Wednesday, January 18, 2012

All I Want for Christmas is Everything

Christmas shopping with a toddler is just like Christmas shopping with any other human being, provided that human is a raging alcoholic, and you are shopping in a liquor store. A toddler approaches any shopping experience with two rules in mind:
1. Grab everything within reach
2. Ask for everything out of reach

Given my natural propensity for making rash decisions and putting myself in impossible situations, it should not come as a surprise that I thought the best way to figure out what my toddler wanted for Christmas would be to take him to a store and have him show me what he wanted. (Experienced parents have just planted their palms firmly onto their foreheads, knowing the disaster that awaited me.) It started like any other trip to Target, with a loud fit by my toddler because the cart with the special seat for kids was gone. Why a store can have fifty-seven handicap parking spots and two Starbucks coffee shops but only one kid-approved cart can only be guessed at with elaborate conspiracy theories about security guards watching helpless parents melt down in the aisles because of a missing cart.

Once we had settled on the virtues of a normal cart, it was off to the toy aisle. It was here that I made my main mistake. (In addition to bringing a toddler on a Christmas shopping expedition, letting him sit in the bottom of the cart, not sterilizing the cart surface before he sat down, and not installing motion detectors on the edges of the cart to prevent unnoticed additions to my merchandise.) I told him we were at the store to decide what he wanted for Christmas. I failed, however, to include the following facts:
1. We would not actually be purchasing any toys on this trip
2. We do not have unlimited funds for Christmas shopping
3.  All the toys in the store had been electrified, ready to deliver a significant shock to anyone who grabbed them from the shelf without asking first

What followed was about as predictable as the French losing a World War. My son developed a sudden affinity for every item we passed, which was overpowered only by his desire for the item located next to the one he had been ogling five seconds before. His efforts to fill the cart with Lego’s, trains, and Matchbox cars were matched only by my labors at returning to items to their rightful locations.

The trip was not a complete waste, however. I did learn several valuable parenting lessons (none of which I will probably remember next Christmas).  First, toddlers really don’t have a clue what they want for Christmas. My son was equally enthused about every item he grabbed, declaring his undying loyalty to each chunk of imported plastic.  Second, toys are way cooler than when I was a kid. Remember when we actually had to imagine that our airplanes flew and our elephants trumpeted? Thanks to technology and a successful campaign by Energizer, that is no longer necessary. 

As I shuffled back to the car in defeat, with no better idea what to get my son for Christmas, he spotted the kids’ cart lodged in a corral. “Daddy, can we go again?” Maybe I should just get him the cart for Christmas.

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