The Santa Debacle (or, I Don’t Have It All Together, But I’m Getting Better)

Okay, friends. I’m all into the stress-free holiday celebrations.

For our church’s Christmas concert, I hired our babysitter to watch Elijah for a couple hours so we could sit and enjoy the music.

I actually did my shopping early this year – I was 90% finished by November 30 – which was a serious win. (When I was in college I remember doing all my Christmas shopping one year on December 23.)

So let’s talk about our family visit to Santa.

Simeon and I talked at length about what we believed would be the two most stressful parts of getting Elijah’s photo taken with Santa: the line, and having him freak out when we tried to put him on a strange old man’s lap. So, we made our plans carefully. We decided to visit the Santa at Bass Pro (which has a free Santaland area that includes a holiday-themed carousel). We went on a Monday night and planned to eat dinner afterward at the store’s restaurant. And I planned to be in the picture if Elijah freaked out.

We arrived around 5:30 and found no line at all. We did a “drop and run” – put Elijah on Santa’s knee, stepped back, and took a quick picture.

Success! Right?


Elijah and I rode the carousel while our pictures were being printed, and when we returned to pick them up five minutes later, we discovered that someone else had taken our package by mistake.

By now, it was past dinnertime. Simeon popped Elijah in a cart and headed for the store’s exit to see if he could intercept the folks who had mistakenly taken our folder. I tried to cajole two unmotivated, this-isn’t-my-job employees to scroll through a few dozen photos, find Elijah’s, and reprint them.

After about ten minutes, Simeon found the other family and got our photos back. We paid for them and headed to the restaurant, relieved.

Then we were told that there was a 30-minute wait. What? On a Monday? At the Bass Pro restaurant?! I had no idea it was that popular.

Now it was 6:00, half an hour past dinnertime. We hadn’t brought any snacks. Parental fail.

We wrestled a screaming toddler into his carseat and debated our next move. We settled on picking up Jamaican takeout and eating at home.

I was disappointed. I was disappointed because I’d had it all planned out in my mind – we were going to have a nice family evening out, visiting Santa and going out to eat. I started slipping into self-blame, telling myself I should’ve known better, should’ve planned better… blah blah blah.

At the Jamaican restaurant I dashed inside and ordered jerk chicken and oxtail, two of our go-to dishes.

it took about ten minutes to get my order, even though there was only one other customer. When I got back in the car, Elijah was crying (through an episode of Elmo playing on Simeon’s phone) and Simeon was in a really bad mood.

So now we’re all hungry and disaster is looming. When we finally got home, I put some chicken and rice in Elijah’s bowl and gave it to him. He took one bite of the chicken (which he had eaten with gusto like three weeks ago) and started crying. “Spicy,” he cried, his face scrunching up.

Then it turned out that I had misinterpreted an earlier conversation and Simeon had wanted me to get fried chicken instead of jerk chicken.


We gave Elijah some juice, replaced the jerk chicken in his bowl with oxtail, and proceeded to eat dinner in silence.

I have relatively few holiday events planned this year – on purpose – and I was really disappointed that this one wasn’t more fun. But here’s the thing – I was able to feel my disappointment and then pull myself out of the wretched self-blaming spiral that usually consumes me. And we were able to have a nice evening (after we were all properly fed) playing with Elijah’s new racecars.

The holidays are about family time, after all. Not about the trappings or the activities.

Still working on this whole keep-calm-and-carry-on thing.

That said, I did package together everything I DO know about feeling centered, calm & joyful during the holidays in this free 5-video series with my friend Caroline McGraw. Sign up right over here.

Happy holidays.

December 17, 2017

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