In all honesty I could pretty much give or take the annual visit with Santa, but I had a work assignment that coincided with a visit to the Man in the Red Suit, so I figured I'd take the kids and make a day of it, especially since it was a tax write off. There's nothing like saving money to motivate me to do something nice for my children.
This is actually the first time that we've done the Santa thing. Last year I was just too exhausted to even try to deal with a shopping mall during the Holidays, and when you're raising your kids (mostly) Jewish it seems a little weird to push the Christmas thing too much. We are definitely going to make the Santa visit an annual event, because nothing says "Happy Holidays" quite like torturing your children in the quest for a great photo.
Now that we've survived our inaugural visit to Kris Kringle, and we've lived to tell the tale, I've got a few tips to make your journey to the North Pole relatively painless.
Age is more than just a number. Unless you really, really want a keepsake photo of your infant screaming in Santa's arms, skip the trip to the North Pole until your kids are older. The Muffin Man is the perfect age to introduce the tradition, and he had a great time with the whole adventure. Younger siblings, of course, get forced to do everything their older brothers do, so Rose got dragged along, placed in the arms of a man who might very possibly be a sexual predator, and told to smile. Not surprisingly this did not go over very well, which is I'm sure something she will discuss at length with her future therapist.
Make a reservation. Remember when you used to go to nightclubs and the doorman would ask if you were on the list? Don't be one of the losers standing outside the velvet ropes watching all the cool people get in while you freeze your ass off outside - find the Santa closest to you and book a time to visit. Then you just print your ticket, show up at the appointed time, and enjoy a painless trip to the North Pole without your children whining every five minutes about how long they've been waiting.
Bring snacks. If you have children and you have not yet learned to travel with non-perishable food items on your person at all times, you need to repeat Parenting 101. There is no bigger guarantee of an epic public tantrum than forcing a hungry kid to do something he doesn't want to do. Double points for the fact that unwrapping and eating snacks will occupy your children for at least two minutes.
Prep them in advance. If Santa is on your must-do list, be sure and talk him up for at least a week beforehand. Don't just take your kid, plop him on some creepy old man's lap and hope for the best, because there ain't no way that's going to work. We read stories about Santa and talked to Noah repeatedly about who Santa is and what he does on Christmas Eve. At first he seemed a little weirded out about a strange man coming down his chimney (as well he should, under normal circumstances) but he warmed up to the idea and was ready to share his very long wish list by the time we made our visit to Saint Nick. I also made sure that we really pushed the whole "naughty or nice" concept because that shit is like a holiday gift to parents when your kiddo is throwing a tantrum or refusing to eat his dinner.
Count on inflation. While it may be free to visit Santa, those keepsake photos are not, and I can tell you that the price for embarrassing photos of your offspring has gone up a whole heck of a lot since I was a kid. Don't count on using your iPhone to snap a great shot, because that's not allowed and Santa will sic one of his more burly Elves on you if you even try. Perhaps photos with Santa have always been expensive, but these days it's practically highway robbery. I didn't really need a photo package of said shot - including at least six wallet size and an 8x10 - but since they don't let you purchase just one lone photo I'm now trying to foist these pictures off on every relative I can think of.
Laugh. If I've learned one thing it's that nothing, nothing ever goes as planned when it comes to kids. Plan for the best, expect the worst, and laugh at whatever goes wrong. If that doesn't work, there's always wine and Xanax.
If you have a hilarious and/or embarrassing photo with Santa, be sure and share it over on the Misadventures Facebook page. I love confirmation that I'm not the only parent torturing her children for the sake of being "festive".