Holiday Shopping With Kids – keep it real and unplugged

I’ll admit it…this time of year, I’m a cybershopper. I have mixed feelings about this, actually. “Back in the day”, I used to love the thrill of the hunt. Shopping for the perfect gift was fun and added a special touch to the holiday season. With Black Friday now happening on Thanksgiving Thursday, and shopping chaos erupting into fist fights, it’s just not worth it any more. So, a cybershopper I’ve become.

When I do have to trek to a brick and mortar store, I attempt to pick a time where the lines will be a bit less crazy. This time of year, I’m not so sure there is such a time, but I at least attempt it!

The other day I had to run through Best Buy to return something, thinking that the lines would be short given it was an odd time of day. Wrong! Barely 10am, the line was across the store. Caffeine in hand and email at my fingertips, I decided to wait it out. While passing the time, I couldn’t help but notice a mom and a small child in line behind me…the child couldn’t have been more than 18 months old.

This little guy was easy to spot. He made it clear he wanted out of that stroller and did everything he could to get his mom’s attention from kicking to tossing his pacifyer and cup at her to yelping at louder and louder decibels. Mom gave him back his cup and handed him her iPhone with a video of his older brother. This worked for about 5 minutes before both were tossed to the ground.

At this point, the mom actually walked away from him – to the back of the stroller. She picked up the phone and started checking her email.  When his protests became louder, she finally let him out of the stroller and he bolted away with a smile faster than any of us could blink. Mom didn’t follow. Instead she said: “Ok – that’s far enough. Time to come back.”

Remember, we’re talking about a toddler and one recently unhappy. Returning was not in his plan. He kept going. It wasn’t until he was almost out of sight that this mom went after him. A couple patrons in line noted to her that her spot would be saved.

If you’re going to brave the stores with small kids in tow this time of year, here’s my advice to avoid a scene like what I witnessed the other day:

  1. Be realistic about the age of your child. If you have a toddler or infant, try to go at truly off hours or around nap time so, perhaps, your child will sleep through the errand. If it’s possible to go when your child is at home with a sitter or relative, that’s likely best this time of year. The lines are horribly long.
  2. If you do have to bring your child, plan for delays. Bring diapers, food, distraction toys.
  3. Be prepared to have to leave and regroup another day. We’ve all had to do that with small kids. Sometimes pushing the tolerance limits of our kids simply isn’t worth the frustration we start to feel to get the errand done. Make sure it’s truly worth it.
  4. If you have to use distraction, have technology be your last resort. The more we prime our kids with high tech stuff, the more they’ll be primed for it to calm down and for comfort as they get older. It’s ok to let them fuss a bit now and again but also use other tactics – blankets, picking them up, rocking the stroller, music, reading to them.

It’s a truly tough juggling act this time of year. Do what you can but cut your losses when you sense your child is at his limit or you are at yours. There’s always another day.

Speak Your Mind