Today was the much anticipated Santa visit. Or, I should say, the first Santa visit, since Hawkeye is getting to see Santa again in creche later this month (he comes down the chimney into the Director’s office, apparently). Now, our office does not have a chimney, so I suspect Santa may have had to sneak in the back door.
The office children’s Christmas party was a tradition kicked off by one of the partners a couple of years before Hawkeye was born. I didn’t pay it much attention in those years, but it’s a spectacular event that seems to just get bigger every year. Despite being an actually busy lawyer, the organising partner manages to buy presents for everyone who RSVPs, get the whole atrium decorated with snowflakes, organise our canteen to produce brownies, mince pies, drinks, cones of chicken nuggets and cocktail sausages, get other entertainment like face painting, arts and craft stands, a magician or a story teller, and, most importantly, turn our training room into a mysterious, darkened Santa’s grotto with a real, proper, professional Santa. That beard ain’t nylon, folks.
It’s a pretty huge undertaking but a very lovely way for the office to include family once a year, and it’s the most hassle-free way to get kids to see Santa. The kids get a present, the parents get a professional family photo, and all it costs is having to chat with your colleagues outside of office hours.
Hawkeye was still a tiny infant when December rolled around, however, the organiser didn’t forget to contact those on maternity leave so Hawkeye’s first visit to Santa was at the tender age of about 2 months. I came late and was not in very good form that day (or that week, or month, or even year to be honest). I hadn’t remembered to get a ticket (I was new to the whole “take your child to see Santa” experience) and Hawkeye had started fussing from hunger. The organiser very kindly snuck me in ahead of the remaining families for a 30 second photo opportunity. Hawkeye was handed over to Santa, photographed, and handed back before the kid copped on to what was going on to protest about it. In the photo his eyes are wide open in a classic baby “WTF?” expression.
That is still the only time he’s ever actually “sat” in Santa’s lap.
The following year, at the age of one year and two months, Hawkeye didn’t even want to be put down on the ground, much less sit on Santa’s lap. I was glad I had brought my sling because he was at the height of the separation anxiety phase. Even clinging to my legs was insufficient comfort. He only quieted in my arms or on my back. The sight of Santa terrified him and we were photographed with me perched on the arm of Santa’s chair with Hawkeye in my lap. He was crying but one of Santa’s elves wisely handed his present to Santa before the photograph was taken instead of after. The sight of a shiny box being handed to him momentarily shocked Hawkeye out of his crying fit and the photographer took his chance. The photo came out fairly well, with just Hawkeye’s eyebrows raised and his mouth slightly open. Many people commented that he seemed a bit surprised or just cute. In reality he was revving up to another ear-shattering cry until he was stowed back into the safety of his sling on mama’s back.
Last year, at the age of two years and two months, there were no serious tears. It was the first year I twisted The Mister’s arm into going along so that we could get a family photo. He’s met a handful of my colleagues but for the most part it’s not really his scene and I don’t make him hang around awkwardly making nice with strangers beyond the visit to Santa’s grotto. Hawkeye was fascinated by the mirrored surfaces in our office atrium but was fairly reluctant to interact with any one else. He was wary and suspicious of Santa, but this gave way to excitement when he saw the Christmas tree. And what did he ask Santa to give him that year? “Chwithmith twee!” He declined to sit on Santa’s lap with a silent shake of his head and last year photo had me and The Mister crouched on either side of Santa’s chair, with Hawkeye perched on my knee looking quite serious but calm. Also, very grown up for a two year old.
This year we had proper excitement. I did not tell him the night before that he was going to see Santa today because I was afraid he was going to wake up at 6:30 in the morning and pester us into insanity about going to see Santa until we left the house at 11:30. My worries were definitely justified as he did in fact wake up at 6:30 in the morning. When it came time to get dressed to go he was winding up for a tantrum about wanting to wear the second of his Captain America shirts yet again. I managed to get him to stick the first on in the laundry basket the night before because he had insisted on wearing it for about five days in a row. When the whining began I finally pulled out the big guns.
“We’re actually getting dressed so we can go outside and go see Santa today. Don’t you think Santa would like to see your snowman shirt?”
There was a one-second moment of silence where his face lit up before the rest of him caught up to the news.
“SANTA! SANTA! SANTA!” He ran out of the room at top speed. “DADDY! WE’RE GOING TO SEE SANTA!” He ran back into the room. “SANTA! SANTA! SANTA!”
