Spoiler Alert: It is pure hell.
Christmas shopping is generally a pretty traumatic experience. Unless you’re one of these super organised individuals who manages to get everything done before the shops even think about whacking a Michael Buble Christmas album on repeat. In which case, kudos to you.
For the rest of us however, shopping for loved ones is high stress territory. Add your children to the mix and you’ll find yourself all too familiar with the inevitable stages of Christmas shopping with kids.
Preparation is key.
Prior to even walking out the door you need to have a game plan.
Write down exactly who you need to shop for and what you want to get them. Don’t think for one second that you’ll be afforded the luxury of browsing the aisles and meandering your way through department stores. This is an in and out mission.
Pack enough food to feed a small army. Water too. If your kids are anything like mine they need to eat on the half hour, every half hour. The fallout from failing to comply with this is monumental. Once you think you have enough food, add a couple more boxes of sultanas to your bag just to be sure.
Leave the house.
Although it sounds deceptively easy, this is a simple process. Leaving the house is perhaps one of the most drawn out exercises you will ever endure.
Dress the children, toilet the children, brush the teeth of the children, find shoes for the children, encourage the children to enter the car willingly, bribe the children to enter the car, have lengthy discussion with the children about why 56 of there closest stuffed toys can't join us in the car, negotiate the invitation for two stuffed toys only, diffuse tantrum resulting from the culling of stuffed toys, forcibly escort the children to the car, notice children are no longer wearing shoes/socks/pants, re-enter the locked house to locate missing items and ensure you have all the necessary requirements for the day.
Driving to the shops.
Decide which shops you are going to inflict your children on and make your way there. Referee countless arguments between your kids and try and drown them out by increasing the volume on the radio until your ears hurt.
Finding a parking space.
Be prepared to sit in lengthy queues on your way to finding a car space. Every single other person in Australia will want the same one.
Be aware of a Christmas time epidemic where seemingly normal, polite individuals suddenly turn into rude hideous bastards in the car park. It's the reverse Christmas spirit. Try not to be that person.
After about an hour, you'll stalk someone to a space and finally claim it as your own. Unpack the car, pram, bags, kids and lead them into the shopping centre.
Rummage around in your pocket for your shopping list. Mentally picture it on the kitchen table and accept that this time you're gonna have to rely on that photographic memory you don't have. Good luck to you.
It will soon become clear that all the gifts you've actually remembered on the list have sold out. You'll find this out by dragging your children to multiple crowded stores naturally located at the opposite end of the shopping centre.
While in these stores try and keep your kids away from anything breakable/expensive/shiny or sharp. Referee more arguments and smile politely at fellow shoppers as your toddler has his first of many public meltdowns.
Feeding Time (1).
The baby is due for a feed. Didn't you just get here?! No, it's been an hour already. He will tell you it's boob time by delighting everyone with a high pitched shrill.
Transport screeching baby and grumpy toddler to the nearest parents room. Generally, it's as far away from your current location as possible. You're just not going to make it and your feet already ache. Resort to whipping out a boob at the coffee shop and try and prevent the elder child from tipping sugar all over the table while you feed his brother.
Give everyone a good look at your nipples as you dislodge the baby and try to grab your toddler just before he pours milkshake everywhere. Pack everyone up and off you go for more festive joy.
It's probably about now that your shopping partners are getting a little over today's expedition and just look at how much you've achieved! Oh wait, nothing. Resort to cheap bribery and corruption and soldier on with your gift buying.
The stores that you need to visit will in no way be suitable for a pram and all the glassware will be within reaching distance of little hands. Negotiate your way through the too-small aisles and enquire about the cheese board that mum wants. Smile politely when told that particular store never received that particular item, but there is stock available at other locations approximately an hour and a half away. Back out of the store and ignore the disgruntled patrons who you bash into on exit.
The Fridge Is Empty.
Remember part through the trip that you have zero food in the house and decide to 'pop in' to the supermarket for supplies. I know you fed them yesterday, but they'll need dinner again tonight.
Remind yourself that there is no such thing as a 'pop in' with children in tow as you sort out the items in the pram into the things you actually needed, and then the things that your toddler added while you weren't looking. Try and avoid another meltdown when they discover you've removed all the good stuff.
Overload the pram precariously and take note that you'll have to keep a firm hold on it unless you want the baby to do a backflip down the escalator.
A little tired.
The toddler's getting tired and you're now seriously regretting letting him walk rather than just using the double pram like you planned.
I hope you managed to sneak in a coffee at that cafe because you'll need the energy. From here on in you'll be pushing the over weighted pram and piggy backing a 12kg lump the rest of the way around the shops. It's highly probable that you're also carting a Christmas ham (and possibly a turkey) in a straining plastic bag leaving significant indents in your forearms and cutting off much needed blood supply.
It's now way past nap time and the proverbial has hit the fan.
Throwing pieces of sushi at your charges (guilt free fast food, we all know they don't want what you've packed) you'll need to make your way back to the carpark.
Allow a good 25 minutes for this because you'll probably forget where you parked and end up exploring each level of the multi storey.
Gift Cards For All.
Add up all the productive things you did today. You essentially took the kids for sushi is what you did. If, by some miracle, you managed to purchase a gift of any kind you deserve a pat on the back (and a stiff drink). For everyone else, gift cards all round. No explanation needed.
How do you survive Christmas shopping with the kids?
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