It was only a matter of time. On Sunday, The Washington Post ran a story asking "Should children sit on Santa's lap?" We're told "Some parents are questioning the tradition amid the #MeToo movement and a national conversation over teaching children about consent."
Samantha Schmidt, a "gender and family issues" reporter for the Post, insisted:
Many parents don’t see a problem with participating in what they view as an innocent tradition. But some have begun questioning the way the culture approaches photos with Santa amid the #MeToo movement and a national conversation over how to teach young children about consent and physical boundaries.
If parents force their children to sit on Santa’s lap for a photo, some have asked, what kind of message does that send them later on in life? The discussion echoes advice given by the Girl Scouts last year, reminding parents that their daughters don’t “owe” relatives hugs during the holiday season.
It's one thing to argue that you shouldn't force your young children into Santa's lap if they're kicking and screaming. (You could wait until they actually understand the drill.) But it's somehow "news" there are parents who over-think this into a #MeToo moment:
Angela Chang, a Pittsburgh mother of two daughters, said she is not necessarily concerned about her children’s safety while taking photos with Santa. However, she argues, the entire premise of the tradition is problematic because it places a child in a potentially uncomfortable situation with the expectation that they will get a reward for putting up with it — in this case, Christmas presents.
In her blog at Scarymommy.com, Chang drew people's ire by writing (emphasis hers):
I put my child in a strange man’s lap and told her she had to stay there even though she would be uncomfortable, so he would give her gifts.
Read that again.
Make way for the "experts" to explain why you should question the Santa thing:
Developmental psychologists like Christia Spears Brown, an associate professor at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, say lessons about consent and unwanted touching should start early, and parents could use the holiday tradition as an opportunity to teach children that they are in control of their bodies.
“We want them to be able to say that when they’re 14 and 15 and 16,” Spears Brown said. “Why would we not respect that earlier just because it’s part of this cultural tradition?”
At least the sensible opposing viewpoint was aired within the story:
For many parents, merely putting Santa in the same sentence as #MeToo is an absurd overreaction and an attempt to politicize an innocent, beloved holiday ritual.
Bringing up issues of consent during a classic Christmas tradition is “opening up a sphere that doesn’t need to be opened,” Dan Strickland said as he pushed his 1-year-old son Braxton in a stroller at the Santa exhibit at Fair Oaks Mall beside his wife and two daughters, ages 7 and 4.
“Why are they trying to change everything?” he said. “It’s one of the only times during the 365-day year when kids can really just be kids.”