Wednesday, December 23, 2009

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

Last year was Bella's first Christmas and I so badly wanted to freeze it in time with a traditional mall-Santa photo that we could laugh at for decades to come, but the protector in me kicked in and I didn't take her, knowing full well that placing her on that strange man's knee in the middle of that strange place would instantly send her into full cardiac arrest and probably scar her for life.

You see, my daughter, though charming, outgoing and funny as hell in private, suffers from more than her fair share of acute social anxiety. If she is placed in the vicinity of anyone that she has not known for her ENTIRE life she immediately retreats into herself, clutches onto my neck, and acts as if the world will end should this/these strange people so much as glance in her direction.

I always tell our guests, or any newish people who come near her, that it's best to avoid eye contact for at least one full hour and for GOD'S SAKE do NOT speak directly to her. Truly it's best to pretend as if she does not exist, until she's ready to come to you. This might take an hour, or it might take 3 days. Deal. With. It.

Last month, my employer had a company-wide children's Christmas party. It was technically for kids a little older than Bella, but they rented out an entire amusement park, and had gifts and of course, the Big Guy himself would be there, posing for pictures with the kids that would tolerate them. I so wanted her to go and though I didn't expect that she'd actually sit on his knee for a photo, this year she knows who Santa is and I secretly hoped that she'd be so awed in his presence that I could sneak her up there for a quick snap before all hell broke loose.

Well, hell broke loose at our house before we even left for the party. It started too late and her nap schedule was off and yadda yadda yadda a major meltdown/tantrum ensued. Plug was pulled on the mission and I resigned myself to another Santaless Christmas. Unlike last year, I was actually really disappointed this time around. I felt like she would have had a really good time at the party and even if she didn't get a photo with Santa, she would have loved to see him and to run around the park with the other little elves from the office.

Imagine my delight then when I realized that we'd get another chance!

Yesterday morning Bella's daycare had their annual Christmas sing-a-long. I think it used to be an actual concert until the caregivers realized that they were pretty much the only people doing any singing, while the all kids cried or stood frozen in stage-frightened silence.

The sing-a-long was fun, or would have been if it weren't for my anxiety-riddled child clinging to my neck and chest so tightly that I'm covered in claw marks today. There were moments, during her very favourite songs (Twinkle, Twinkle and Jingle Bells), where she loosed her grip on my throat a little and sang along, and in those moments I died and went to heaven. I'll never survive an actual school choir performance. Never.

But then, near the end of our sing-a-long, a tremor of excitement rippled through the room. A tremor that could only be caused by one man... that's right... tapping at the window with his candy cane cane and a full-on teen-aged, angst-ridden elf at his side. Santa. The kids went off like tweens at a Jonas Brothers concert, and my Bella? Oh my sweet, sweet little Bella. She looked up at me and took my cheeks in her little hands. Her eyes were wide as saucers and little body was literally reverberating with the sheer amazement of it all as she looked right into my eyes and whispered, "Mommy, it's Santa Clause." (Note, there's a video coming but I don't have time to upload it right now).

Of course I cried. I couldn't contain it. It was the magic of Christmas. The way that it should be. The pure, unadulterated, unspoiled, unrestrained joy of a child seeing Santa for the first time and not just believing it was him, but knowing it was him. It was a moment that I will remember and cherish for the rest of time.

Of course, Santa and his elf settled into pose with the children for pictures. Most kids were dragged over there against their will kicking and screaming all the way. The protector in me reared her head yet again and though I asked Bella several times if she wanted to go sit with Santa, she answered no each time and I didn't press the issue. She was happyish to watch from a distance, in the safety of my arms, as other kids sat on his knee for photos. Finally, once almost all the kids had their turns, I said to her, "Last chance Kiddo, do you want to go and see Santa?" And she, leaned into to me and in her breathy little voice said, "Yes."

So over we went, Cairn standing by with the camera at the ready. I stood with her for a minute or so while we said hi to Santa and she gave him a high five (super-cute) and then we went for it. Attempt one went something like this. I sat her down on his jolly old knee. She lasted a quarter of a section before she launched herself up into the air as if his leg was composed entirely of red hot coals, screaming and flailing all the while. It was quite the feat of strength and acrobatics, actually:

I think attempt number two wraps up this holiday post about as perfectly as anything ever could. It speaks volumes about how sometimes we think we want things for our kids, we think it's going to make the season special, or memorable, we think we're forging lifelong family traditions. But really? For the kids a chorus of jingle bells and that first glance of Santa Clause can make all their dreams come true. The rest of it? The dresses and the shopping and the pictures taken on Santa's knee? Well that stuff is mostly for us. And that's okay! We deserve to be happy too.

From my crazy little family to yours - a heartfelt Happy Holidays.

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