Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Shopping 101

A few months ago, after much robbing of Peter and paying of Paul, JMahl and I managed to pay off our credit card.  This was cause for celebration, so we immediately splurged (on the credit card) and got Chinese.  And then I had an (almost) completely open credit line with which to enter the Christmas season.  So, like most parents out there, I have spent the last few weeks feverishly purchasing presents that will, most likely, be appreciated for a much shorter time than it takes me to, again, pay off my credit card.  Yes, I realize this is a very negative outlook, but my husband has started to rub off on me and, I must admit, in this matter, he is correct.

Every Christmas I am convinced that THIS Christmas will be THE Christmas that my children will remember forever.  If you take some time to think back, I'm sure you have some of those.  I do, although I'm sure they aren't the ones my parents wanted me to remember.  For example, the year I received a huge box of coal from my brother Ian.  At the very bottom of the box was a wonderful horse poster.  This was the period where, like many little girls, my bedroom walls were decorated with animal pictures.  I loved it!
And the year I begged for the tiny doll with a whole closet full of clothes, page 176 in the Sears Catalog.  Do you remember thumbing through the Sears Catalog that was two inches thick and was ragged and torn by a week before Christmas?  I got an erector set that year.
And the year we waited to open Christmas presents until my mother and new baby brother Trent came home from the hospital.... that was frustrating, only getting to open ONE PRESENT so that Mom could see us open the rest, all because Trent decided to be born the day before.

But isn't that most of the joy of Christmas morning?  Not so much what the kids get-- but seeing their faces when they get it?  At least, for me that's it.  Which is why I keep buying things.  But that thrill and excitement is elusive.

It seems as though no matter what I get for the kids, it's never EXACTLY what they wanted.  Sure, if you ask my husband, he'll tell you that I tend to buy things that I want the kids to want (the hammock swing), not necessarily something they do want (a spy-copter that I know Dugan will destroy by New Years).  But really, as their parent, it is my job to guide them toward wanting the things I want them to want, right?  And there's also the issue of over-presenting.

Unlike when I was a child, and I only got presents on Holidays and Birthdays, my kids get stuff pretty regularly.  I blame this fact primarily on my in-laws, who have a tendency to splurge when it comes to the children, but I'm guilty too.  New shoes don't wait for a present-giving holiday.  New clothes come at the start of a school year.  Little "just because I love you" presents come when I have extra money in my grocery budget.  Maybe JMahl and I have more money than my parents did when we were young... or maybe we're just spoiling  our kids.  I don't know.  But regardless, kids (or my kids, at least) expect more and don't seem as grateful for the things they get anymore. My children have no hesitancy in saying "this isn't what I wanted", while I clearly remember wearing things I hated just because my mother bought them for me and I didn't want to hurt her feelings by telling her how ugly they were.  Although there was one Christmas I do remember being very upset that my parents bought all my brothers new camping gear while I was left with...uhm... I don't remember what I got, but it wasn't camping gear.  I felt left out, but my parents made up for it a few months later when I graduated from college and received- tada!- new camping gear!  And it's been used at least three times since then!  But I honestly never realized how hard it was to shop for children until I became a mother myself.

But I thought I'd solved this problem this year.  A few months ago I had each of the kids post a Christmas list on the mantle (so that Santa would get it).  I promised them that Santa would get them each one thing off the list. This list was posted in September, so when Mason's birthday rolled around at the end of October, I utilized it to make sure he had a fabulous eighth birthday.  Not such a great idea, since he only had one thing on his list:  "an iPod 4th generation 8gb with built in forward/ rear camera and facetime".  He was very specific.  He's lucky that his father jumped on the excuse to shop for that to get himself an iPad 2.  But that left me no chance of early Christmas shopping, until Mason added to his list.  Which, of course, post-Birthday, when he had what he wanted, he did.

The problem is, he (and Kayton, too) have continued to add to their lists.  Every day there is something new tacked on in sloppy penmanship to the bottom of the list.  And I've already hit my Christmas budget.  Last night, after purchasing everything on the lists for both kids (unbeknownst to them, of course), as we sat around the dining room table eating dinner, Mason informed me that he ONLY wants a sled "like Zack's!  Have you seen Zack's?  It's so cool!  That's all I want!  If you get me that, I'll be sooooo happy!!!".   Uhm.... what about the snowboard (hidden in the basement) that you wanted?

Well.... I sort of want that still, but not that much.

Okay....... and Kayton, what do you want?  Well, I know I said I wanted a computer, but all I really want is a squinkie car.  It's only $15- I saw the commercial on tv, and it's really awesome and all my little squinkies can ride around in it.

So you'd rather have a $15 cheap plastic toy than your very own aqua blue netbook with a built in webcam (not that that's already been purchased or anything...)?


Kolbie is not any easier.  She wants whatever Kayton wants.  So when Kayton wanted an American Girl doll, Kolbie did too.  And when Kayton wants a squinkie car, Kolbie does too.  Kolbie also wants whatever happens to be showing on the most recent commercial:  Mommy!  Mommy!  LOOK!  I want THAT!
What is that, Kolbie?
I don't know, but I WANT it!!!
Of course, to show her true altruism, she occasionally switches it up to:  Mommy!  Mommy!  LOOK!  MICAH wants THAT!   At which Micah will, in verification of this desire, point and jump and yell "Wan AT!"

There's no way I can shop according to every tv advert that pops up on the screen in between Dora and Blues Clues, but bless me, I try.

Christmas Morning would be much more successful if I waited until the kids were climbing into bed on Christmas Eve, preparing to dream of sugar plums and the razor electric scooter that one of the kids at school said they may be getting for Christmas, and then ask each child, as they snuggle onto their pillows and under their blankets in the matching family pajamas I got everyone again this year even though none of the kids wear pajamas to bed, preferring instead to sleep in their underwear, "Okay, tomorrow is Christmas.  What do you want Santa to bring you?"  And, as they relay their last minute Christmas wishes, I will furiously text JMahl, who would be waiting with bated breathe at the Toys-R-Us... "2 lalaloopsy dolls, 1 96-pack of squinkies (make sure there's a fairy in it), a basketball hoop, and, oh, if they have Kenmore mixers, you can pick one up for me..."