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WITH THE KIDS

The Short Set: Santa Visitation Hesitation

December 20, 2007

Nipper's early visits to jolly ol' St. Nick mainly consisted of ruddy-faced screaming fits and me trying to land his flailing body on one of Santa's scarlet-clad knees while a minimum-wage elf snapped the picture. Invariably, my hand and part of my arm were visible on Nipper's shoulder, trying to keep him stable, while I barked, "Take the bloody picture!" at the poor elf. Though the resulting photos could be introduced as evidence of Santa and/or new-sweater abuse, there's a certain charm in the collision of terrified child and smiling Santa.

It was on one of these outings to the holiday mecca that is the Grove when one of Santa's anti-helpers snapped, "Most parents bring their child three or four times first to get them acclimated to the environment before they actually take the photo." Ah, the holiday cheer was palpable.

Maybe forcing your terrified tot to sit for a picture atop a giant, bearded man is a high price for a memory and a candy cane. Baby Nipper was terrified no matter how many times I told him that Santa loves all children and never bites. Nipper is still a little shy when he approaches the Big Guy, but with his Christmas list at stake, he knows to keep cool and play Santa like a harp. And now he's passing on a few tips for novices out there visiting Kris Kringle for the first time:

1. "Bring your list, even if it's already in your head."

2. "He doesn't give you everything, so ask for a lot of things."

3. "Say hi to Mrs. Claus. She's even nicer than Santa, even though she doesn't give out presents."

4. "The reindeer aren't real."

5. "You only get one candy cane. Don't ask for two."

6. "When you're waiting in line, stay away from the big kids. They say mean things about Santa."

7. "Be good -- all year. Last year I didn't get that many presents, but I've been better this year."

-- YoMama@latimes.com

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