Last Christmas, I did the unthinkable. I waited until the last minute, and I mean very last, to go shopping for gifts. It was Christmas Eve to be exact and it was more an issue of payday convenience than procrastination. So I put on comfortable shoes, strapped my two-year-old into his car seat and cleared the trunk of everything to make room for the bags, including his big bulky stroller, as I planned to just rent one at the mall. That was my first mistake.
After searching and searching for a parking space I found one in the very last row at the far end of the parking lot and we headed inside. I traipsed in and out of store after store pushing my son along in the rented stroller and after over an hour of this, he had begun to grow weary—and whiny. To make matters worse I was out of cash, and so there I was hauling heavy shopping bags, my purse, and pushing a stroller with a cranky two-year-old from one end of the mall to the next in search of an ATM that would relieve my suffering. They were all out of cash too.
Exasperated, I figured both of us had had enough and decided to leave. I headed to guest services located in the middle of the mall to return the stroller. There was only one problem—guest services is near the food court, but I had parked at Sears, which appeared to be at least two football fields away. People as my witness a tired, cranky, shopping-in-the-middle-of-naptime toddler can and will flat out refuse to walk. Clutching huge, heavy shopping bags in both hands I calmly explained to Isaiah that he had no choice but to walk because Mommy could not carry both him and the bags.
Undaunted he still refused to walk and then proceeded to throw a full-blown tantrum right there in the middle of the mall. Busy shoppers stopped to stare and no amount of coaxing would get him to budge. He was tired, and irritable, and also sensing my frustration regarding the ATMs. He was done, okay? I walked a few steps ahead and looked back thinking he would run after me, you know the trick parents use to get their kids to hurry with the “threat” of leaving them behind. It was to no avail. He stuck to his guns and the meltdown proceeded at full blast.
In retrospect, I feared that it was probably not the safest move either, since the mall was so crowded and people were literally running in every direction like some kind of live exercise in the negative rewards of procrastination. I thought someone could have snatched him and ran off. When I relayed the story to my father however, his response was, “Are you kidding? Who’s going to pick up a kid screaming at the top of his lungs? Especially with the two of you in a faceoff.”
And as most veteran parents know, a faceoff with you and your crying toddler is no contest. The toddler always wins. So, faced with no other choice, I picked him up along with my very heavy shopping bags and carried them what I’m sure amounted to a city block or two, through Sears, out of the mall, and to the car—parked in Siberia.
I am a new mom and am bound to make many mistakes, but this year I have no intention of repeating the Christmas Eve fiasco. There are times as a parent where getting a sitter is not always possible or convenient so we are forced to take our children on errands that tests their patience and our nerves. So if you will be out this weekend shopping with your little ones, following these few simple tips can make things go much more smoothly.
First, have a plan and stick to it. Get the sales papers, circle the items you want to purchase or preview and head to the stores where you are likely to spend the most time first. That way, if your kids start to reach their boredom threshold early on, you can save the smaller stores where you are likely to get in and out faster, for the end of your shopping trip.
Secondly, know the layout. Most shopping malls have websites that display a map of retailers. Take the time to look it up before you head out to the mall. You can cover more ground in a shorter period of time if you know exactly where you are going. The mall’s website is excellent. It even allows you to search by category and store name. Had I done this last year I wouldn’t have parked on the opposite end of the mall from the stroller rental.
Lastly, plan some rest stops. If you know you’re going to be out all day it’s best to take a few breaks throughout the trip than to wait until your child has a meltdown. Remember that kids will be kids and small children will not understand the need to push on through exhaustion. A visit to the food court for a snack, or resting on one of the benches can make a world of difference in those unavoidable times when you absolutely have to run an errand with the kids. Also get a stroller that reclines. This has been a lifesaver for me on more than one occasion. He can lay back and relax and I get to shop in peace.