Every year we partake in the same weird tradition as everyone else. It doesn’t seem weird, of course, because it’s a normal part of our holiday traditions within Americana. In malls all over the country, children are sitting on a strangers lap to tell them intimate details of their wishes, while parents laugh at it’s awkwardness and state obscure movie lines that don’t actually apply to their 5 year old little girl. “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
When we began this tradition, my daughter was too little to be affected by the fear of the bearded stranger. The year after, it freaked her out. We got two pictures that day, one that was before she realized she was hanging in no man’s land, that frightening place for a 1 year old where they don’t realize that they aren’t on the lap of those they trust, but instead have been left to linger on a strangers lap for purposes of photographic posterity. It’s monsterous. Even more so in that parents usually laugh.
As we fast forward, my youngest is now my oldest, ringing in at a staggering 5 years old, a student of kindergarden, and a believer in Santa Claus. She believes so whole heartedly that I feel a pang of regret for that day that the reality of her dreams will be shattered, and she will have to succumb to the fact that her parents have not only been lying to her, but have also been sneaking around pretending to be something they are not. Until that point, we will invite her to sit on a stranger’s lap and give him hugs, and tell him things she probably won’t even tell me. Did I mention he’s a stranger? Yes. I don’t know who he is either. Weird.
In all of this, kids at a certain age seem to have a 6th sense about these things. We took the trip last night. We went out to eat some pizza as a family, and decided we would not only go out for some frozen yogurt, but that we’d swing buy and see the big guy. I knew my son, the Bear, was stoked about this because his spirit was high. When his spirits are high, he tends to be the embodiment of the funny boy he is. At one point I put him in his car seat, and gave him a raspberry on his face to which he stated loudly in his little 2 year old Smurf voice “Not cool, man!” It was looking good.
It wasn’t good.
I am normally the one who takes photos at such milestones. Unfortunately, I could get enough distance between me and my son long enough to get photos except this quick one.
Bear was crying. Screaming and crying in anxiety. I tried to let him own the moment by getting down to his level, putting him on the floor only to have him try to flee to Abercrombie and Fitch. The horror. While all of this is going on, my daughter is telling Santa all the secrets of the universe, no doubt in the form of a doll. We didn’t get photos because it simply didn’t seem right without the Bear in the picture. If we had, it’s likely it would have resembled last year’s photo.
I did my best to bring about a boobie prize, and go ahead and get the photo. My wife wasn’t on board to sit in for Bear. That resulted in pure sadness because I can’t think of anything better than my two best girls sitting on the lap of a strange man with a white beard who probably keeps the naughty children in the well his basement.
Postscript: this graphic still applies.