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Sitting for Santa pics: It's war out there

Want to see the fine art of parenting at work? Check out the line for Santa photos at your local mall. In hopes of nabbing that perfect snapshot of their child on a polyester-clad stranger's knee, desperate moms and dads will do just about anything: offer bribes, wake their napping toddler up just before the camera's flash goes off, or sit on the big guy's lap themselves. Three parents share tactics they've tried recently – with varying degrees of success

The Vice Grip

Success level: low

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We went and got in line and my son [one-and-a-half-year-old Dante]freaked out – he would not go. I was kind of like, ", It'll be fun. Let's go tell Santa what you want!" But he wasn't having it at all. He tried to get out of the room any way possible. I told him, "You can hold the bells and get a candy cane and we'll go have pancakes after." I don't even know what I was trying to bribe him with at the time because it doesn't look like there were many appealing options. So we just went in and I realized there was no way I'd be able to leave my son. I knew he'd just bolt.

Because I had such a strong hold on him – I knew he was going to wriggle out of my lap – I think I was also holding my daughter really tight. I think the terror in her eyes and face is that she's more scared at what I'm doing. I'm holding her and I'm shushing Dante and I think she's probably freaked out a little that her brother's crying. The photographer was looking at me and I had to yell "Take the picture!"

It really was worth it, in hindsight. The kids will always need something to laugh at.

– Emilie Caputo, Ottawa


The Intermediary

Success level: medium

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At West Edmonton Mall, the lineup in the evening to see Santa was, conservatively, 45 minutes to an hour (between 100 and 200 people). I think we were in line for longer than that. We waited and [one-and-a-half-year-old Danica]was one of those babies that could just sit, but she was very frustrated by the time we got to the end of the line. When we went to sit her with Santa, she howled. But we'd waited forever. We'd paid for it. We'd promised the people pictures, we were going to get the pictures. They do a screen full of digital photos, and she looked horrified. In one of the shots she looked sick, like she was so upset she was grey-looking. Then she got a little bit purple.

Once it was obvious that it wasn't going to work, we tried sitting her with me with Santa but as you can see in the picture we finally got, she has her little body as far from him as she can possibly get it, and that was the shot we kept.

That was the last year we went to West Edmonton Mall to see Santa and it was the last year that we pushed the picture.

– Desi Valentine, Edmonton


Crouching Santa, Hidden Claus

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Success level: high

At [Lucas's]first Christmas, he was four months, and he screamed. The next Christmas, he was 16 months. My daughter, who was a real Christmas child, wanted to go see our favourite Santa. He's a real nice man, always recognized the kids and knew their names the next year. Lucas froze right away walking up to him. He was apprehensive. He looked upset – a little pale. We didn't know what to do, and the elf who takes the photos wasn't sure what to do, either. Of course big sister was pulling him, which was making it worse.

Santa whispered to me, "You know, I can go behind the chair and pop up just when the elf jingles his thing or says something." So that's what he did – he went behind the chair. Lucas, you can see his face, he's wondering what the hell's going on. "Why am I sitting in this chair with my brother and sister?"

– Laurel Grasset, Oakville

Interviews have been edited and condensed.

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About the Author

Dakshana Bascaramurty is a national news reporter who writes about race and ethnicity. She won a 2013 National Newspaper Award in beat reporting for her coverage of changing demographics in the 905 region. Previously, she was a feature writer for Globe Life. More

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