In years past, my son would cry whenever placed on the Big Guy's lap, which would then cause my daughter to giggle uncontrollably. Keep in mind, my son is NT and my daughter is autistic, so this was an unexpected outcome. This happened 3 years in a row and we always got the shot...one side bawling and the other grinning.
This year, my son had mentally prepared himself for the indecency of a costume-wearing stranger's lap and was determined to gut through it. He was a warrior ready for the challenge.
That was at the beginning of the line.
The 2 1/2 hour line...
We started off fine. My daughter fidgeting because she could see Santa and my son already showing signs of wear in his armor.
"Daddy," he whispered. "He looks like he might be the real Santa." His eyes widening a little.
"I think you're right, buddy." I said, kneeling down next to him. "You ready to tell him what you're hoping for for Christmas?"
He nods. His eyes never leaving Jolly St. Nick. "Ummm...Minecraft Legos and Skylander Trap Team."
"Ok, buddy. Well, since he's so close, make sure you're good in line waiting for him, OK?"
2 1/2 hours...
Now, since this is an autism-centric page, I need to mention that my daughter was absolutely AWESOME the entire time. Sure, she fidgeted and drifted ahead a bit at times, but she was focused, calm, patient and actively listening. Even when she saw that they had 'snow' falling from the ceiling, she avoided the fake dandruff when asked only once.
Similarly, my son, although stressing about the visit, did great. We had the foresight to bring the iPads and, at one point, he had a group of kids surrounding him while he played. He let them take a turn and was friendly, patient, and giving. He was serious about beinng on Santa's Good List.
It was all of the other children that amazed me.
Kids were running freely, grabbing toys from other children, licking the TVs (yes, you read that right), hitting each other, wandering about the mall, screaming at everyone, grabbing, pulling, whining and tugging.
Having been an autism parent for a while, I am extremely understanding of behavior situations and challenges. I will often offer my assistance to those in need and am supremely non-judgmental. I try not to throw stones...
That said, this was ridiculous.
At one point, when we got near the picture-taking area, two children ran ahead and got in the way of other people's pictures. They had to re-shoot twice because of this. The parents saw what was happening and went right back to their conversation.
My wife had a little girl come up to her and start playing with my daughter's iPad, which was on my wife's purse. The girl couldn't have been more than 4 and her parents were 20 people back in line with no visibility. They didn't even bother to check. The girl was there for over 10 minutes.
One of the boys that was watching my son play on his iPad wanted to play Rock-Paper-Scissors. So, the boys got up and started playing. This kid thought that being Rock meant that you get to aggressively hit the hands of those with Scissors. After a couple of "Take it easy, boys." with no result, I told my son that he was done with the game. The other boy said to me "Hey man, why don't you just let him play, huh?" To which I replied "Well, I'm his Daddy and you don't get to make that decision. I do. Understand?"
The parent was right there and did nothing.
Maybe because I raised a child with challenges or because I believe in awareness and responsibility of my own actions that I am more active in the raising of my children than most people I encounter. But, these 'parents' provided a horrible example to their children. I was angry, frustrated, and incredibly saddened by both their actions and inaction.
I can't understand this 'style'. I worry for their child's future. I worry even more that my child will have to deal with children like these again someday. Children who don't know better...because their parents failed them.