I’ve been writing on the internet long enough to take my share of (*cough*) negative feedback. Like the group who sent me daily messages for A YEAR in response to a post about circumcision. Or the dude who asked politely for photos of me, erm… bathing inside my newly renovated bathroom. Or the concerned parents who read this post and felt it necessary to detail every possible horrible, terrifying, soul-destroying thing that could have happened while I watched my daughter sob on our driveway. And we won’t get into the stuff from those who feel I’m setting my kids up for a brief life of abiding dissatisfaction, ended by drug addiction and suicide, because I’ve taught them how to read.
On Friday, this picture appeared in The Globe and Mail, along with an edited version of the events preceding.
I was four months pregnant with my son, in this photo. Halfway through eight solid months of
morning all day sickness, and wearing glasses because enlarged blood vessels in my eyes made contact lenses unbearable. I hate having my picture taken. Hate. But here I am, smiling away, because it’s a CHRISTMAS TRADITION and I was going to be nauseous, achey, embarrassed, HAPPY about it if it frickin’ killed me.
My daughter was 20 months old, here. Speaking clearly and intelligently, and already drawing her first happy faces and sunflowers on the chalkboard in the kitchen. No longer the sleepy baby she was in her first Santa photo, we asked her about it:
“Danica, do you want to go see Santa?”
“Do you want to sit on his knee and ask him about presents?”
And, wiggling with excitement, we packed her into the car, and went to West Edmonton Mall during prime time because
we’re stupid because I was puking sick with the effort of growing my son and didn’t want to wait in line without my husband.
An hour or so later, after smiling and nodding at Danica’s constant chatter about Santa and his castle and his chair and that lady over there and the camera and the pretend snow and the jingle bells…. After getting her in and out of her puffy winter coat six times. After singing songs and doing finger plays, and otherwise trying
not to lose our minds to maintain her excitement, we paid a ridiculous sum for four photos and waited our turn to visit the Jolly One.
She reached her arms out to him. She sat on his knee and looked patiently up at him. And then she saw me backing away… and WAILED.
We tried seating me just out of the photo while still holding Danica’s hand, behind Santa with my hand on her back, or kneeling in the foreground to maintain eye contact. We tried! But I ended up parked right beside that very, very patient man with an exhausted smile on my face and my princess trying to get her little body as far away from him as possible.
And it was funny.
The reporter approached me about this story via a comment I left on an UrbanMoms blog, and it was pitched as a humourous take on the lengths to which a parent will go to get that Santa photo. Let’s emphasize “humourous”, here. As in, “comical”, “chuckle-worthy”, and “liable to incite giggles”. Something about which one might laugh.
The article isn’t funny. I am disappointed in the way my words were edited together. The tone has changed. That’s not my voice. But mostly? I was stunned at how angry some readers felt about the harm I had done to my child.
There is no need to counsel me on separation anxiety, stranger anxiety, and compromised attachment. I’ve read about it. Extensively. I promise. I’m not a sadist because I laughed when my daughter endured a full three minutes of horror in the presence of The Most Benevolent Mascot Known to Man.
It was funny.
Just like the harlequin mask of my son’s face when the pasta on his plate is the wrong shape. Or the flop-and-drop perfected by toddlers the world over in response to such grave injustices as having juice in a red cup (NOT a purple one), being prohibited from wearing the same Cars/Dora/Dinosaur shirt for the third consecutive day, or leaving any place for any reason.
Because if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry. Because if we lose our sense of humour, our kids will never gain theirs, and all of us need to do a better job of laughing at ourselves.
Because it’s Christmas time, and we are so good at finding reasons to feel bad, feel guilty, stress, accuse, and complain, that we’re missing the point. It’s supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be funny. It’s supposed to be something so good that even the most neurotic among us can’t make it bad.
I will proceed with extreme caution before allowing anyone to use my voice again. This was a learning experience. But you know what? I will also take my kids to see Santa at the market next weekend. Maybe share some hot chocolate, go for a sleigh ride…
And try not to laugh too hard when my son looks on The Jolly Old Elf with absolute terror.