13 Ways to Make the Holidays Easier on All of Us.

I know Santa Claus.  Well, in my case, I am related to the man who portrays Santa Claus at the local (read: 30 miles away) shopping mall.  He’s been doing it for years, and he’s good at what he does.

The first year I lived in Canada, back before I had ever heard of Poor Kyle [let alone imagined baking baby buns in my womb with him], I volunteered at Santa’s Photo Shop at the mall during the hours I wasn’t attending classes.  I say “volunteered,” because then, as now, I was not legal to work in Canada. And then, as now, Santa Claus “donated” a lump sum to the Camille Fund on December 25th, after all the Santa photos had been taken.  A Christmas gift, of sorts.

It’s that time of the year again, and I’m back to volunteering with Old Saint Nick and the Merry Maids of the Mall.  Dripping with cynicism.  The story of my life.  {As a side note: why do I only seem to land jobs that make me hate the world in general?  Something to ask my shrink when I’m rich enough to afford one, I suppose.}

Anyway, I’ve only been {volunteering} for a few days now, but already I can feel the disenchantment oozing from every nerve in my body.  Something about unruly kids harpooned by ignorant parents…the whole situation really gets to me.

Heh.  Poor Kyle’s not here to defend himself, so I’m using his childhood as an example for all the world.  Poor, poor Poor Kyle.

So in an attempt to keep things positive around here, I’ve decided to do my part to change the world.  I’ve compiled a list of the 13 worst things a person can do when attempting to get portraits with Santa.  Keep in mind this is a smaller city than some, and our outfit is rather small-scale compared to malls in Vegas or L.A.  A photo costs $5.00, and we only accept cash.  But most of my rules apply to mainstream humanity as a whole, so read them carefully and apply them to your lives to the best of your ability.

Trust me: the rules will keep Santa’s helpers from calling you an idiot as soon as you walk away.

13 Things to Avoid at Santa’s Photo Booth:

(in no particular order)

1.  Don’t ask to preview the photo of your child (or yourself) before you buy.  In our setup, we don’t have a way of showing the customers their photo without having them step behind our counter and look at the image on our laptop, which puts a major kink in our lineup and will essentially ruin our day.  We all know you’re going to buy the picture no matter what–so why are you bothering?  I always take multiple photos if I can tell someone’s eyes are closed, so you’ll always at least get eye contact.  What more can a person want?

You might get a gem; you might not.  Take what comes and consider them all precious.  Photo courtesy of my mother-in-law.

2.  Don’t tell me you want a certain package, as a final answer, and then change your mind. Make a dadgum decision.  The way our shop works, the photos print out right away.  Since I am a quick worker volunteer, once you make a choice, I click the button and the photos start printing.  Changing one’s mind is a waste of money, because I won’t give away the decided-against photos; I would rather throw them in the garbage than give them to an idiot.  I’m spiteful that way.

3.  Don’t bring your parents. That’s the point of buying a picture: showing people later.  In my experience, parents and in-laws who accompany their children/grandchildren to Santa’s Photo Shop have too many opinions.  They hem and haw over what package to get, casting doubt into the souls of their adult children, and it irks me.  Leave them home.

4.  Don’t give me a $50.00 bill for a photo that costs $5.00. Go buy yourself a hamburger and get some bloody change; I don’t have much to spare.

5.  If I am turned away from the camera, don’t plop your child on Santa’s lap and look at me expectantly. I’m not just gabbing to customers, I’m trying to do a million things at once.  If you wait until I nod you in, I will be able to capture that **sigh** magical moment when your child sees Santa for the first time.  If you take matters into your own hands, your child’s smile will be forced and un-magical in every way.  And I will hate you for it.

Oh, Poor Kyle.  How were you such a heartthrob, even as a baby?

6.  Don’t ask me where the proceeds go. They go to Santa.  And me all the workers putting up with children for hours on end.  Our particular Santa does donate a percentage of his proceeds to Toys for Tots™ at the end of the year, but is it really anybody’s business?  He provides a service which people pay for.  It’s called capitalism or something.

