I like to watch people in action, especially when they have no idea they are being observed. Let's face it, humans provide the greatest show on earth. Who needs the circus? Going to the supermarket or mall can give you little glimpses of the joys or dramas that go on in other people's lives. Does that make me voyeuristic? I don't think so. I believe it is a natural human curiosity that makes us perk up our ears to catch snippets of life flowing around us.
This was the case one day last December when Trent and I were shopping at a local Walmart. Walmart is not just a great place to save money. You see all sorts of people from all walks of life. In one trip, you can see people from all parts of the world, ranging from those who need to pinch pennies to those who are dripping with huge diamonds on their perfectly manicured fingers.
One of the things I really enjoy is seeing people who are shopping with their kids. The world has changed a lot. I don't remember ever asking for anything special to be put in the cart, and I sure never threw a tantrum. That is why my family allowed me to continue living. There are as many parenting styles as there are shoppers. Some kids are happy, friendly, and well-behaved. Their parents aren't being mean, they have just created the expectation of good behavior. And then there are the yellers. Sometimes I wonder if the yellers' kids are crying and fussing simply because they are stressed out. Their parents react to the little bumps in the parental road by freaking out, so the uncertainty makes the kids lose their little-bitty minds. Eventually mom or dad is going to lose it, so let's just get it over with.
So here we were, walking through Walmart, and it happened. A woman with two children under five had obviously been shopping quite a while. She was pretty frazzled, and her kids were getting antsy from a long shopping trip. And then the unforgivable happened. The mother started yelling quite loudly at her daughter, "If you don't cut this out right now, I'm gonna call Santa and tell him not to bother coming to our house this year!" Both Trent and I were upset by the situation. It wasn't just the yelling. It was The Santa Conspiracy. She made Santa the bad guy! Threatening a child with dire consequences rather than taking a moment to say, "Hey, honey, I know we are all tired, and Mommy is going to try to finish shopping right away so we can all go home and have a snack," she tried to make Santa do her parenting. I seriously wanted to walk up to the little girl and tell her Santa would still visit, but I wasn't wanting Mom to smack me!
I think one of the reasons it bothered me so much is because of something that happened to me years ago when I worked retail in a shop at Cherry Creek Shopping Center. (They didn't want to call it a mall, that would be simply too gauche.) A mother who didn't want to discipline her toddler shook her arm, pointed at me, and said, "If you don't behave, that lady is going to spank you!" Naturally the child started screaming and had to be taken out of the store by Daddy. And I was so mad I wanted to spank the Mommy!
So I guess what I am trying to say is please don't employ The Santa Conspiracy. What good does it do to make your kids afraid of Santa or The Easter Bunny or some woman working in a store? Childhood is scary enough without having to throw monsters into it. Or shatter a kid's holiday dreams.