Let me start off by saying this is not about me being cheap. Okay, writing that makes me sound like I am defending myself for being cheap.
I am not.
It’s about wanting to create the Most Beautiful Santa Experience for my kids. Seriously.
Last year, just like every other year before, we went to the mall to visit Santa and get the traditional Santa photo. It was okay. I mean, it was a little weird. For starters, the entire Santa “HQ” set up – the one we paid $35 to experience – was like a big advertisement for HGTV. They were selling their shows on big flat screens. Their TV personalities and show hosts adorned the walls. It was like walking into a huge advertisement for the cable channel, only I paid to be advertised to. It was weird. It was a little off putting, if I am being honest.
The big, beautiful, sparkly Christmas tree Santa sat in front of was replaced with a green bench. That had HGTV logos all over it. Logos on the photos I paid for.
I mean, I know it’s a “Mall Santa,” but I sort of didn’t want Christmas commercialized in my keepsake photo. You know, the one I paid for.
So maybe this is about me being cheap.
Anyway, this year was going to be different. I mean, there are tons of places that offer photos with Santa. Why not take advantage of something closer to home? More relaxed, and a better experience for the kids.
Last weekend, a local apple farm promised it all. Santa for photos, a mailbox with a direct line to the North Pole, hayrides, a bouncy house, a fire pit and pie sampling. Oh, yes, this was going to be awesome. It’s soooo much better to support a local farm with our dollars and visit than it is to support HGTV and the mall.
I was ON IT. We planned outfits. We re-scheduled our day to get there. We. were. going. to. see. SANTA. Family fun was to be had.
My first clue to what the day would really be like was probably when I learned we had to bring our own cameras to snap photos of the kids with Santa. No problem, I thought. But maybe I should have considered the legitimacy of this operation. Why didn’t they have their own camera set up? Were they not taking this whole Santa visit thing seriously?
Whatever. So we get there, and Santa is in the back of the farm store. Like, way in the back. And there is no line. At all. “This is awesome, kids!” I told them and myself. “No line like at that MALL!”
And then I realized why there was no line. As we turned the corner and I got a glimpse of “Santa” my heart sank, and I knew there was no turning back.
You guys, it was the fakest, most fakity-fake-fake Santa I have ever seen. And my kids were totally not convinced. I mean, do you see my daughter’s face in this photo?
We enjoyed the rest of the day at the farm and all its activities. And I have to say, it was a really nice day and event. The farm tried, they did, but once we got home, our daughter was in a terrible mood. She was acting out, and crying and it wasn’t until she was sent to her room that she confessed to us.
“Mommy, I am really sad because that wasn’t the real Santa at the farm,” she cried. I mean, she CRIED. Like, ugly cried about this Santa.
I explained the “Helper” concept to her, but she was not having it.
“Mommy, I saw his pillows in his shirt! And his beard was not attached to his skin, Mommy!”
She was in tears and hysterical about it. And, honestly, by this point I felt like crap too.
“Why didn’t you say anything before?” I asked her.
“Because I didn’t want to hurt Santa’s feelings,” she confessed.
Ugh. This was a situation I created in hopes it would be the Best Santa Photo Ever, and now she was inconsolable. There was only one way to rectify this situation.
“Do you want to go see the real Santa at the mall, and get your picture taken with him?” I asked.
And that’s just what we did.
Admittedly, the experience was a little better given my new-found love for the HGTV show “Property Brothers.” Plus, there were no logos on the photo with Santa this time!
But two lessons were learned:
- Don’t sacrifice a great experience because you’re disillusioned by Corporate America – your kids totally don’t care, and
- My kids are too old to be fooled by bad-looking Santas.