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Holiday Shopping and Kids Just Don't Mix

The holiday season hit me this year like a two-ton Tonka truck.

Though it helps that Christmas and Hanukah somewhat coincide this year, December is apparently not only the height of the holiday shopping season but also the height of the 3-year-old birthday-party season. The next two weekends will be spent shuttling Lucas from birthday party to playdate to birthday party, with my cousin's wedding shower mixed in for good measure.

That means I had to do all my holiday shopping this past weekend.

My husband, taking pity on me, took a couple hours off work Saturday to help me cart both boys around while I did some good, old-fashioned, touch-and-feel in-store shopping.

Before we left the house, ground rules were set: We were going to buy three birthday presents and one gift for the charity toy drive at Lucas' school, and that was it. I was going to surreptitiously gather ideas for a couple more gifts for Lucas, but we were doing NO shopping for him.

We weren't more than one foot in the toy store before I heard, "Mommy, I want that." Lucas was pointing to random toy #1.

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"Honey, that's not on your gift list."

"Mommy, I want that." He was then pointing to random toy #2.

"Lucas, that is for babies."

"MOMMY, I WANT THAT!" He was pointing to random toy #3, his tone escalating to ensure that I heard him above all of the other kids yelling at their parents.

I told my husband that we should split up. Big mistake.

Ten minutes later, husband returned with Lucas grinning from ear-to-ear and manhandling a set of Tonka trucks. "Who broke the ground rules?" I asked, as if I didn't know.

As we headed back to the car, Lucas began screaming for his new trucks, so hubby furiously wrestled with the plastic packaging and managed to pry off the binding wire, processes that normally require a slew of power tools. Once Lucas was settled with his new trusty green garbage truck, we were off to the mall.

The minute we set foot in the mall, Lucas started up again, "I want a snack." "I want my sippy." "I want to walk." Hubby and I raced to cover as much ground as we could in as little time as possible, all the while pretending not to hear Lucas' demands and instead trying to deflect him with mindless distractions, "Oh Lucas, look at those Christmas decorations!" "Lucas, look at your brother." "Lucas, did we mention the Christmas decorations?!?!?!"

Suddenly Lucas screamed out, "I want to go for a ride!" Hubby and I were stumped; we had no idea what he was referring to until we spotted the four mini mall rides on the second level. So up we went — Lucas rode each "ride" while my dear hubby sat comatose on the neighboring chair and Justin squirmed in his stroller.

Two dollars and ten minutes later, we were off again. Hubby and I couldn't convince Lucas to get back into his stroller, so I sped ahead, glancing over my shoulder every couple minutes to make sure hubby hadn't hurled Lucas and the stroller down to the first level.

At our final destination, Justin had nearly reached his limit, while Lucas got a second wind. Our suddenly hyperactive child raced through the fine china department of the local department store. If I told him once, I told him 100 times, "Lucas, if you break those dishes, your dad and I won't be able to send you to college," but he didn't seem to care. Luckily, Lucas' antics kept his brother from hysterics.

Finally, after three long hours of shopping, we headed home. Of the six gifts I set out to buy, I only got two, which pretty much qualified the afternoon as an expensive, nerve-wracking field trip.

And exhausting. We walked through the front door, husband collapsed on the couch, I lay down with the boys, and the whole family promply fell asleep.

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