Picture the scene: You’re in a shopping mall. Fake snowmen deck the halls. It’s 35 degrees outside.
It’s loud. It’s sweaty. You’d rather be anywhere but here.
Actually, you didn’t have to picture that scene. You were there on Saturday. Maybe you’re there today. My sympathies.
You’ve managed to unload the kids for a few short hours to Christmas Shop. Or, God forbid, you’re taking them along with you. Because you’re leaving it too late for online delivery times. And it’s cheaper in person. And you have a list.
The pertinent question is, just how many presents can you buy in two hours?
Because when it comes to presents, we’ve all got the non-negotiables – your kids, your partner, your parents, his parents (why are YOU doing all this shopping, again?). Your good friends. Their kids.
But when you’ve got kids of your own, it gets complicated. Because what about:
Their teachers/preschool teachers; Their swim/judo/cricket/dancing/judo/trapeze/Nepalese chanting instructors; Their babysitters; Their daycarers?
So. Many. Presents.
This is the dilemma parents face at this time of year, every year. And this is the dilemma teachers face at this time of year every year – what the hell do I do with 35 scented candles and 14 boxes of chocolates?
If you’re like me, then this week you’re spending a LOT of time encouraging your kid to make ‘lovely’ home-made cards – “So much more thoughtful than another box of chocolates” – and if you’re like me, you’re hoping that on Friday, you won’t be dodging dagger looks from the teachers who really, really wanted AN ACTUAL PRESENT.
So here, from my outrageously unqualified position of being a reasonably tight mother of two small children with plenty of people in their lives is the simple YES/NO/SCENTED CANDLE guide to who should get what this Christmas.
ASK YOURSELF: Does your kid like their teacher? Do you like their teacher? Will they have the same teacher next year?
YES? Buy them a car. Nothing is too good for an excellent teacher. Can’t afford the Saab? Give them a bottle of wine. They’ve had a tough year.
NO? Pasta necklace. Always, always the pasta necklace. Especially if your child is over 10.
ASK YOURSELF: Is your babysitter a sulky teenager who always expects dinner and plenty of kid-free time to binge watch Pretty Little Liars?
YES? Nothing. You give them enough every time they come over, like the contents of your fridge, and all your download data.
NO? A lovely, caring role model for your kid who is actually directly accountable for their wellbeing while you get to ocassionally go out and be freeeeee? A scented candle. A really, really nice one. Come on, some people love those. Seriously.
ASK YOURSELF: Is your child on struggle street? Could they really do with that extra push that a little teacher-love could bring?
YES? Jewellery. And not the pasta kind. If Timmy’s going to get to the State champs, only Tiffany will do, dammit.
NO? It’s definitely time for the hand-made card – “You’re the best, Ms Amy, and without you, I’d drown. Thanks so much – Timmy.’
If there’s only one way to assure victory – do it.
ASK YOURSELF: Does he love your little preschoolers? Does he wipe their bums and noses, teach them it’s not nice to bite and never, ever charge you extra when you’re 10-minutes late to drop-off?
YES? Not just a car, but perhaps a share in a small holiday home down the coast. This might be the toughest job in the world. It’s worth it. Can’t stretch to real estate? Hard liquor.
NO? Then it’s time to pull out the best present a teacher of my aquaintance ever got – a box of Jatz. Or a punnet of blueberries (another real-life actual teacher-present). No. Hold on, blueberries are really, really exxy.
Look, good luck. And when you’ve contributed to the class whip-round, and bought the individal present, and sat down to stick the pasta to the home-made card, just remember, this is a beautiful, special time of year.
All about others, and giving. And not at all about going into debt trying to show the people in your kids’ lives that you really, really want them to be nice to your kids. You know, next year.
So seriously, what are the best presents to get the important people in your life who you don’t know very well?