Imagine a world in which I, a self-respecting helicopter parent, would allow my tiny child to sit in the lap of a man I’ve never met before. He’s wearing an enormous fake wig that hides his true identity. I can’t make out his facial features, and I don’t know if he’s in the sexual predator database. He puts his arms out and clasps my child, who whispers secrets in his ear, in exchange for which he promises to give my child toys and candy. Since I can’t get close to him, I don’t know if he smells like candy-canes, weed, or alcohol. Or lies. Mall Santa sits on a throne of lies, as Buddy the Elf so aptly put it.
I can’t imagine what’s gone wrong in this world. Parents beat themselves up over so many stupid things. Car seat! Is the seatbelt properly fastened? Make sure you take that kid’s coat off before you strap him in, or else if you tap the brakes too hard he will shoot out of the coat and through the front windshield. Cribs! Thou shalt not co-sleep or else your child will DIE, and also cribs are incredibly dangerous unless you place your baby flat on her back with no buntings or stuffed animals, in pajamas that are so tight her fingers turn purple by the morning. Rice! Rice cereal is the perfect first solid food. No. Rice cereal must be avoided because of arsenic; feed it to your baby and she will DIE. Vaccines! No vaccines or else your child will DIE. Yes vaccines or else your child will DIE. Electrical outlets! Put those plastic covers on or else your baby will stick a finger in that outlet and… DIE. No, wait. Make sure those plastic covers aren’t made of plastic but are instead made of some environmentally conscious product, or else the plastic will leach toxins into the air and your child will… DIE. God forbid you should fail to enroll your kids in 18 extracurriculars by the time they’re 5 (and in their 4th year of school). They will surely be intellectually stunted and NEVER understand Kierkegaard, let alone ever remember how to spell his bloody name. Stranger danger! Teach your children that strangers are potential predators, murderers, rapists, kidnappers, bad bad bad. Never, ever, ever under any circumstances talk to a stranger, look sidewise at a stranger, nod at a stranger, or acknowledge a stranger’s existence.
Unless it’s Mall Santa. Then, you know, never mind. “Hi there, Mr. Fake Claus. I can’t imagine why you would want or need to take this job touching many children all day long, but hey, I offer up my child to sit on your red-panted leg, for you to hug and say sweet nothings to.”
I DON’T THINK SO.
Jesse once sat on a Santa’s lap in a Home Depot. It happened so quickly and unexpectedly, it’s like we were sucked into a Santa black hole. Jesse sat anxiously on that red lap, and Fake Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She was thoughtful, and she was skeptical about this guy. She answered finally. “A red car.” Okay then. We could have done that in a letter. No lap dance required.
Nick has never had the opportunity to sit on the lap of a Mall Santa. He never will, unless another black hole opens near me.
When I was little, I got my dad all grumpy one weekend over Mall Santa. Dad and I were running around doing stuff. I was 6 or 7, and arguably even more clueless than I am now. He was driving from here to there on the Eighth Army base in Seoul, probably shopping. I saw a Santa at two different locations, within minutes of each other. I interrogated Dad. How was this possible? How could Santa be in both places?? How come he looked different in each place??? Dad didn’t have the right answers, so I kept at him. Finally, he snapped in exasperation. “Aigoo, Carla!! He’s MAGIC. That’s how he’s in two places at the same time!!”
I may have explained this before, but “ai-go” is a Korean exclamatory sound that can be used to express many different feelings, from utter terror to absolute joy. A good modern American equivalency would be something like “oh” or “jeez” or “wow.” Dad used it primarily in a grumpy way to express irritation, and he pronounced it to sound exactly like this: “eye goo.” Dad could elongate these two syllables in the most annoying way, with a furrow in his brow and a grimace on his face, hanging his head over to the side and down a little as he shook it back and forth. It created a mood that was a combination of belligerent and broken-down. Brilliant.
Foiled again by my attentional issues. What was I saying about Santa?
Wait. Wait a second. Anthony just got home with the kids. He’s yelling, “Mommy we need you!” Bah. Oh. Nick crapped his pants. I’ll be right back.
* * * *
There’s nothing like fecal matter to transform a little boy’s cute little tooshy into a thing to be feared. Anthony and I have just finished a debate about whether it was worse for Anthony — who claims that he used his own hand (held up dramatically to show me the victim appendage) to reach down and scoop poop out of the “cavity of Nick’s butt” — or for me, since I had to bathe Nick’s poop-smeared butt and wash out his poopy clothes. The smell that arises when poop meets warm water… Just thinking about it is enough to make my eyes water.
Right. SANTA. Because this is a grumpy about the HOLIDAYS blog series, not grumpy about POOP.
After the Home Depot Santa event with Jesse, I remembered my own run-in with multiple Santas, and my dad’s unsatisfying explanation. I realized that Jesse would see right through these false Santas too soon for her own good. That’s when we came clean and explained that Mall Santa is not actually Santa. The Santas you see around town are contractors. They dress like Santa for fun and receive requests from children, and then they report back to Real Santa. This explanation works perfectly well for my children.
If you ever see me walking past a Mall Santa, and if you hear my kids ask me if they can stop and see Santa, you will hear me reply with these very words: “No. That’s not Santa. That’s a contractor. You’re better off writing a letter.”
And if you happen to be a Mall Santa, please don’t be offended. Just know that, if you ever want my child to sit on your lap, I’m going to need your social security number, fingerprints, and permission to run a background check first.