Last Friday, Santa came to Sauk Rapids, MN. This is where my friend Sara lives with her husband and two kids, one of which is Norah's BFF, Samantha, aka Minta. A few other kids came, too.
The kids were playing in the toy room downstairs when they heard jingle bells and a hearty "Ho ho ho!" The older kids thundered up the stairs immediately. Norah and Samantha froze.
"Ho ho ho!"
Norah looked at me with terror in her eyes. Samantha started to cry.
Some of the adults called from upstairs, "Santa's here!" and "Come meet Santa!" Norah looked at me, and backed away slowly, back into the toy room. Samantha clung to her dad. "Me scared."
"Norah," I said gently, "You can go tell Santa what you want for Christmas."
She hesitated. Then she walked to the stairs and screamed, "I want a drum!" Then retreated back to the toy room.
Now, I wasn't shocked or anything. Neither of the girls wanted anything to do with Santa last year either. As far as they knew, he was the personification of Stranger Danger decked out in red. Even though they both revere Santa in cartoons and books, and understand that this underemployed recluse is the giver of toys and presents, in person, he's terrifying for some reason.
A little voice in my head was telling me to be a good mom. Don't force her. It's not a big deal. A larger voice was telling me to haul her butt upstairs and plop her down on Santa's lap. She'll love it once she gets over the initial fear. Uncle Dan is doing us a huge solid. Don't make him feel bad. I scooped her up.
Once we made it upstairs, her tiny nails digging into my shoulders, she saw Santa sitting at the kitchen table with his big red bag. The bag was important. We play Santa at home, and always have a bag of toys. Norah pretends to be asleep in her bed, and I haul the cat's little cave/bed thing in her room (that's Santa's bag) and deliver the toys she stuffed inside under her bed. Then she "wakes up" and screams with joy that Santa came.
Suddenly, the fear dissolved. She went to Santa and he lifted her up on his lap.
"I want a drum and a horse with a gate."
"Now wait a second," Santa said. "Have you been a good girl?"
"Do you listen to your mom and dad?"
"And what do you want?"
"A drum and a horse with a gate."
She slid off his lap and he gave her a little gift bag. She ran to me and we opened it happily. The other kids took their turns. Samantha had a look on her face that said Hell no. Neither Samantha or Norah would go near him again, even for the group photo, unfortunately.
We thanked Santa and off he went.
The next morning, I asked Norah about Santa. "Did you have fun meeting Santa?"
"I didn't get what I want," she said sadly, and looked down at her oatmeal.
Then I went into the elaborate explanation of the North Pole's toy factory and the elves and all that and that we had to wait until Christmas.
"I didn't get what I want."
Oh, I have a feeling you will, Kiddo.