The face I caught vs. what the photographer captured...

The face I caught vs. what the photographer captured…

For the last few weeks, each day has brought a slew of kids-on-Santa’s-lap pictures to my various social media news feeds. Some are sweet and picturesque; most are just downright hilarious as tantrum after tantrum is captured and shared for all to see.

This weekend, we made tentative plans to take our 8 month-old son to see Santa Claus for the first time. However, I grew increasingly anxious about this little trip. It’s like a Christmas right of parenting passage, isn’t it? You have to take your baby to see Santa and sit on his lap. But what if my son saw Santa and lost his mind? What if he was that kid who looked right at Santa and ripped off his fake beard as if to call out his phoniness? The latter would not have surprised me in the least, seeing as grabbing and yanking is my kid’s specialty at the moment.

Hence, I intentionally didn’t bring a visit with Santa up again towards the end of the week except in passing, and kind of secretly hoped my husband would forget about the whole thing. Alas, when my boys ventured off to the mall on Saturday afternoon to hunt for a Christmas present for Mommy, they discovered Santa in all his Christmas-y glory. Several hours after they left the house I received a phone call: “Honey! The Santa here is super awesome. He’s even got a real beard! Come meet us so we can take pictures!” The real beard was a perk since my son wouldn’t be able to rip it off Santa’s face. Off to the mall I went, however, Picture Outfit and food bribes in tow.

The whole process was a lot… quicker than I expected. I felt a little rushed. “Slow down, it’s my first time!” I thought to myself. The line was long, but the Santa’s Lap gig has perfected the art of churning people out in no time flat. Within 10 minutes, we were at the front of the line, having a piece of paper with our available package choices shoved at us to make a hasty decision. We chose the CD option; I figured I could print whatever I wanted and that we’d have plenty of shots to choose from. One minute later, our son was sitting wide-eyed on Santa’s lap, eyeing his beard like it was the most glorious toy ever conceived in the history of all toys. My quick-thinking husband rapid-fire squeaked a toy near the camera lens and my ham of a kid flashed the most flirty-beautiful smile right at the camera, which I managed to catch with my phone. This all happened in about 20 seconds, and then we were shuffled off to pay and wait for our CD. 10 minutes later and after shelling out $29.99 + tax, I was handed a CD with a preview page showing the shots. There were only 5, and not one of them contained that smile he gave us!

They are still cute enough pictures, but nothing containing the ridiculous, two-tooth dimpled smile my son has built a small cult following around. We left Santa and I felt a little disappointed, both with the experience and with the product. Then, I remembered all the tantrum pictures and what we’ll almost certainly be dealing with in the coming toddler years, smiled to myself, and snatched my little guy up for some smooches and to tell him what an amazing kid he’d been.

So, readers: what’s been your experience? We want to hear all about your best and worst Santa stories.

View our gallery of Santa photos – both tantrums and smiles – at