For the last two years (with the exception of the school Santa), we have not done a visit with Santa Claus. It was just too stressful; we had to readjust our expectations for the holiday season; although it pained me to do so. I had been so stubborn about accepting the changes that would have to be made because of our sons' diagnoses of autism. It's a process, a journey, and that is one of the life lessons that was hard for me to learn. So because waiting in lines, sitting in a stranger's lap, and dealing with crowds were some of the difficulties the boys had (not to mention they just didn't "get" the whole Christmas-thing), the trip to see Santa Claus became no more than an anxiety-filled photo op that we chose to shelve until another year (hopefully?).
Well, fast forward to 2011. We went to Bass Pro Shop one morning to do some Christmas shopping. The thought that Santa might be there didn't even cross my mind; I hadn't planned to try that this year either, just to be honest. I saw the sign that he would be there shortly. There were no lines, no crowds...I began to consider the idea with some hesitation. The boys were not just aware of Christmas and Santa Claus, but they were also excited this year, so I thought "why not?". Yep, just like several other times this year, we decided to go for it!
My boys were some of the best behaved there. Aidan waited (mostly) patiently with me in line while Tom took Andrew around the kid area to practice bow hunting and BB guns. When it was our turn, Andrew ran to him with the biggest grin you've ever seen (yay!), and they both hopped right up in his lap. He was great and really took time to talk to them. Andrew told him he wanted "toys" and Aidan asked for "toys and presents." I was so thrilled! I must have been grinning ear to ear, because as the boys jumped down, Santa said, "mom, you sure do have a pretty smile." I just squeezed his hand tightly and said, "thank you!" I couldn't say anything else. The tears would have come. For that split second, I knew he was the real deal.