Christmas shopping: Is there a lesson in here somewhere?

"Is there a lesson in here somewhere?" I asked the general cacophony yesterday evening. "Are we really teaching you anything about being generous or being giving or how to think of other people? What is this all about?"

You guessed it. We were about to go Christmas shopping. For the past few years we've let the kids choose small gifts for each other, though CJ has been too small to really participate. Turns out, he's still too small. We have a favourite store we go to that the kids call "The Castle Store." It used to be oriented toward gamers--Dungeons and Dragons figurines and whatnot, but it's expanded successfully into board games, crafts, puzzles, Lego, Star Wars figures, and some other toys. Walls of puzzles. I love this place. So does CJ, but he really couldn't think of anyone but himself. Nor could he think past the present moment to Christmas morning.

I want what I want and I want it right now! could have been his motto.

But that was at the store. Back at home, as I attempted to prepare for our shopping venture, there was covetous CJ, but there was also Fooey, recovering from pneumonia, well enough to head back to school, but pretty much pooched by 4pm, and in a generally surly and screamy state, perhaps a sign of improving health, or a sign of being spoiled by a week at home watching movies and being catered to by her loving mother, but really, who cares why? It's virtually intolerable. The bossy-Fooey-screams send AppleApple into fits of indignant rage, while Albus's response is to poke rational holes into her (il)logic. Helpful.

Toss in the much-anticipated trip to The Castle Store, and our after-school scenario yesterday resembled nothing more than a miniature civil war battlefield. I remained the voice of calm, but you know, no one's listening to the voice of calm in the middle of a bloody battle.

Which brought me around to my rhetorical question: "What is this teaching you guys?" Okay, not so rhetorical because I really didn't know the answer. Still don't. I was about to give up when Kevin called and said he could come along too (this was planned as a me-and-the-kids outing; short-sighted planning right there). With another parent along, we were able to manage. Plus, aside from CJ wanting everything right now, the other kids turned angelic in the Castle Store aisles as they thought about their siblings, consulted their siblings, and secretly made choices.

So what's the lesson here? I really really really don't know. At various points in the venture I would have said it was:
*Don't take your three-year-old Christmas shopping! (And really, if you have the option, just don't.)
*Don't go Christmas shopping, period!
*Materialism sucks!
*And: Can't we shove the toothpaste back into the tube and everyone will just get a nice big orange in their stocking and that will be plenty?!
But I guess I came around to this:
*Give your older children the opportunity to choose thoughtful gifts for each other. They might surprise you.

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