7.  Read the signs and price charts on the counter before asking me anything. And make sure to read all the words.  Yes, it’s cash only.  Yes, it’s $5.00.  No, we don’t take debit.  Common sense would be nice, though.

8.  Don’t stand ten feet to the left of me while you’re making your child laugh. It will result in a picture of your child laughing…at you.  Not at the camera.  If you’re one of those die-hard parents determined to get your kid smiling, at least come stand by the photographer.

9.  Don’t hover.  Really.  It bothers me. If you have disregarded Rule #1 and asked to see your photo, I will allow you to look at my monitor for a brief few seconds.  Asking me to click through each photo (which need to be brightened, centered, and bordered every time they’re clicked on), is foolish.  I will pick the one wherein the subject looks best.  If I want your opinion, I will ask.  If you’re lucky enough to get a preview, please don’t crowd me.  Especially if you’re a mouth-breather who smacks gum.

10.  Don’t ask me how it looks. If you were standing there to the side, you were watching every movement your child made as I attempted to capture a digital representation of the special moment with my Cannon™.  You saw the instant the flash went off.  How does it look?  Like a picture.

11.  If I ask you what size you want, don’t shrug your shoulders. We have examples of each size; please look at them and make your decision.  If you don’t know what size you want, I don’t know, either.  Asking me is a bad idea.

12.  Don’t force. I’ve seen it a million times: a child that starts out hesitantly, clinging with all their might to a parent, and who becomes more agitated with each step toward Santa, will never take a smiling picture.  If you want a screaming picture, by all means, continue.  But once a child is already screeching on Santa’s lap, there’s no coming back from that.  There’s no coaxing laughter out of a wailing child.  It will never happen.  Don’t just stand there, thinking I’ll be able to make it happen.  I can’t.  And I’ll stop trying.  And your child will hate you for it.

Probably the most important thing you can do for yourself this holiday season is…

13.  Lower your expectations. This may not apply to your marriage, your grades, your Christmas decorations, or anything else over which you have a remote sense of control, but it certainly applies to your children.  They are human beings…with thoughts and opinions which you can gently guide, but ultimately have no real power to change.  You’ve probably taught them to avoid strangers (especially ones with candy), so a creepy looking man with an outstretched candy cane-bearing hand probably seems really suspicious to a child.  If they don’t take the bait, live with it.  If they do, and all you get out of your photo is merely eye contact…pay and walk away: you’ve been blessed.

Poor Kyle would have been one of those kids easily bribed.  See this photo?  Licorice in one hand (and a spare in his lap), sucker in the other, and who knows what in that bowl…  Lucky dog.

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
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19 Responses to 13 Ways to Make the Holidays Easier on All of Us.

  1. Sarah says:

    I love all the cute pictures of your hubby!!

  2. bRAD says:

    This post was hilarious! Sound advice in my opponion.

  3. This is definitely advise that all parents need to read!! It drives me crazy to be waiting in line with my kids and have to wait for the parents that don’t follow all the clearly posted signs :-) not to mention don’t use their own common sense!

  4. Holly Decker says:

    oh how much i love those kyle pictures.
    what a cute kid he was!
    i have officially decided that when my kid comes out i want him to look like that… but the chances of that actually happening are… 0.

  5. HeatherPride says:

    Poor Kyle was an amazingly adorable kiddo!! I love the frowny picture, is that wrong?

    Oh, Camille. All of my kid’s pictures with Santa are of the screaming variety. I have been looked at with shock and distain by all the photo elves who ask me if this is *really* what I want?? Of course it is! I’ll take what I can get, and honestly, those kinds of pictures just get funnier with each passing year!

  6. Lindsay says:

    this post makes me unreasonably happy…you should make more “Camille’s List of Dont’s” for the dregs of society to follow.
    i avoid the mall at all costs, but I do remember going on a ‘date’ with a boy and us getting pictures with santa and the horror that was going on around us.
    actually, this brings up something else funny, i went to Sears to get an application and realized they had a photo center. i went in to get an application and after standing at the counter unaknowledged for 10 whole minutes and all the while listening to parents complain and workers squeeking rubber ducks at toddlers, i decided that i’d hate life and people in general more than i already do – and it wouldnt end well for anyone if i worked in a place like that.

