Sometimes kids surprise us. Perhaps it is that we underestimate them or perhaps it is that they show resilience that shadows that of most adults. We think of them as fragile and vulnerable because they're little beings we are trying to protect but more times than we parents probably care to count they show maturity and strength that makes them a lot less fragile than we think.
In my case, the surprise came from our first trip to visit Santa. My daughter was born in February of 2008 so last Christmas she was almost 10 months old but since she does not attend day care we decided that the mall at Christmas time was probably more germs than we could handle. We didn't take her to visit Santa then so we knew we'd be doing so this year but I was reluctant. As a kid, visiting Santa was not part of my Christmas traditions and just didn't seem of real importance for me. Additionally, although our daughter is a very friendly outgoing child sometimes she exhibits a bit of anxiety around men she doesn't know so I was sure the Santa visit would be less than ideal. My husband thought otherwise and insisted at every opportunity that we should take her.
He had been mentioning Santa to her whenever they saw a cartoon, character, etc. that represented him and she seemed to be excited. I didn't believe him. I put it off hoping trips & tasks would intervene and we would "just run out of time". So, I don't have to tell you how surprised I was when we were in Walmart running errands and as I turned a corner heard my daughter shriek with excitement. She had caught a glimpse of Santa. He was sitting on a wire bench in the Garden department. He was wearing glasses and was too thin to even resemble the jolly old guy but he was in a red suit and had a hat and beard so our daughter just about jumped out of the shopping cart and dragged us to him. She waited in line, walked up to him, sat in his lap and smiled for the picture. Wow. Wow!
The crying, scared scene I had imagined was so far from reality. She glowed. I don't think she gets the asking for presents bit... she just loved hanging out with a POPULAR character of the season. She also enjoyed the Santa Shamu and Elmo at Sea World. The best part... well I have to say it was the look of satisfaction on my husband's face as he reminded me that he knew she would do ok and that I underestimate her most of the time. The next week he took her to the mall to "hang out" with Santa again. She did great and dad couldn't have been prouder.
Lesson learned. The holidays bring many opportunities for our kids to surprise us. Whether it is adapting to travel, new family members, or new experiences like Santa and fireworks we should always give them the benefit of the doubt and be ready to console and reassure if need be or just enjoy their joy.