I can understand why my two year old son is petrified of Santa. Firstly, there’s that facial hair. Let’s face it, the man looks like he about to commit some unnamed atrocity with only a badly-constructed balaclava made from half a sheep to disguise him.
And then there is the lack of face. Never trust a man who squints out from behind a hirsute curtain with only his eyeballs on display. It’s an excellent life lesson learned early, that one.
Not forgetting that bloody annoying fake laugh. “HO HO HO” he chuckles mirthlessly, his alcohol-induced halitosis wafting through his beard. Even my six year old knows when I am faking it and calls me out regularly, so how Santa thinks he is going to get away with it astounds me. One day recently, having heard a particular poo joke in at least its fifteenth iteration, I forced out a sound that I hoped would pass muster on the laughter parade – but no. “Mummy, that was a fake laugh. Laugh properly.” At which point, having been rumbled, I did. Which is more than Santa ever does.
So let’s turn our attention to that ridiculous outfit. If he works as hard on Christmas Eve as he claims he does, there is no way he would be sporting white cuffs. How on earth would you remove the soot stains earned from shimmying down several million chimneys from white cuffs? No. Here is a man who patently sits on his fat arse in his sleigh playing Candy Crush whilst the poor elves on minimum wage clamber down chimneys to deliver his wares.
But perhaps I am over-thinking this a tad. After all, all my son knows is that the man in red with the freakish beard is Very Scary Indeed. At the school Christmas bazaar, we duly paid our two pounds to visit Santa’s grotto. My husband managed to pull the curtain back a good six inches before B got a peek of Father C, at which point he screamed until his tonsils fell out and refused to set foot into the lair. Sorry, grotto. I was annoyed as the day before, I had just spent ten pounds on a ticket to see a Santa at our local farm for the following weekend. If I wanted to see my two year old crumple to the floor in sobs of hysteria, I don’t have to pay a tenner for the privilege, I can just take my iPad away from him.
And so the day arrives where we are going to see Santa. We have decided on Exposure Therapy for B’s Santa phobia (for Latin scholars amongst you: Fatbastarditus): making him face his fears head on is the only way. It had nothing to do with the fact that the farm didn’t give refunds. And at least they would get a tractor ride out of it.
We were herded to the tractor by an elf – a grown man with a face that not only had been well lived in, but had then been left derelict and condemned. A rash of tattoos and the smell of cigarettes completed the look. I think he may have been on day release from elf prison for crimes against reindeer.
So we all set off, trundling slowly across a field. The organisers had thoughtfully covered the trailer we were in with plastic, in case of rain. They had spared no expense, getting a rare kind of clear plastic that gave the impression of being transparent, when in fact you could see fuck all through it. “Look at the cows,” I said to the boys.
“Is that a cow?” my eldest asked. “I thought it was a pig.”
“Well, I guess it could be, it’s hard to tell…oh no, wait, I think it’s a pile of mud…”
We arrive at the grotto, a log cabin surrounded by tiny fir trees, which had had a box of baubles and tinsel thrown at them in haste.
The four of us enter, B in his daddy’s arms, face buried in his shoulder, already braced for the onslaught of Santa-induced fear.
“Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!” said Santa.
B starts to whimper quietly as E nervously takes a seat next to Father C. Laps are apparently out of bounds these days. It’s Health and Safety gone sane.
“And what… ho ho ho… do you want for… ho ho ho… Christmas?” he asks E. Okay, that is really enough with the whole ho ho ho thing.
“A spy scope,” E answers.
That’s stumped him. He looks at me, bewildered. Well, at least I think he’s bewildered, but I base that solely on his hat twitching slightly. E has a knack for confusing Santa. Two years ago, in another grotty grotto, having waited for forty minutes in the freezing cold, we had finally got inside and E had answered the question with: “a giraffe”. Santa immediately looked panicked and glanced at me. As penance for waiting so long, I couldn’t help but ask him how he would get a giraffe down a chimney. It was amusing to see a flustered Father C get out of that one.
“It’s like a periscope, but for spies,” I clarify.
“Oh,… ho ho ho… so you can spy on mummy…ho ho ho?”
Err, no, you raging pervert, it is not for spying on mummy.
“No, mainly for looking round corners…” I say.
He turns his attention to B, still trying to burrow his way into M’s ribcage.
“And what… ho ho ho… do you want, little one?” I may have to poke him in the eye if he keeps laughing like that.
B ignores him. Santa pulls a pack of Haribo from his pocket and offers them to B. This, I have to admit, is a stroke of genius. Immediately on hearing the rustle of a packet of Haribo, B turns, takes them, and says “a train set” before returning to his semi-foetal position on M’s shoulder.
We quit whilst we are ahead, with two boys clutching a present that can only be minutes away from inducing mild disappointment, and with cold feet and runny noses, we return home, full of relief. Oh no, wait. Full of the magic of Christmas. That is definitely what I meant to say.
Mothering Frights would like to wish you all a tip-top, wonderful Christmas. May your Lego instructions be simple, the tantrums be short-lived and your gin and tonic be early. Really early.