Sacrificed on the Altar of the Santa Photo

Debra Cole essays

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A few weeks ago I asked my husband where he thought we could get a photo of Henry sitting on Santa's lap.

“Isn't he a little young for that?” he responded.

This thought, frankly, had not occurred to me. “I don't know, is he?”

“He'll probably get scared and cry.”

“Yeah, but….” Did that matter?

We all have photos of ourselves as children screaming bloody murder on the lap of a large, creepy, polyester-clad man with fake white hair on his face. Right?

Isn't it my duty—as it was my parents' before me—to sacrifice my child on the altar of the Santa Photo?

Exhibit A. Here's my first Santa Photo. I look a little wary, but at least the Santa doesn't look like a convict.

December 1975—I'm not sure about this.

The next photo was taken three years later. In the interim, apparently, I refused to even entertain the notion of sitting on the lap of a complete stranger. “You sit on a throne of lies!”

December 1978—Santa, are you sunburned or drunk?

So it turns out my parents actually didn't sacrifice me. My sister, on the other hand…


December 1979—How embarrassing for me.                 

December 1980—Nice pants. Incidentally, my husband was 8-months-old when this photo was taken.

(Sorry, B.)

“I guess you're right,” I conceded. “If he's scared we shouldn't do it.” Hmmm.

Then, as chance would have it, we ended up unexpectedly at Bloomingdale's.

“Look! Santa's on the eighth floor!” I said. “Let's just try. If he's scared we won't make him.” I was positively oozing with Christmas spirit as we stepped off the elevator into the holy-hell-that's-expensive children's clothing department.

When we took Henry out of his stroller, I noticed that his diaper had leaked through to his pants. Ooops.

“I'm sure Santa won't mind, right, buddy?” I whispered.

I held my breath as we handed him over to a surprisingly normal-looking Santa. Lo and behold, nary a teardrop fell from the eyes of my angelic child. Not even when Santa held him at a super awkward angle and sang “I'm Henry the Eighth I Am.”

Check out the wet stain near his right leg…


I went to change his soaking wet diaper. Henry is in a phase where he hates to be laid down on the changing table. And when I say “hate,” I mean “screams like a banchee being stabbed repeatedly in the throat.” It's, how shall I say, awesome.

As I struggled to hold my half-naked child down long enough to procure a wipe and a new diaper, Henry swiftly flipped himself over, got up on all fours, grabbed a hold of my sweater, pulled himself up and, with both hands planted on my shoulders, shot an impressive stream of pee all over my torso.

Henry giggled. Ha-ha, Moo Cow. You didn't think that smiley Santa photo would be for free, did you?

Looks like I was the one sacrificed this year.

About the Author

Debra Cole

Debra Cole is freelance writer and blogger specializing in parenting, health & wellness and lifestyle content. She blogs regularly at , where she offers thoughtful analysis on issues facing parents today, with a side of humor. You can find her on , , and and as well as in New York where she lives with a patient husband, an impatient toddler and a neurotic corgi.

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