it should be their choice.