ROXANNE ROWLEY: Santa, Chatty Kathy and the Choke Hold

Guest Columnist

Teaching preschoolers was quite an exciting job, especially around the Christmas holidays. The children literally quivered with excitement as the 25th of December drew near. Our classroom was decorated with the lovely and unique artwork than only a four-year-old can produce. There were brightly colored drawings loaded with glitter, lots of glitter. Red and green paper chains encircled the perimeter of the room and there were and cotton ball winter scenes covering the bulletin boards. It was festive and delightful.

We learned traditional Christmas carols—Away in a Manger, Up on the Housetop, Frosty, Silent Night and Jingle Bells. We read lots of Christmas stories and learned Christmas poems. The eventual culmination was inviting parents and grandparents to our classroom for a party and special snacks.

Every group of little students was different, so each year was never the same. It was certainly never boring! I recall one December when staff was told to expect a visit from Santa sometime during the day. Now most of the time, Santa is viewed as a jolly old elf by children. But sometimes the specter of a large man in a red suit with a long white beard is frightening to some little kids.

The sound of jungle bells preceded the grand entrance of Santa and his helper into our classroom. I said, “Well, welcome to our classroom, Santa.” He was greeted by most of the children with smiles and hellos. However, one little girl ran to my side and put a choke hold on my leg. She was terrified. I knew better than to move closer to Santa, so my assistant found him a chair and the other little ones took turns telling him what they hoped for on Christmas morning, while they enveloped him in hugs.

I was afraid I was going to fall over with the little one gripping my leg so tightly, so I sat down and moved her to my lap. Unfortunately the choke hold moved to my neck. I talked to her softly and said it was okay. She could just stay with me until Santa left. I could feel her relax a little.

Santa was bidding his goodbyes to the children, when my little friend turned around in my lap and shouted out, “Santa, I want a Chatty Kathy for Christmas!” Once Santa left, she climbed down from my lap and proceeded with her play.

Later that evening I called the little girl’s Mom to let her know that Santa had visited our classroom and that her little girl did not seem to be an eager fan of the big guy. I was hoping she was alright. Her Mom said, “All she has talked about since she got home was Santa’s visit to her classroom. And she told him what she wanted for Christmas.” I just smiled to myself. Little kids are always full of surprises.


Roxanne Rowley is a retired early childhood educator and consultant. She enjoys writing and has had numerous articles published related to early childhood issues.

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