Miracle on 34th Street

Last week, my wife and I took our pride and joy (by which I mean our new iPhone 4S) and also our young son to visit Santa Claus at the Macy’s in Herald Square.

As residents of NYC it was a patently idiotic thing to do, as was visiting Rockefeller Center the week before; we’re not tourists, why would we subject ourselves to acting like them? The crush of people around 30 Rock was insane, and here I was trying to navigate a stroller through this mess of yokels, all of them hoping for a glimpse of Hoda or Tina Fey or the Snoopy balloon, all of them staring wide-eyed at the hot dog vendors and the skyscrapers, all of them losing their minds over a tree that wasn’t even lit in the middle of the day. Or maybe it was. I stood right next to it and didn’t even hazard a glance because who cares? I have one in my living room.

And yet last week we did it again. This time, we somehow made it through unscathed. It really was a miracle.

And that was what sucked about it.

We all know the cliche. We’ve all seen A Christmas Story, and the websites glorifying the best in bad Santa photos. Santa scares the shit out of really little kids – it’s a fact of nature. For most kids.

Last year at this time our son was a three-month-old slug. When we handed him to Santa for the ritual photograph, it was all the same to him; he still had no idea who we were, never mind the guy with the boozebreath bouncing him on his knee. But this year? The dude screams bloody murder if he loses sight of us around a corner in our apartment. So I was expecting major fireworks when we introduced him to the obese man in a bright red suit and a creepy, sinister beard; in fact, I was looking forward to it. Scarring your kid for life is one of the perks of being a parent.

Unfortunately, the kid was fine. The whole way he was too fascinated by all the decorations we encountered walking through the line to be nervous about anything – and let me tell you something, Macy’s does it right. Once we got past the initial portion of the line and entered the Christmas Ewok village or whatever it was (which took about ten minutes), we emerged into a Christmasy forest complete with trees and huts and assorted traps to be used in the case of an invasion by the Empire. You totally forget you’re in the middle of a department store, except for the rude employees barking at everyone to MOVE ALONG! YOU’RE HOLDING UP THE LINE!

Anyway, once we got past the Macy’s stormtroopers (figuratively speaking, of course; they were actually dressed like elves, not like Star Wars stormtroopers. Or Nazi stormtroopers. Either of which would have been AWESOME), we were led into a little hut to see Santa. He was very Santa-looking and everything, at least enough that I expected my son to shit his pants. Or to at least shit on top of the shit that was probably already in his pants (he’s a baby!). But no, the little guy was nonplussed, totally relaxed and calm the whole time. He tugged Santa’s beard, and even offered the man a tentative high-five. No screaming, no crying, no nothing.

Huge letdown.

Look, I don’t hate my son. I just hate what he’s done to every conceivable aspect of my life. And while I will always love him (it’s a biological imperative or something), he deserves some payback for the hell he is both currently putting me through and will continue to put me through for the next 50 years or so. This was supposed to be my day! But no. He had to be all happy and well-behaved. Ugh.

That’s why next Christmas I won’t be taking any chances. I’m gonna get the reaction I want if I have to dress the nearest homeless man in a cheap Santa costume and let him paw at the kid, just to get the tears flowing. I mean, my son will be barely over two years old and only starting to get used to the idea of discipline and the concept of being a good boy. But “good” doesn’t exist in a vacuum. You want to be rewarded for being on the Nice list? Then show me something, kid; let’s see you deliver under pressure.

With this plan, I’ll either get the waterworks I’m looking for – and the ingredients for a hilarious photo – or he’ll come through in the clutch. Either way, let’s be honest: he’ll still get his truckload of gifts. My wife will overrule me there.

But he’ll also be indoctrinated into the universal holiday tradition of getting incredibly stressed out around what’s supposed to be the happiest time of year. So that’s another win.

What can I say? Parenting is all about teaching.

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