I often feel a little sorry for parents of young kids. I was fortunate enough to make it through four pregnancies—and the resulting years of infancy and toddlerhood—without input from Pinterest or Facebook, and the ensuing pressure to make every moment Instagram worthy. I raised my children on the threshold of the digital age, and I consider it a blessing that not every moment of their life is documented. (They probably should, also.)
But tis the season for Christmas shopping, and I realized: young Moms have it so good. If you think a back-logged website is frustrating, imagine taking all your little people shopping.
Back in the day, parents had to leave the house to purchase gifts. In the snow. Uphill. With all the children. For me, this resulted in one of two scenarios. Either one child disappeared, causing sheer panic and rendering the entire trip completely unproductive. Or, they all stuck right with me, causing sheer panic and rendering the entire trip completely unproductive.
Sometimes a mall would set up a “Secret Santa” shop, allowing small children to be escorted by one of Santa’s elves (yes, for real!) on a private shopping spree. Parents provided said elf a list of people and a budget, and the child would disappear behind a closed door. Some portion of an eternity later, the child would reappear with a bag of wrapped gifts, and a mile-wide smile. This tradition always provided two great surprises: the gift chosen for me from the shop, and a case of whatever crud seemed to be plaguing the masses that particular year. Apparently whatever was behind that closed door included some sort of germ-infested area.
Trust me: a visit to the pediatrician during the holiday mayhem was never on my agenda.
Parents could also do fun things like take their children to visit Santa, and capture on film the moment of terror as their child was seated on a bearded-stranger’s lap or make up stories about why his beard was attached with elastic.
Sometimes I just hired a babysitter in order to shop sans children. But really, I would have rather paid someone to do the shopping for me.
An alternative to leaving the house was to find a block of uninterrupted time to place an order from a catalogue. That’s right: call a 1-800 number and read off item numbers and hope the correlating merchandise was still in stock. Because, darn it, the postcard that read, “The item you requested has been back-ordered until January 5; we apologize for any delay” inevitably arrived in the mail on December 22.
There were years when parents stood in long lines for fad toys like Tickle Me Elmo. If you happened to have a kid who changed her mind during the normal Christmas shopping window, you had to drive to the store to return the already-purchased-but-no-longer-wanted item, or face the music Christmas morning. Worse yet, if a child hopped on the I-need-the-latest-fad-toy bandwagon too late, you were out of luck.
There were parents who had all their shopping done in August. I would be envious of their efficiency and planning strategies—until their kids pulled that changed-my-mind thing.
The Santa myth only complicated things. Because you had to shop with stealth. Even if you were fortunate enough to have a kid or two in school during the day, you couldn’t let the younger kiddo see you making a Santa purchase. (We all know the third child is The Reporter.)
I’m here to tell you, I managed to celebrate most Christmas mornings with happy children, no more stressed than the next parent.
One year my boys decided they needed coonskin caps. Because, you know, Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett wore them. Somehow we managed, without Pinterest—or even Google or Cracker Barrel— to locate and purchase said hats. And the boys didn’t change their minds.
So as I sit in my comfy chair ordering this year’s gifts via my laptop,
I think proudly back on those crowning moments of Christmas parenting, knowing UPS will deliver, and our family will celebrate an Instagram-worthy holiday.