I was struck by a post over at Autism Vox earlier this week, called Santa Can Wait, in which Kristina mulls over the fact that her pre-teen son Charlie has never sat on Santa's lap. Malls were potential meltdown triggers, and her son never did "get into" imaginary characters. Besides, she reminds herself, she'd just have to eventually reveal that Santa is really Mom & Dad anyway...
Well, Joy has never sat on Santa's lap either. Come to think of it, I'm not sure I ever did myself, until I was an adult (and I don't believe there's any photographic evidence of that occasion, probably just as well.)
In my case, it just wasn't the family tradition. In Joy's case, the busy-ness of the mall isn't the issue, nor is particularly problematic for her to go snuggle with a stranger (yipe). I think she did get a visit from Santa at daycare one year, in fact.
Alas, the reason that Joy has never sat on Santa's lap can be directly traced to her sister.
Here's what happened on our first attempt to take Rose to see the mall Santa, at the age of 10 months:
The next year we discussed it, and she seemed to have at least an interest in Santa-visiting, though she asserted, "I don't like his ho-ho-ho!" So we got her all dressed up, and went to the mall to be early in line when Santa was to arrive. She waited with minimal twitching and fuss, right up until she heard him walking down the mall, jingling his bells, and (of course) booming a jolly "Ho, ho, ho!" Meltdown before he even got seated. We stepped out of line and made our escape. After she calmed down I got her to pose with a much less threatening Santa statue further down the mall, only four feet tall:
So that's why we never went back, and it hardly seemed worth it to take just Joy.
Interesting wrinkle this year: back in November, Rose decided to write a letter to Santa. She carefully wrote out a few modest requests, including a request or two on Joy's behalf. Then she folded it up, wrote out the envelope to Santa at the North Pole, carefully including her real return address as she'd learned in school. I almost didn't post it... but then rather thought that there'd been enough prevarications about the whole Santa thing, and wanted to tell the truth that yes, Rose, I actually did mail it for real.
Fast forward a couple of weeks, and Rose puts the pieces together. Santa's not real, is he? Mom and Dad stuff the stockings (and eat the cookies, and drink the milk, and consume Rudolph's carrot!) When she asked it straight out, we copped to the truth. But when we asked if she still wanted to play the game, she absolutely wanted to get her stocking filled. Quick on the uptake, this girl!
Fast forward again to yesterday, and Rose gets a letter in the mail. Return address: Santa Claus, North Pole. And inside is a computer-printed poem from Santa about how he'll try to make her Christmas happy, but she has to promise to be good! And then there was a handwritten "Santa" signature, and one-sentence postscript about how nice it was that she included her sister in the letter...
I wish I knew what was going through her head about this whole thing! We didn't point out the hometown postmark. But it's pretty clear that Mom & Dad didn't write the letter. We were too obviously gobsmacked when it arrived!
Meanwhile, Joy too has received a lovely pre-Christmas surprise, in her case from one of the members of her large circle of support:
The photo doesn't do it justice! It's a little shadowbox that she hand-decorated for Joy, with a bunny in the "box" part (referring to our pet bunnies) and the "Joy" at the top and a tiny rose on the heart in the lower left corner in honor of the big sister.
Thank you, Santa, so very much!