Why We Won’t Be Sitting on Santa’s Lap This Year

Well, “bah humbug.”  Right?  You thought it.  I might have thought it recently too.  This is our 4th year of Christmases with kids, and every other year we took them to sit on Santa’s lap.  But not this year.

Were you paying attention a few weeks ago when #metoo took social media by storm?  I honestly don’t know a single woman who has never been sexually harassed or assaulted during her lifetime.*  Seeing it all over my newsfeeds was painful — especially because all I could think about was my two daughters.  They are just 3 and 2.  So far in their short little lives, they don’t know that world.  A fellow Montessori blogger wrote a great post about teaching consent to young children, and when I read it the holidays immediately jumped into mind.  I was filled with shame and regret as I thought about previous years when I would plop my child onto Santa’s lap and laugh while taking pictures of her frantically trying to get away.

I fully admit that I thought it was cute and funny — in an I know she’s actually safe” kind of way.  But she didn’t think she was safe.

I put my child in a strange man’s lap and told her she had to stay there even though she was uncomfortable so he would give her gifts.  

Read that again.

That is NOT a lesson I want my child to learn.  I want her to know that her body is hers and hers alone.  That she can say no when she doesn’t like what somebody else is doing to her body.  And that she never has to allow someone to do something to her body in exchange for something she wants.

You might think I’m overreacting here, but I really don’t think I am.  Yes, it’s true that this was my fault.  I was the one putting my children in Santa’s lap, making them stay there while I took pictures.  I definitely should have asked them if they wanted to sit beside him instead, or stand next to the chair.  I knew that I was right there and that nothing bad was going to happen to them — but what I know doesn’t really matter.  My child’s high level of discomfort should be enough of an indicator that a situation is not okay.  I want her to know that she can say no and be heard.

So we will not be repeating this fun little Christmas tradition.  We might go to get a photograph and talk to Santa, but then again we might skip it altogether because of the many, many voices (of photographers, bystanders, and even the big man himself) who will be telling my daughter that her comfort does not matter and that she should sit on Santa’s lap anyway like a good girl so he will bring her presents at Christmas.

Nope, definitely not going.

Instead, I think we’ll write a letter.


*If you think you know women who haven’t ever been sexually harassed or assaulted, please read the definitions of each here:  Sexual Harassment  Sexual Assault




13 thoughts on “Why We Won’t Be Sitting on Santa’s Lap This Year

  1. I never really thought about this before, but it makes so much sense. This experience is more about “us” getting that cute photo than respecting the child. I think Montessori would agree with you here. Thank you for writing this.

  2. I think this is a great lesson we can teach our children!

    I am grateful you put this more succinctly than I could and I’m definitely in agreement. Consent needs to be taught early and we need to teach our kids they have autonomy of their bodies as soon as we can.

    Thank you so much for this post.

  3. Excellent point. I have always let my kids decide if they wanted to sit on Santa’s lap. Which is why the only pic I have of my now 20yo is when he was ten days old. I assumed the lack of crying was consent. (I know, I know, but he was asleep. <3.) Ok, I just just heard it again. But it was the Nineites. Ok ok I heard it again. #badmom

    That picture is cute tho and it’s on the mantle every Christmas. 🙂

  4. I agree. My kids are scared of Santa – they’re nervous around most old men, actually (took awhile to get used to their grandpas, even!). They don’t like the Easter bunny, either…
    Funny how we realize how warped our traditions are, but previously we continued on with them without even thinking….

  5. We have a children’s Christmas party on our office every year with Santa. The first time I went my son was three months. The next two visits he didn’t want to be on Santa’s lap. Well, really he just didn’t want to be held by anyone other than me. And the Santas were always ok with that. We have pictures of the family with me perched on the arm of Santa’s chair holding a one year old and one of my husband and me crouched down on either side of Santa’s chair and my two year old perched on my knees, smiling. He’s likely to be much more engaged this year now that he’s three and giving us his opinions on everything and I plan to do the same again – if he wants to sit in Santa’s lap, fine. If he doesn’t, because he takes a while to get comfortable around new people, I’m intend to let him stand or sit on me again for the photo. A good Santa should keep the kids’ comfort in mind. Maybe we’ve just been lucky with our Santas though!

  6. We did the crying with the Easter bunny thing once with our first child. After that we started asking and it was always “no”.
    You say it very well that ignoring our children’s complaints of discomfort teaches them the wrong things.

  7. Thanks for sharing your perspective. Overreacting? I don’t know. Maybe. But isn’t that what we moms do? You HAVE to speak up for your children when they are unable. Good for you for putting some insight into something most of us just are auto tuned to do. I’ll be thinking of this as the season rolls around.

  8. Not over reacing at all. I stood in teh line one year only to finally get a turn with a very sick santa, red nose watery eyes and seemed to have the flu,..umm yeah teh germaphobe Mom in me is never pushy about Santa and pleased that my kids would rather look from afar at teh Jolly Man. Think how many times he gets coughed on, cried on, snotty sticky hands..sneezed on… even peeded on.. I mean yeah.. maybe I am overeacting LOL.

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