It’s a rite of passage for many parents of babies — taking their little one to see Santa for the first time. But for the Self family in San Antonio, Texas, their experience turned downright heartbreaking when the Santa at Bass Pro Shops made things incredibly weird about being photographed with Caleb, their 14-month-old son with special needs.
Mom Megan Self, who has four older children, detailed her experience on Facebook, saying that after waiting in line — as they do every year at Bass Pro Shops — for a very long time, the Santa wouldn’t even sit down with Caleb, who’s suffering from mitochondrial encephalomyopathy, a genetic development disorder that’s caused Caleb’s muscles to weaken and his brain to shrink.
When the Self family reached the front of the line, Megan quickly unhooked Caleb from his breathing apparatus and other medical equipment so he could get a snap with Santa. But instead of sitting down and posing for a photo as he did with all the other children, Santa just stood there. As Megan wrote in her heart-wrenching Facebook post, “Santa didn’t even sit. I barley even had time to move out of the way of the picture when they snapped the picture because he just stood there. We were rushed off where as other kids and parents had time to get ready and so on. Santa even took time to try and convince the little girl in front us to sit on his lap with no prevail. Yet, he couldn’t even take the time to sit with a child who wouldn’t even fight him?”
Here’s the whole post, along with a sweet photo of Caleb:
Needless to say, since Megan posted about her experience, Bass Pro Shops has received a lot of flak about its Santa. It has since released a statement that said, “This is not something we feel great about.” It also offered the Self family a gift certificate and free photo with Santa, which Megan declined. The store also claims that all Santas receive sensitivity training before the season starts. Perhaps this one was absent that day?
It goes without saying that this was an absolutely horrible experience. Acting in such a way is about as un-Santa-like as it gets. When someone signs up to be a Santa — someone who interacts with children all day — it should go without saying that they should act with empathy, kindness and compassion, no matter who the child is. Last time I checked, Santa was one of the more understanding and gentle-natured people out there.
From the looks of Megan’s Facebook page, it appears that sweet Caleb was able to get a photo with Santa eventually — assuming not the one at Bass Pro Shops — but it’s so horrible that this family and this poor little boy who may not have much longer had to deal with this in the first place. It’s likely that this will be a lesson to Bass Pro Shops as well as to Santas everywhere. But it’s truly a shame that that’s thanks to Caleb.