This morning I woke up, rubbed my eyes after getting only a few short hours of sleep (thanks to my youngest child who hasn’t figured out that sleep is amazing), made myself a cup of coffee, and turned on my computer. I checked my usual sites, email and Facebook, while sipping on the hot drink that magically makes me feel a little more human once I finish the cup.
As if I wasn’t already overwhelmingly aware that it’s the holiday season, every news story I scrolled past on the social media site bombarded me with gifts (to buy and to wrap), tips on how to handle the holiday craziness, and of course, those photos of kids with Santa. Of these, the images that get the most attention aren’t the ones where the children are beaming with happiness and dressed to the nines. In online pictures, unlike in real life, cute, well-behaved kids are boring.
What really gets people clicking “like” are the meltdowns. People want the anarchy. They want tantrums, tears, and mouths so distorted with hysteria that you can practically hear the scream through the pixels. Bonus points if more than one child is crying.
I get it, photos of kids losing their cool are funny. I laugh all the time at the weird reasons my kid is losing their cool, and have more than a few documented on my hard drive. But the photos of kids crying on Santa’s knee are different. As humorous as the rest of the world seems to think they are, I couldn’t disagree more.
You’re probably sitting there accusing me of being a scrooge and needing to lighten up, but there is nothing light-hearted about a young child expressing their naturally given fear of strangers, especially a stranger in a beard mask at that.
Your child isn’t crying in that photo because you didn’t chose to serve the “purple yogurt’ instead of the “red one,” they’re crying because they’re afraid.
Yep – of Santa. That weird person you’ve placed them on who is wearing a fake beard on their face. Of all the “elves” trying to get them to smile, shaking, and waving weird instruments to make them happy. They’re terrified, and that is something I have a hard time laughing at.
According to Dr. Sears, separation anxiety is totally normal in babies and usually starts between the ages of 7 months and generally lasts well into the second year. It is a normal part of development and is like a built-in mechanism for survival while they’re learning how to trust and who to trust. So, it’s no coincidence these photos on social media tend to have a child in this age group, and it’s no surprise they’re crying.
Your child trusts you – they look to you to keep them safe and while you may think this one photo op with seeing Santa is “no big deal” – you have to take their feelings into consideration. Your insistence to keep them in a place where they don’t feel safe (that they really don’t need to be in, it’s not like you gain a badge of parenthood for that snapshot), and laughter at their resulting distress is truly inconsiderate.
Do I really think that one bout of crying while a child was 18 months old will scar them for life because of Santa? Of course not, they probably won’t even remember. Do I think that one photo could be to blame for the reason your child has nightmares for a few weeks after and refuses sleep? It’s possible.
What I know for sure is that any photo of a child who looks legitimately terrified isn’t funny in my books, even if there’s holiday magic and Santa included. Wait until your child is older and they’re no longer experiencing fear, or respect their space if that fear never really goes away.More On