And told by Santa to put away the camera.
Well, that's what we did. It was a pretty standard holiday for parents with twins and a 4-year-old, which means nothing is really standard. But it was peaceful, sorta, until Kate decided we needed to go visit Santa at the mall during the Kansas-Missouri game. I'll fight battles if I have to - that's why I have somewhat of a running and mountain climbing half-life - but I knew I wasn't going to win that one, so I set the TV (thanks DVR!) and tromped off to the mall.
This would be the first time my kids would get to see Santa, so I did what any respectable parent would do and brought a video camera. I had the camera out until the nice, older, bitter lady, the kind with stringy long hair, skin like a raisin's and a three-packs-a-day voice, told me to put it away.
"They're not allowing cameras at all this year," she said.
I didn't say much, but it pissed me off. They are stealing a childhood memory, and why?
• Santa's a popular dude and could be tired of all the paparazzi.
• Santa is wary of random shots of him with his fly down or fondling children showing up on the TMZ blog.
• Homeland security. That seems to be a good excuse for any random tromping of freedoms.
• Child exploitation.
• Older, bitter lady worried about random shots showing up on the Playboy site. Or PeopleofWalmart.com.
All of these would be acceptable reasons, but really, the real reason is much plainer. They don't want you recording your own children on video or film because they want to do it instead and charge you $39.99 for the prints.
Now I don't mind the moxie required for such a stunt - I almost admire it - and also understand the need to make a buck, any kind of buck, in this economy. But it disappointed me. I thought the mall was hosting Santa because it was a nice thing to do, maybe give the kids a chance to see God (or as close as you can get this holiday season besides, you know, Jesus) and spread a little holiday cheer.
Gestures just don't really exist anymore.
Later, after dropping our fair share of money on crappy food and some mechanical rides, which is what the mall had in mind all along, I looked at the tape I was able to record without them knowing (Fight The Power!) and sighed. But the kids still enjoy Santa. They didn't know he was for a price.
They've still got a good, sanitized version of him in their heads. The non-corporate kind.