Elsie has clocked onto Christmas surprisingly well already, which I’m pretty sure is all thanks to Peppa Pig and Ben & Holly’s Christmas specials. Elsie totally gets it. Elves make the presents. Father Christmas lives in the North Pole. He rides on his sleigh with his reindeers and delivers all the presents to good boys and girls around the world on Christmas Eve. Silly Father Christmas also gets stuck coming down the chimney and she tells us exactly what she needs to leave out for him and his reindeer before she goes to bed, mince pies and carrots.
Her excitement for Christmas has been so wonderful to watch and encourage, so with this in mind we couldn’t wait for her to meet the big guy.
Yesterday we took the girls to see Father Christmas at a garden centre with a fancy grotto. One of those festive maze types of grottos that takes you forever to walk around because everyone is taking a zillion photographs of their kids in front of dancing snowmen and glitzy unicorns. Yep, we were one of those people in one of those grottos.
It’s the second time we’ve visited this particular one. Last year we thought it was brilliant. Even though Elsie, having just turned one at the time, had her usual not-impressed-with-anything-life-has-to-offer face on, we enjoyed it nonetheless. So we were really excited to take her, and her new baby sister, along again this year.
But here’s our problem. Father Christmas to her is the Peppa Pig, Ben & Holly, 2-D colourful cartoon character, with his oh-familiar and reassuring voice (I’m looking at you Daddy Pig). Not the imposter we met at the garden centre.
After spending an hour in a festive tunnel waiting for our turn. Finally, we follow a thirty-something grumpy elf, (who is clearly dying for her lunch break) into a small room only to be met with Derek from Cheam wearing a red suit. OK, so I don’t know that his name was Derek or if he was from Cheam, but he most definitely wasn’t the Father Christmas that Elsie was expecting to see.
Who Was This Chump?
Her face said it all. She wasn’t frightened. She simply looked shocked.
Who the blooming heck was this dodgy looking chump, who smelt a bit iffy, with wonky spectacles?
He then spoke to her in this ridiculous fake Amercian accent that completely threw us all. It was such an awkward encounter. It felt like the longest three and a half minutes of my life.
“What are you going to leave me on Christmas Eve? A cheeseburger? I like cheeseburgers…” fake Father Christmas asked.
Er, no twonk. You’re getting a mince pie mate. Don’t go putting ludicrous ideas into kids heads. As if parents haven’t got enough to do on Christmas Eve than whip you up a flipping cheeseburger.
I could see Elsie studying his face, looking more and more disturbed. Ben & Holly’s Father Christmas doesn’t look like this? He doesn’t sound like this at all?
The more this imposter spoke, the more she retreated into us and I could tell she just wanted to get the heck out. We all did.
To put myself in her shoes, I imagine it was on par with if I’d met Kermit the Frog when I was little. Only to be totally crushed by the knowledge that Kermit was merely a puppet who owed his career to the bloke with his hand shoved up his arse.
I would have been gutted.
We Squashed Her Vision
Most children aren’t particularly keen on visiting Father Christmas at any age. But there was just something about Elsie’s reaction that made me realise just how precious the imagination can be. Especially in these magical early years. I feel as if we might have squashed her vision of Father Christmas. Oh, and potentially put the fear of God in her that some creepy bloke is going to tiptoe into her bedroom on Christmas Eve asking where the cheeseburger is he asked her to leave out for him?
“Me not like Father Christmas. That not like Peppa Father Christmas…” she finally told us later that day. So we snuggled together and gave her some story about the real Father Christmas being too busy to leave the North Pole. He has to keep a check on the elves. So the one we saw wasn’t the real one. The real one is just like Peppa’s Father Christmas. Then we offered her a chocolate Freddo. Just to take the edge off and change the subject before she asked any more questions about the bizarre encounter with the cheeseburger loving man with the wonky fake glasses.
So from now on, unless she asks to visit Father Christmas, we won’t be making a visit again. We’ll read about him in books. Watch him on television. Colour in cartoon versions of him and let her imagination do the rest.