It always starts around this time of year, as soon as we hit into November I begin to feel something looming, ever present and creating just a spark of panic in my gut as Christmas comes up over the horizon. I am grateful for the fact that the local supermarket and mall have not yet commenced their seasonal overload, although I don’t think it’s far off. And I’ve already begun to set myself endless tasks in preparation for the silly season. The plans, time off work, visitors, food, toys, the children, parties, last minute shopping, gifts – oh God the gifts. The panic starts, and I need to start making lists.
As the thoughts are whirring through my mind about the kids and what to get them, all must meet the requirements which are: educational, not ridiculously expensive, enhance their development, still going to be played with three days after Christmas, and of course cool. I can be quite practical when it comes to gift giving and think of what clothes and shoes the kids need. My husband is the opposite and refuses to listen to any of my suggestions unless they are something to play with. Buying for him can be even harder. Like many grown men he is just like a small child and would also love to receive toys and gadgets to play with all summer long. Anything else must be, of course, the best brand, the most expensive, and the least convenient. Not that convenience is a huge priority in my list-making, unless it is my list, and then it is all about filling the gaps. Which is fine with me, and once my needs are filled and I have a new wok I can always be pleased with clothes, shoes and jewellery.
The no gift phenomenon is growing in popularity it seems, and I get it, imagine not having to go through the madness, the panic, the whole CHRISTMAS SHOPPING recurring nightmare (cause no one EVER gets it all in one go, NO ONE). When I think of the waste and the excess of the whole celebration the idea does appeal to me to help the needy plant crops and farm animals by buying bags of poo through Oxfam, but that just wouldn’t suit us all. My kids would get over it eventually, and would still receive so much stuff. My husband would never go for it, being a man-child he needs his toys too. And as much as I like the idea and hope that good ideas like this will help our world see an end to excesses and poverty, I am just too damn shallow and I want my Christmas shorts and earrings just as much as the kids.
Then there is the rest of the family and friends, practically an uncountable factor, not knowing exactly what you will need is worrisome, so I have learned to be prepared.
TIP #1 Preparation for uncertainty – get in some ‘spare’ presents for a variety of ages. Also remembering that you have done so can also be helpful. More than once before I have done some last minute shopping when I’d have been saved if I checked the spare room wardrobe. It also doesn’t hurt to have extra ‘open and serve’ type foods and drinks around.
I have already started the mental preparation for the calendar-shuffling necessary for making arrangements, juggling between mother’s group dinner and the ballet concert has begun. I have (in my head) shifted boxes here and there to make room for the tree. And I am making a vow to dedicate the next two weeks to shopping online!
TIP #2 Shop online. My husband is the king of toy shopping in Hong Kong and China, via Ebay of course. If like us you have family overseas then consider ordering and sending direct, save loads on postage.
TIP #3 Set your partner a major project. In our house his job is toys. He is generally very successful and loves sourcing the best toys on the net, give him a nudge and he will gladly do all of the toy shopping, just don’t ask him to get anything sensible.
I have a friend who always used to get all her shopping done by the end of October, but not since she’s had kids. It isn’t humanly possible to be as organised as you would like to be. I try fairly hard to get in order, but I never seem to remember everything.
TIP #4 Be kind to yourself. No one can think of it all, so just enjoy your time instead.
It isn’t any wonder that mums like me get into the panic when we count how many trips to the packed shops we will need to take, how many times our credit cards will be swiped, and all the hours that will undoubtedly go into wrapping the 237 perfect, individually thought out gifts for our loved ones. Before kids I never felt this way, but they have brought a bit of magic back into the Christmas season and it is understandable that we aim so high. So this year, send hubby out on a mission, have spare everything around and get shopping online now! And try to remember ‘tis the season to be jolly so lap it up while you can.
Emma Eastman 2013