Editor's note: Jill Adams is a professional writer based in Fort Wayne.
When I was a little girl, I was terrified to sit on Santa's lap. I felt it was far too intimidating to be face-to-face with the magical man who always knew if I was naughty or nice.
This anxiety was a real challenge for my parents. Every year at Christmastime, a family trip to the mall would turn into a “should-I-or-shouldn't-I” ordeal. I would pace nervously around Santa's little cardboard workshop, trying to decide if that was the year I would be brave enough to climb up in that chair. And, every year, I would inevitably decide that the answer was “no.”
When I finally outgrew the appropriate lap-sitting age, I couldn't help but feel a little bit relieved — and a little bit silly for being afraid to sit with a jolly old elf.
Unfortunately, my Santaphobia turned out to be genetic. I discovered this one day a few years ago when I took my son to see old St. Nick at the mall. My small child took one look at the man in the red suit, turned to look at me, and burst into tears.
“I'm not doing it!” he said as he shook his head vehemently. “I don't wanna sit with Santa!”
I had to admit, I knew exactly where he was coming from. But I was still hoping he would overcome his fear and experience the wonder of Santa firsthand.
“Honey, Santa just wants to hear your Christmas list,” I said reassuringly.
To that, my son turned around and ran away, forcing me to sprint after him as I balanced coats and bags. Shoppers watched us with amusement, and I was fairly certain I could never return to that mall again.
But, the following year, we tried to visit Santa once again. Unfortunately, our second attempt yielded the same result.
“Nope,” he said simply as I pointed in Santa's direction.
Unwilling to relive the previous year's episode, I relented. The following year, I didn't even ask him. And, since my younger two children were too little to even realize what they were doing, we decided to skip the attempt altogether.
But this year, something unexpected happened.
As we toured the Festival of Trees, someone mentioned to my son that Santa was upstairs. I bristled and waited for his response. He looked at me thoughtfully.
“Let's go see him,” he said to me.
Shocked, I decided to embrace the opportunity, and hustled everyone through the trees as quickly as possible before my son could change his mind. We arrived at Santa's room, and as we made our way to the front of the line, my son darted away.
“Not doing it!” he said.
My younger two children, however, didn't share their brother's opinion. They wanted to stay.
“Well,” I responded to my son, “wait here until your brother and sister are finished.”
I looked at him out of the corner of my eye, wondering what his reaction would be. As I had hoped, he quietly stepped back in line. I didn't say a word, but when it was his turn I gave him a slight nudge. He tentatively made his way up to Santa, and perched up on his lap.
“I'm glad you came to see me,” Santa said. “You've been a little nervous before, haven't you?”
My son nodded as I sharply inhaled. How had Santa known that?
“Well, what's on your list?” Santa asked.
A moment of silence, and then …
“A race car,” my son said quietly.
“I bet you'd like a blue car,” Santa responded.
My son nodded, and his wide eyes mirrored my own. How had Santa known that?
“Well, you be a good boy, and go to bed on time, and I'll see what I can do,” Santa said with a smile in my direction.
My jaw dropped. My son never goes to bed on time. As Santa handed him a candy cane and guided him back to me, I decided that we had just experienced a little Christmas magic. I looked back over my shoulder as we walked away, and Santa waved.
“Santa's pretty cool,” my son said.
“Yes, he is,” I said with a smile.
And from that moment forward, I was pretty certain that none of us would ever be nervous to see Santa again.