Outgrowing Santa: A Timeline
Santa is for us. For parents. He was conceived by and is perpetuated because of Moms and Dads. I offer up to you, as exhibit A, a photograph taken during my daughter’s first visit with Santa Claus in 2003.
Look at that infant in Santa’s arms. She doesn’t know who he is. Or who she is. Or what planet she is on. That baby would just as soon been sitting in a bouncy seat as in his velvety lap, and she doesn’t want anything for Christmas aside from the things she wants every other day of the year (i.e. bottle, clean diaper, pacifier, to be picked up and toted around).
This trip to the mall was my idea. The little outfit, though you can’t see it for Santa’s formidable arm, was chosen and bought by me for the expressed purpose of wearing it in this photograph. Baby’s First Christmas.
I am not saying that children don’t enjoy the myth of Santa, and certainly they love to look under the tree on Christmas morning to see what sorts of gifts he has left for them, but the joy they feel while tearing the colorful paper from the boxes can’t touch the happiness we, as parents, experience as we watch their smiles and listen to their squeals in that moment of genuine joy.
A child’s happiness is a powerful drug, so Christmas, for parents, is a big bender. This business with Santa: we start it too soon, we take it too far, and we keep it going much too long.
I started a scrapbook in 2003 after this photograph was taken. (Remember when we were all scrapbooking?) It is a small book, and I add to it only one page each year: a page containing a picture of Carrie and Santa. The photographs chronicle not only our daughter’s physical development, but her intellectual and emotional development as well.
The pictures, after 2007, change less in terms of Carrie’s demeanor. Physically she gets a little taller. A little thinner.
Somewhere around 2011 she just throws her leg over his knee. (Santa had his knee replaced and thought she would be too heavy to sit on it outright.)
In 2013, she gets away from the knee completely and, instead, sits at Santa’s side.
And here is the picture from this year. Carrie in braces. Carrie a year away from make-up. She sits with Santa only for her brother’s sake. He still believes, and this she wants to encourage.
This is middle school; the stage that I dreaded back in 2003 when I started the Santa and Me scrapbook. I dreaded the day she outgrew Santa. And childhood. But adolescence is grand in it’s own way.
Carrie joined the band this year. She is in the drum section. Totally her idea. The school held a Christmas concert earlier this month, and she was so excited. She practiced everyday. Drummed on every surface of the kitchen and playroom for weeks. Jingle bells and Jolly Old St. Nicholas. Her pride and dedication, being witness to it, it made me happy as a mother. It wasn’t the same kind of happiness that I’d felt years ago while watching her in a state of Santa-related giddiness, but it was happiness all the same. Not less or more. Just different.
I feel foolish for having worried (for still sometimes worrying) about all that she and her brother will outgrow. It is silly. They are forever growing. Outgrowing some things. Growing into others. And there is joy to be found in all of it.