The Stereotypical Childhood
The first Christmas I celebrated with my son, I surprised myself; I didn't think I would care about Santa photos, I mean, he was only 5 months old, what does he care about some guy dressed up in a red suit and fake beard? But, there I was, standing in a long, twisting line filled with some excited, some confused, some terrified and most impatient children. I waited for 45 minutes while my husband gave me a few stink eyes, wondering why I was submitting him to this form of torture. I paid for the over-priced photo of my kid on some stranger's lap who was dressed in a red suit and fake beard and tucked it away in (what drawer did I put that in again?) until the next year. I imagined all of the yearly Santa photos being compared to each other, while we laughed at the pleasure and ridiculousness of it all.
This past weekend I took the boys to the West Edmonton Mall to go see the Easter Bunny. Gabe laughed and said "What! Why? He's not even real!" and I shrugged. There was no real good reason. The mall isn't close to our house, I wasn't sure if there would be a long line and I was shortening my son's nap to accommodate the trip. However, there's something about the experience that makes me feel like my children are participating in that all-together lovely, cheesy, fun, frivolous and mandatory part of childhood. These experiences - the Easter Bunny, Santa, Valentines Day cards, Birthday parties - all of those little things we do that can feel like more 'work' than they are worth; they are the epitome of childhood.
I want my boys to have photos of them covered in dirt with big smiles and rosy cheeks while they are surrounded by Alberta's large prairie sky. I want them to have photos of towering chocolate cakes and dollar store birthday hats with loved ones looking on. I also want them to have happy yet, awkward photos with big, white, fluffy easter bunnies. There's a little bit of magic in never knowing if your child is going to be completely enthralled and enthusiastic about the experience or terrified and screaming. To me, both of them are worth capturing. There's something safe and normal about these experiences - like, sorry, kid if I gave you a complex you'll need counselling for in your 20's but, at least you have Bunny + Santa photos. That's gotta count for something. I hope it shows them that I cared, I cared about the silly magic of childhood in every which way; from camping adventures to halloween costumes to bright photos in our malls.
WEM did a wonderful job creating the most Easter-esque environment. Pink, purple and yellow flowers, giant decorative easter eggs and one big stage for the littles to take it all in and discover the childhood magic of a giant cottontail handing them little containers of easter cotton candy. Gabe sat awkwardly on his lap while Simon stood to the side, way too terrified to stand close to a bunny 100 times the size of those that we see hopping around our backyard. The staff were friendly and enthusiastic and afterwards we ate cotton candy and threw change in a water fountain. Gabriel asked me if the cotton candy was made from feathers and in that moment I knew the whole trip to the mall to appease my desire for childhood milestones was worth it. I secretly hope that my boys still send me pictures like these when they are teenager, the lightness of it, the familiarity, it just makes me smile.
You can go take your children for this experience at WEM until April 17th (and be sure to enjoy your cotton candy by the water fountain afterwards!)