  7. Jami says:

    I will never take Grace to sit on Santas lap inless she REALLY REALLY wants to. AND I probally won’t even do it then b/c it is a lot more expensive here in mesa than there.
    Plus I always considered it kinda white trash…BUT, spencer always says “we are white trash”!

  8. Lauren says:

    Why did I think of my old job at Bath and Body Works when reading this?

  9. Carmen says:

    Good advice. We are planning on making a trip to see Santa and hopefully I don’t do any of those stupid things. Actually (and you probably hate this too…) can I take my own picture? Just thought I would ask beforehand in confidence. Let me know.

  10. Amy says:

    OMG!!!! I love all the old pictures you put up of Kyle. Man he was such a cute baby even with all his sad faces!!!

  11. RatalieNose says:

    C.P.F. for President! 12′

  12. Camille says:

    Sarah– Poor Kyle was definitely a cuter kid than I was. That’s why I posted pictures of him, not me.

    bRAD– My cynical friend, of course you would like this post. United forever in our hatred of the world… You, me, and Lindsay White Sherman.

    Jennifer Roach– You must be one of the smart ones!! Feel free to read my blog any time you want—I like the smart ones.

    Holly Decker– The chances of your kids coming out looking like Poor Kyle are slim indeed…unless there’s something I need to know about the two of you. : ) Jay kay, jay kay. I’m hoping the same thing about our kids. PLEASE let them be born with those white-blond thick curly locks…

    HeatherPride– I don’t mind the screaming kids at all, when their parents are like yours. What I DO mind is parents who look at me like, “Can’t you get a smiling picture out of this screaming kid?” No, actually. If they sit down screaming, they’ll stay screaming the whole time. And that’s that. Screaming pictures are hilarious.

    Lindsay– Good choice about the application. I had a bad feeling about it. I should write more lists…but then my readers will start to think I’m talking about THEM… What to do?

    Jami– Thanks for making that commitment. I hope you stick to it.

    Lauren– Because no job working with customers could ever pay enough.

    Carmen– Yes you can. If I’m working, I don’t usually mind for people to take their own pictures. I know some of the other helpers find it irritating, but it’s always allowed.

    Amy– I don’t think it’s possible for your family to produce an ugly child. That’s why I used his pictures, not mine. Also, he wasn’t around to stop me.

    RatalieNose– Well, I think Oprah would beat me out on that one. But thanks anyway!

  13. Anonymous says:


    I am very, very tempted not to take Pres to see Santa because of this post. Mom bought him a really cute Santa suit, and I thought it would be fun to dress him in it and then take their picture together, but after reading this I may not even bother…Maybe I can make Clint dress up as Santa, and we can do our own family photo shoot at home.

  14. Wendy says:

    Hilarious!!! Wow you came up with all of these gems! You are a hilarious Elf! ;o)

    I cannot believe people ask where the proceeds go?! Who asks them where their paycheck goes? Hopefully for some pictures! I am so glad you have provided your expert opinion on the topic, Now I know exactly what to expect should I drag my 3 boys to Santa’s lap. Every facet of this post sparkled!!! Nice to have found your blog!

  15. Camille says:

    Anonymous my sister– Go ahead and take the little terror. Just follow the rules. If Clint’s Santa, who will be Clint?

    Wendy– Hi, new commenter! I’m not an elf—I don’t even wear the mrs. claus apron like I’m supposed to. I’m a volunteer and that’s that. And I know, right? So rude about the paycheques. Some people should really read this blog and change their lives.

  16. anon10 says:

    This is one of my pet peeves: When people FORCE their kids to sit on Santa’s lap sreaming and crying. So…then I have to wait while they make em laugh. (Which never works) They should read your blog. They would find it enlightening.

  17. anonymous says:

    ha this post was hilarious! and the pics of PK left me laughing out loud!

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