Why I Won't Force My Kid to Sit on Santa's Lap This Year

Kristine Sostar McLellan

We've all seen the photos of crying children on Santa's lap. From our vantage point, fully understanding that our kids are safe and will likely grow to love and look forward to this tradition, I get it, it can seem funny.

But this year my 16-month-old will undoubtedly be unimpressed by the idea of being thrust into the arms of an unknown person.

While I wouldn't exactly categorize her as clingy (daycare seems to have improved this greatly, she literally slammed the door on me at drop-off once!), she does prefer to take things slow and stay close to Mom and Dad.

So when we take our daughter to visit Santa next weekend, I won't be forcing her sit on Santa's lap and if she is wary of the situation overall, I won't make light of her feelings of fear.

Look, I realize this is not the most important parenting decision out there. And truly, if you are looking forward to the funny crying Santa photo, no judgement. I'm not saying there's nothing out there worth judging, but this certainly seems to falls short on that list. 

Still, I look at this tradition as an opportunity to reinforce my daughter's understanding of her own bodily autonomy. Because let's face it: she's a baby, she doesn't have much.

When it's time to leave the swing but she doesn't want to, she is simply carried out. Her whole body is lifted up and maneuvered against her will! Things happen to her constantly throughout the day and there isn't much she can do - it's just part of her reality.

So why not take the opportunity, where we can, to show our small ones that they ultimately choose what happens to their bodies?

I recently saw a social media post about this that I liked. A Mom shared her kid's Santa photos over the years. Year one, a small baby is in Santa's lap, unphased. Year two the same baby, now much older, is in Mom's arms, about a foot away with Mom crouching toward Santa. Year three, Mom is sitting beside Santa, toddler in her lap. Then eventually the child is seen grinning on Santa's lap.

I love this because they clearly worked to figure out what the kid was comfortable with and made that work. It was no burden to anyone, and the tradition and photo were upheld.


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