The snowman shirt was easy to get on him after that. He repeated the word “Santa” in a singsong voice almost the whole way over to my office. This year, as a full fledged threenager, he was much more interested in his surroundings. He didn’t venture anywhere away from mommy or daddy, but he took in the arts table where mommy declined to try and draw Santa Claus but did make a snowman. Santa was still in demand so The Mister demonstrated a hidden talent I didn’t know he had for drawing. I wish I had kept the pencil drawing because it was a pretty fearsome looking Santa. I think this must be the guy who comes to visit the naughty children.
Being much more experienced at this whole gig now, we got in early to get a ticket for Santa and got the visit out of the way as soon as possible to avoid the longer queue at the height of the event. Hawkeye was massively excited all the way until he stepped through the door into the darkened grotto, where he suddenly got very shy and bashful. I held his hand as he reluctantly walked up to Santa, who was trying amiably to engage him in conversation. There were absolutely no tears, but many whispered one-word answers as Hawkeye hung back holding my hand. When it came time for the photograph he once again immediately declined to sit with Santa, who in a very fuss-free manner patted the arm of his chair. I pulled Hawkeye up on my lap while perched on the side of the chair but he was unhappy there and ran over to daddy’s side. Daddy was crouching on the other side of Santa and ended up having Hawkeye sitting on his knee. Feeling awkward being the grown-up perched up next to Santa I also got down on the ground. I haven’t seen the photos yet but there were no tears or whining so I’m hopeful they will also come out well this year.
I released The Mister shortly after, letting him escape to the pub from the chaotic, loud hubbub. Hawkeye however was not done celebrating. He decided he wanted to get his face painted, and he sat as still as a statue for the entire experience. The girl was impressed and was actually stunned to find out that he was only three, as Hawkeye literally did not. move. a muscle. To be honest, I think he was a little bit uncomfortable as he really does need time to get used to strangers. He’s not one of those kids who is easily outgoing with people he just met. But he didn’t ask to get down, didn’t ask to stop, and just sat silently. He was hesitatnt as he climbed off the chair but I offered to take a photograph of his face to show him and he immediately regained his excitement. I was worried that it would become just a smeared mess within a half hour, but the facepaint lasted for most of the day before I could convince him to wash it off at home.
Getting his face painted turned out to not be the only highlight. Shortly after seeing Santa, I left the boys in the canteen to fetch my husband’s coat from our locker room and discovered a surprise in our little office gym.
This year the organiser got Wooly Ward’s Farm to come in and set up a few pens with small goats, two geese, a couple of chickens and ducks, and everyone’s favourite – a corner with child size seats where kids could sit down and hold rabbits, guinea pigs, or a bird on their lap. This was, of course, a huge if unexpected hit. No one seems to have gotten wind of this year’s newest entertainment offering and word was slowly filtering through the masses.
“Did you know there are animals in the gym?”
“What? What do you mean?”
“Like, farm animals. In the gym.”
“I heard there was a llama out back.”
“A llama? Are you serious?
“Yeah, it’s in the car park! I don’t know if they’re planning on bringing it inside or not.”
I honestly thought our Director of Finance was pulling my leg when he mentioned the llama. Truth be told, I never did actually see the llama, but I heard about it from many sources. Toward the end of our stay at the party I did run into the organiser, who rolled her eyes. “I told them not to bring the llama, when I was setting this up, but they showed up with it anyway. I have no idea where it even is now.”
All in all, a very successful visit. It’s nice to catch up to colleagues outside of work. I got to meet the family of one of my bosses. Our Managing Partner always looks a lot less intimidating when he’s not wearing a suit and frowning at his phone.
To go on a brief tangent here, I recently encountered a blog post about a mother who has decided this year that she will not subject her children to visiting Santa this year. The idea of forcing terrified children to sit on Santa’s lap while parents take photographs while they cry does sound a bit barbaric when I think of it that way, but I guess it’s never been my experience because I have never, since Hawkeye was born, forced Hawkeye to sit with Santa, and the Santa who comes to our office has never once insisted on holding an unwilling child on his lap or forcing the issue in any way. To be honest, I think he must be relieved not to have a squirming unhappy toddler on his lap and I really don’t get why other parents insist on it when it’s so easy to just step into the photo and hold your child next to Santa. And before going into the grotto I had been chatting with a couple of colleagues about whose children were excited and whose were still in the “terrified-of-Santa” phase. One woman told us that her ten-year-old daughter informed her this morning that it was not appropriate for her to sit in Santa’s lap. The mother gave us a wry shrug. “Welcome to visiting Santa in a post-Weinstein era.”
Back to us in Santa’s grotto – after the photo Santa leaned down and asked Hawkeye what he wanted for Christmas this year.
“A present,” Hawkeye replied prosaically in a small voice, still caught up in shyness. “And a Christmas tree.”
He was not disappointed.