When a mother looked closely at her son's Santa photo, she spotted his sign for help.

This month, mums and dads everywhere will be taking their children in for that classic photo on Santa’s lap.

And for every child who sits quietly and smiles, there’s at least a dozen more who pull faces, fall asleep, cry, scream or otherwise ruin what should be a perfect family photo.

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Samuel Spencer was one child who had no interest in being anywhere near the jolly man.

The then-toddler wasn’t able to explain this to his mum Kerry clearly, but he did find a way to express his fear of being forced to sit on a stranger in a red and white suit.

Here’s the photo Kerry Spencer took home that day:

Can you spot why she wasn’t necessarily impressed?

The Maryland mother told Mirror Online, her son is actually signing ‘help’ in baby American Sign Language.

Dr Spencer had taught her son and daughter the simplified version of sign language so they could communicate their needs to her before they could talk – something she probably regretted for a split-second when she saw the photo.

“It’s ASL baby sign, so he is slightly ‘mispronouncing’ the word, but it is the sign he always made when he needed help,” she explained.

“Poor boy didn’t love Santa very much – ever really. So we didn’t try to get him to go much after that.”

Now, 13-year-old Sam’s family laugh at the photo when it comes out every Christmas.

“I post it on Facebook annually and this year my friend asked me to tweet it so she could re-tweet it,” Kerry said about the image, which has been retweeted and liked by thousands of people.

“We all laugh at the photo now. Posting it is one of our favourite family traditions.”

You can listen to the full episode of This Glorious Mess here. This week on our podcast about family life, we talk to a family who ditched their city life to move to a lakeside vineyard in the country. Sounds like a dream, would you do it? Plus we ask how young is too young for a spray tan, and discuss the dentist who says crooked teeth are preventable.