Today I took the 3 younger kids with me to do some shopping in Farmington-the next big town over located about 45 minutes south. I knew it wouldn't be easy and I tried to mentally gear up for any snafus we might encounter. I'd like to say I was doing some 'last minute' shopping which would imply that I was getting just a few things to wrap up my Holiday shopping. But the truth is, I still had/have the bulk of my Christmas shopping to do and I was hoping to knock out the majority of it with this excursion.
Before I start complaining I just need to state clearly that I love Christmas. It is the best part of Winter. It is a time when everyone is a little nicer, a little more helpful, and just all around better. I love that, for a season, the whole world is reminded that our Savior came to Earth to redeem mankind. I mean really, when you think of it that way, what's not to love?
Well, I can say without any hesitation that I grow to loathe more and more each year the commercialization of Christmas. I feel a lot of pressure to get the 'right things' to make opening presents on Christmas morning pleasant. And frankly, when I think about the fact that 'things' are how I gauge the success of Christmas Day, it puts a real wrinkle in my Holiday Joy.
Each fall I have this crazy fantasy of our family going to some third world country and digging ditches all through the 2 week break. We would all be smiling and dirty as we skipped back to our tent to enjoy a holiday meal of beans and rice. We'd come home so grateful for our blessings, that it would purge the material desires right out of us.
But so far it hasn't happened. The reality still is that my kids have expectations on Christmas morning and I keep feeding that proverbial Frankenstein. I do truly try to restrict the monster's diet and not go overboard each year, but I guess material things are all relative and I know that we always have more than we need or sometimes even want. *Sigh* Blah, blah, blah. The fact is, I had some shopping to get knocked out.
So when we got to Farmington, we hit the mall. Jackson and Jebb wandered around with me for a few minutes in their section talking about coats or shirts they liked. I acted only mildly interested. Jackson found one particular shirt with a picture of a basketball with limbs, spinning a basketball on it's finger. Go figure. It was the last of it's kind and I looked at it with him before moving on. Elise was a brilliant partner in sneaky shopping. She took J&J to get a drink while I made a pile of the things I gathered. I snuck back to the basketball with the basketball shirt, and added it to my growing pile. I then had Elise try on some jeans, looked for shirts for the big boys, and wandered around the store in general. We walked past the spot where the Bball shirt had been and Jackson looked grief stricken as he pointed it's absence out to me. "Mom! Someone else got that shirt while we were looking around! I knew we should have grabbed it!" I said, "Well, maybe someone is just looking at it and they will bring it back." He was not comforted. I did manage to get him to help me test out some colognes for Seth, but he carried his disappointment around with him.
I finally had Elise take the boys to the car to watch a movie while I checked out. I met the kids at the car and we headed for Target. This is where I planned to do the bulk of my shopping. I was on the lookout for slippers, toys, stocking stuffers, and electronics. After enjoying a pleasant lunch of Target food, J&J immediately made a beeline for the toy department with Elise following along. It wasn't long before I had grabbed some things I wanted and was wondering where the kids were. I called Elise on the phone and she was upset. Apparently Jackson had found a small toy he wanted, but he refused to set it down. I told her not to fight with him about it and just bring the boys to meet me in the shampoo section (Gabe wants special shampoo...). She called me back a few minutes later and told me that Jackson refused to move from where he was because he didn't want someone to buy the toy he had found while he was away in the shampoo department (remember the Bball shirt?). I headed back to retrieve the kids and by the time I got to them, I was irritated. More irritated than the situation warranted, but for some reason I let the moment bring out all of the frustration and resentment I had about my own perceived responsibility to buy lots of 'stuff.' I was so bugged that Jackson was freaking out about a dumb TOY!
Now of course he is only 8, and he said he just wanted to show me the toy, and he even pointed out that it was very inexpensive. So what did I do? I told everyone we were officially done at Target. We headed for the checkout then out to the car.
Not a shining parenting moment I know. I did manage to get a few items I wanted, but really I only made it all the more difficult for myself because I still have to get some things before the big day. And of course, time waits for no grumpy mother. Christmas is still coming and I let my bah-humbug get the best of me.
In the car we had a little 'talk.' Jebb noticed that I didn't spend any time in the toy section and he is old enough to figure out that I probably didn't buy the Lego set he was eyeing, and he was close to tears. Jackson was really angry we had to leave, and Elise was quiet knowing that how the next few minutes went could directly affect the number of presents under the tree. We all decided to take a breathe and see if we could manage a better attitude while we tried to get our Christmas shopping done.
We headed to Sam's Club for our last stop. Our day seemed to improve. We actually had a great time getting paper towel and whatnot, while sampling things like cheesecake and chicken egg rolls. Jackson liked the rolls, so we bought a whole box! He seemed pleased and stopped walking with his brow furrowed and arms folded. I never cease to be amazed at Jackson's ability to regroup and decide to get along. I think my decision to quit stressing and just try to relax helped a little too. ;)
On the drive back I let the kids watch a happy movie, and by the time we got home, we were all in a flat out good mood. We decided to go and visit Grandma in the hospital. John was there and Kristine looked much better today. She still hasn't eaten, but she seemed more aware of what was going on. The kids were so happy to see her and they probably hugged and kissed her too much. Jebb has been especially concerned about her and I think it reassured him to see her smiling. We quickly wore her out, and we decided we'd eat dinner together at the cafeteria. We recounted our days to each other and enjoyed sitting together. After we were done, we went back to visit Grandma then left so she could get some sleep.
It was a long day that helped me to remember once again that it's the 'stuff' that drives me nuts. What really matters at Christmas is having our loved ones with us. Shoot, that's what matters all of the time! I am glad that in spite of the commercialism, the world does seem to remember that aspect. I guess I will just try to embrace those parts of Christmas that I love and put off my whole 'beans and rice' plan another year.