Nate and the jolly man.  They’ve been pals for years.  This is Nate’s third time visiting Santa at the mall.  For the past two years, we are grateful that our mall invests their resources in ensuring that the same Santa comes back every year; he has never sent an understudy.  It makes for a continuity in photos and, I hoped, a relationship of trust built between child and Santa Claus.

Take Nate’s first photo with Santa:

Cutest child ever, right?  (And P.S. this is the only reindeer sweater that I’ve ever loved.  I implore the makers of boys’ holiday wear to let go of the reindeer theme….)

Then last year:

Nate actually applauded for the jolly man!

But this year?  Santa sent an understudy.

Santa.  He looks a little different this year.  He’s similar to the Santa of years past, but I think he actually sent an understudy for this morning’s photo session.  Note the glasses and the loss of genuine jolly chubb.  (The other Santa was chubbier.)  And, unlike years past, this Santa didn’t whisper, “Keep on truckin’, Mama!” as I whisked my child away.  I think the real Santa is truly a jolly hippie at heart.

In order to get Nate to take this memorable photo, there was some negotiation involved.  My son refused to sit on Santa’s lap or next to Santa, for that matter.  Like a pro, Santa suggested that we try having Nate stand in front of him where he couldn’t see the jolly man.  Nate wasn’t so keen on that either until I bribed him with not one but two (!!!) cookies (which are clutched in each hand) and Hobbes.  This photo was the best out of three.

While he was with Santa, Nate never cried or made a peep.  His only protest was sliding down Santa’s lap and, on take two, quickly scrambling off of Santa’s bench.  Santa gave me the lollipop (candy cane flavored…cutbacks?  Are mini candy canes really that expensive?).  Nate politely pushed Santa’s white-gloved hand away when it was offered to him.  But Nate was clearly traumatized by the affair, so much so that he forgot to eat his cookies until a good fifteen minutes later.  He just sat in his stroller, quiet, clutching on to his cookies for dear life trying to figure out what the hell happened in the mall.

Regardless of the photo op, Nate’s shirt says it all: my boy is on Santa’s nice list.  Can’t wait to see what the jolly man leaves under our tree this year!

Note: If you click on each photo, you can see them in their enlarged photographic glory!