My mother-in-law is visiting us this week. Today she treated us to a dinner at Five Guys at one of the area malls. After eating, we headed into the mall to get pictures taken with Santa. This is no easy task as our five-year-old hasn’t cooperated with Santa since Mommy was last pregnant. (I’m not sure she knows scrambling the letters in Santa gives you Satan, so I’m not quite sure what gives her pause. Maybe it’s the living alone with only elves and reindeer.) Even during that picture she wouldn’t sit on Santa’s lap, nor even get into the picture without Mommy and Daddy. Yes, my eight-months-pregnant wife had to sit on the floor at Santa’s feet just to get our then three-year-old into the frame. And last year was another failed attempt. She darn near kicked Santa in the face trying to escape my arms. I had to settle for sitting with her alone while the other kids had their picture taken together with Father Christmas.
This year I thought it might go better. She had a belly full of delicious burgers and fries. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to try the pictures and I considered that a distinct advantage. We didn’t have the whole dress-up-for-Santa routine to make it look like such a big deal, thereby alleviating any pre-schooler pressure. But, when we got in the very short line behind only one other kid she immediately hid her face and wouldn’t even look at the jolly old elf. In the end we got her to sit on Mommy’s lap next to Santa, face turned away from the old guy but still fully visible to the camera, while her two older sisters stood on Santa’s opposite side and the baby got the big man’s lap all to herself. For once, mission accomplished!
How did we achieve such a feat from a fearful five-year-old? BRIBERY! Afterwards she got a fifty-cent ride on one of those vibrating mall cars. Yeah, sometimes bribery works, even though it’s not the best parenting method. But it still didn’t totally end her trauma. After her ride we checked the map to see where the toy store was and had to walk back across the Santa station to get there. She held her left hand over her face to not see or be seen by Santa. I took a gander at Santa and his photographers and they were silently laughing as she passed. Glad we could entertain them.
After a brief recon mission in the toy store we headed over to JC Penney to shop for some long-sleeve shirts for the baby. This time it was the baby who was scared. She didn’t cry or scream – or cover her face for that matter – but she kept looking at the mannequins and saying she was scared. I couldn’t really blame her, they were nothing like the mannequins I remember from department stores growing up. They were the size and shape of children in solid white, shiny plastic with no facial features whatsoever. I know from looking in at the adult clothing section and other stores that this is the new way of manufacturing mannequins but it must look a little creepy to a toddler. However, the five-year-old LOVED the mannequins. She kept giving them hugs. Even the plus-sized mannequins WITHOUT HEADS received hugs from my little girl. Sure, a fully interactive human is scary but headless mannequins are cool. What the heck, kiddo? I’m just glad the headless mannequins didn’t traumatize the littlest one. All she did was look at them and say, “Those mannequins are broken.”
Yeah, I tend to avoid the mall like the plague – except for bookstores (preferably with separate entrances) – but taking your children to the mall can be very entertaining. I almost wish I could’ve stayed longer to see what other reactions they would’ve offered, but the manager at JC Penney kicked me out for groping the lingerie mannequins.