By MARY WARD
So, Christmas is coming up and if you have kids (and aren’t, you know, Jewish or Muslim) chances are you’re going to want to mark this annual coming of the Yule with a picture of your child sitting on the knee of a complete(ly lovely) stranger with a polyester beard.
Fantastic! So, I’ll be seeing you shortly?
Yes, that’s right. I’m that girl. The elf/helper/photographer/fan operator/bringer of joy and cheer. In my three years as one of Santa’s nearest and dearest I have literally seen it all. And I mean that. You wouldn’t think that many kids consider the sight of Santa to be the best cue for throwing off all of their clothes but I put the odds at 1 in 50.
So, to help you out this holiday season, I’ve put together my top 12 tips for successfully surviving your Santa Photo. Because Christmas stuff just comes in dozens, doesn’t it?
1) Think ahead, people! I know that it doesn’t feel much like Christmas now. I get that. Also, you may be in denial. But early December really is the best time to get a Santa photo taken. There are no queues, Santa can spend ages talking to your kids and, better still, you can probably still park your car without having a nervous breakdown.
2) Watch your words while standing in line. Never, EVER assume that the child waiting in front of you is old enough to know that the only real residents of the North Pole are researchers and Russians trying to capitalise on the whole melting permafrost situation. I don’t care if they look old enough to be in high school, or old enough to have a mortgage. Have I had to reassure a fourteen year old that Santa is real? Yes. Yes I have. Now, let us never speak of this ever again.
3) He’s not ‘the man who plays Santa’. He’s just Santa. If I’ve spent the past half hour telling kids up and down the line that Santa’s just gone to feed his reindeer/is eating the lovely breakfast Mrs Claus has cooked for him/is just double checking his list to see which lovely boys and girls are coming to visit him today, you are not allowed to chime in with: “Oh, sorry darling it looks like the man who plays Santa is on his toilet break… What time is he working tomorrow, or is it a different guy?”
4) Be guided by the Elf: we can read the fear. When Santa and I are both saying: “Maybe we just stop the pram there, mum.” It is because we can see something that you, happily pushing your child up to greet us, cannot. We can see your child’s face contorting. We can see your child’s limbs squirming, and performing some mean gymnastic feat to push their little body up against the very back of that pram.
We can see that in about three seconds your child will begin one of the greatest tantrums they have ever staged in a public space, and that it will be in front of a horde of other parents (who will make audible sounds of the “tut tut” variety) and children (who may even have a sympathetic tantrum, creating a domino effect of wailing and foot stamping.) We can see that this won’t be a good idea, Mum. So maybe let us wave from a five- metre distance, and we’ll see how we go from there.
5) Don’t use the word “SCARY”. If you want to give your kid a good chance of not being scared of Santa, you could try not using the word “SCARY” so much? As in: “Don’t be silly, sweetheart. Santa’s not SCARY! He’s not SCARY at all! There’s nothing to be SCARED about this not-SCARY Santa.” This is particularly annoying when the child wasn’t aware that they were supposed to be SCARED in the first place.
Otherwise you might end up with photos like this: [text continues after the picture]
6) Please stick around to translate. If you make it up to Santa and I, that’s not your role over. No, no. Does your two and a half year old speak the Queen’s English with Received Pronunciation? I didn’t think so. Diction and toddlers don’t go too well together. So, it would help if, when your child is speaking to Santa you could stand alongside them and… um… how do I say this? Oh, I know: translate. Otherwise, how is Santa supposed to know that “Hiseen Libla” means that your little angel’s name is “Hyacinth Liliana?”
7) Prompting is good. If your child wants a “Rapid Charge Ultra Booster Vortex Mega Gun With Hydropower Shockwave Capacity” (a present that is conveniently dwelling in a bag at the back of your wardrobe) you might need to remind them of that. Preferably before they ask for a puppy.
8) Remember that Santa is not there to discipline your children. Yes, he can encourage kids to be nice not naughty, but sometimes the requests he gets are a little too specific/punitive. You cannot ask Santa to “tell Tommy that if he keeps
on watching cartoons on a Saturday morning instead of studying for the Selective Schools test he won’t get any presents this year and he won’t be able to play on the iPad until he’s 18.”
9) Audience participation is good. On the other hand, it is okay for you to say: “I’m not sure if Santa’s going to be able to fit that motorbike in his sleigh/where would we put a Batmobile in our garage/I think that Justin Bieber might want to have a say in who he marries.”
In fact, it is wholeheartedly encouraged. Otherwise, we are left wondering whether you are the sort of family that would actually give a four year old a motorbike/Christopher Nolan memorabilia/enough of a dowry to evoke interest from teen superstars. I once questioned whether or not a child would be able to have a dance floor and mirror installed in their study, because mummy and daddy might need some space to do work. Turns out mummy and daddy were happy to pursue this FIVE year old’s ballet dreams. Oops.
10) Don’t expect Santa to read your mind. Cute family traditions associated with Santa are great. They really are. But I’d like to think that, when I’m chatting to the kids, I can make a few assumptions about your household’s Santa narrative i.e. that kids believe Santa delivers presents on Christmas drawn by reindeer in a sleigh. So, if your house believes that Santa rocks up on Kwanza in a rusty Holden ute accompanied by the ghosts of your deceased family pets, maybe you could let me know quietly before your kids come up?
11)If your child vomits or excretes on Santa, don’t panic. You’re in good company. However, it would help if you could assist me in cleaning whatever your child has left on Santa’s suit, rather than just taking a photo for Facebook.
12) Keep your expectations low. I can only spend so long tickling your child with a rattle while sprinting with the still shaking rattle up to behind the photographer, in some foolish attempt to trick the kid into associating the camera lens with laughter. You may really, REALLY want a picture of your kid smiling away on Santa’s knee. And they may really, REALLY want a picture of them looking like that kid from the Grudge. If it’s not going to happen, it’s not going to happen. It can be frustrating but, hey: think about the 21st birthday value!
Mary is an intern at Mamamia, and a Media and Communications student from Sydney. She can do the splits, wiggle her ears and tell you who won Eurovision in 1973. You can follow her on Twitter here.
Do you take your children to see Santa? Did you go as a kid? Upload your best photos in the comments section!