Well, bah humbug. Right? You thought it. I might have thought it recently too. This is our fourth year of Christmases with kids, and every other year we took them to sit on Santa’s lap. But not this year.
Were you paying attention when #metoo took social media by storm? I honestly don’t know a single woman who has never been sexually harassed or assaulted during her lifetime.* Seeing it all over my newsfeeds was painful — especially because all I could think about was my two daughters. They are just 3 and 2 years old.
So far in their short little lives, they don’t know that world. A fellow Montessori blogger wrote a great post about teaching consent to young children, and when I read it, the holidays immediately jumped into mind. I was filled with shame and regret as I thought about previous years when I would plop my daughter onto Santa’s lap and laugh while taking pictures of her frantically trying to get away. I fully admit that I thought it was cute and funny — in an “I know she’s actually safe” kind of way. But she didn’t think she was safe.
I put my child in a strange man’s lap and told her she had to stay there even though she was uncomfortable, so he would give her gifts.
Read that again.
That is not a lesson I want my child to learn. I want her to know that her body is hers and hers alone, under all circumstances. That she can say no when she doesn’t like what somebody else is doing to her body. And that she never has to allow someone to do something to her body in exchange for something she wants.
You might think I’m overreacting here, but I really don’t think I am.
Yes, it’s true that this was my fault. I was the one putting my children in Santa’s lap, making them stay there while I took pictures. I definitely should have asked them if they wanted to sit beside him instead, or stand next to the chair, or not go at all. I knew that I was right there and that nothing bad was going to happen to them — but what I know doesn’t really matter.
My child’s high level of discomfort should be enough of an indicator that a situation is not okay. I want her to know that she can say no and be heard.
So we will not be repeating this little Christmas tradition this year. We might go to get a photograph and talk to Santa, but then again, we might skip it altogether because of the many, many voices (of photographers, bystanders, and even the big man himself) who will be telling my daughter that her comfort does not matter and that she should sit on Santa’s lap anyway like a good girl so he will bring her presents at Christmas.
Nope, definitely not going.
Instead, I think we’ll write a letter.