Welcome to another edition of “How to Survive Photographing Your Own Kids.” Or as I like to call it, “Danie, photography is your job, not your kids; anything they give is a gift, take it.” And so….
It has to be said: I really don’t enjoy the idea of going to see Santa in a mall. I’m not anti-consumerism, per se, but the way the kids are rushed through just doesn’t seem quite in keeping with the Christmas spirit. On a tip from a friend, I decided to go ahead and try the Santa Clause at Mazza Gallerie this year, though – heard there was no line and parents could take their own pictures! Camera over my shoulder, lists to Santa in hand, my family set off to check it out Saturday morning.
I think most parents can relate to what happened next. My kids entered the car perfectly happy, excited even; and after a few hiccups finding a parking spot down in Friendship Heights, this was their general attitude about the whole outing.
I was in “breathe, and don’t get frustrated or we’ll definitely not get happy pictures” mode. Breathing a lot.
Breathing stopped a moment when we realized it was only 11:30 am and we hadn’t checked what time Santa would arrive (noon, in case you’re thinking of going!).
More deep breathes — we’d just go and take some fun pictures in front of the Christmas tree to kill time. Right…
My daughter was actually pretty into it. Not posing-into-it, but that was okay — she was having so much fun, just awed by the sheer size of the Christmas tree (reminded me of the book Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree). Her Christmas list was in the rolling teddy-bear bag, and she was holding tight!
Meanwhile, my son’s opinion of waiting to see Santa hadn’t changed much. I thought he’d be giddy with excitement. Maybe he was hungry. Clearly he felt tired!
Still I remained undeterred. We were first in line, after all, and now it was only 5 more minutes (see left pic?) until Santa would be arriving! [Please, I prayed, let Santa be a punctual sort with no unexpected bathroom breaks for the reindeer....] We read back through my son’s list, and he was clearly feeling a little more enthusiastic, as a little smile broke out.
Meanwhile, my daughter was lost in thought again about Santa’s imminent arrival.
Finally, the doors opened, and Santa Clause came out! Oh my gosh, my son was so excited — Santa put his hand up for a high-five and my son confidently whipped out his Christmas list.
Meanwhile, things were a little trickier with my daughter. She might have been in a better mood in line, but she took one look at Santa and burst into hysterical, terrified crying! Luckily, she let her Daddy hold her so I was able to continue to take pictures, but my hope of a picture of both kids sitting on Santa’s lap didn’t seem likely. But after watching her brother talk to Santa and even sit in his lap, my daughter eventually agreed (tentatively) to sit there with him, too.
Though I’m not sure I’d call her “happy” to be there, she shoved her list in Santa’s face like a pro, while my son looked on with that worried expression he gets when he thinks she’ll cry.
But in the end, the David Madison Photography, the awesome photographer who was letting parents take their own pictures, too!, got this last shot of both of them sitting together with Santa, and I just love it. No, they’re not smiling, but you know, they didn’t smile sitting with Santa. They did engage with him and talk about it for the rest of the day, and I think this photo really captures that!
- Danie Smallwood, Chevy Chase MD Family Photographer