This was the best we could get, forget the smiles, at least they're both looking at the camera.
Brendan's history with Santa is tearful to say the least. His first, he was 6 months old and looked rather suspicious as I left him in the strange man's arms. His second, he was 18 months old and screamed bloody murder (made for a memorable picture!) until his cousins agreed to join him on the jolly man's lap and bribed him with a candy cane (second picture resulted in a half smile with obviously evident tear tracks lining his face.) Needless to say, we chose not to humiliate him with such torture last year and skipped the Santa picture altogether. So when he expressed excitement this year we held our breath with skepticism. "I want to see Santa so I can tell him I want cars!" he told us. "I'll tell him I've been a good boy too!" When I asked if he could tell Santa what Aubrey wanted he explained "yup... I'll tell Santa that I've been a big boy and Aubrey's been a big baby..." I know it sounded like a good thing in his mind :)
We entered Santa's Village and he clutched my hand. I could tell that Santa seemed much more intimidating in person to my brave little man. I promised him that Aubrey would join him and that mommy and daddy would be just a few short feet away. The tears welled up... I feared a major meltdown then spied the basket of candy canes. "You can have one of these, buddy, if you climb up there with Aubrey and tell Santa what you want!" (I am NOT above bribery... who's to say we can't reward our children for doing what we want them to do?!) And so he slowly warmed up. And while Santa didn't reach his friendly "let me tell you about all my cars and trucks and everything I did last week and my friends and my sister..." status, he got a shy, whispered wish for a few simple gifts. And that was enough for me.
Aubrey, on the other hand, would have gladly taken up permanent residence on sweet Santa's lap. She couldn't stop staring and smiled with excitement. It was out of annoyance in a "hey... I'm checking this man out" sort of way that we finally got her to look at the camera.
But despite the near anxiety attack, Brendan can't stop talking about Santa and wondering if he'll be bringing the gifts on his list... oh how I love the sweet innocence of childhood...