My Christmas shopping horror story!

Caroline recalls the nightmare of Christmas shopping with a toddler

There’s only one thing I hate more than Christmas shopping – and that’s Christmas shopping with a toddler in tow.

It wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time, I enjoyed drifting around the shops with my teeny-tiny baby asleep in their teeny-tiny travel system. It didn’t matter if I was only stocking up on big knickers and maternity pads – it was just an absolute thrill knowing that everyone else was at work and I was swanning around the shops – ha-ha! The baby slept and it felt like freedom.

Of course that kind of hedonism couldn’t last. At some point developmental leaps aligned. Suddenly my son could answer me back (what!) and make a run for it (oh no!). My relaxed latte days were over. From this moment on, every trip to the shops had to be done – could ONLY be done – in the manner of Supermarket Sweep.

So here we were – Christmas looming. Present-shopping hell on the horizon. I knew he’d point blank refuse to be buggy-ed (so that would be me loaded up like a packhorse) and he could probably outrun a rat. I needed to swerve this stress! Cancelling Christmas seemed like the most glorious option, but one I probably wouldn’t have got past the family. So, onto plan B. Online shopping.

Ahhh, I could already feel my shoulders relaxing as late one evening, laptop on lap, I casually dropped all manner of mega-deals into my online basket. Why had I never done this before? What a Luddite I’d been! After an easy hour or so I had everything covered – woop, woop! High five to me! Checkout please…

What-what-WHAT!! Expected delivery, 28 December! ARGHHH!

So here we were – Christmas looming. Present shopping hell was here. Stuck in a department store, toddler in tow – this was a day that could only end badly. I’d already had to change a pooey nappy in the boot of my car (how is that always the easiest option?) and now we were slap-bang in the middle of a heaving mass of other desperate shoppers, Christmas music blaring, people sweating, people swearing. I was so over this already.

It was impossible work, picking over the last dregs of stock on the jumbled shelves. Had Auntie Sue any need for a fondue set? Could Alan be a fan of bath bombs? I couldn’t answer these questions at the best of times, let alone with a bored toddler pulling at my arm and running rings around me. It was impossible to hold a thought. I put the items in my basket anyway.

“I WANT IT!” he screamed, louder this time, as he applied a martial arts style grip to a huge toy tractor he’d spotted on a shelf. “MINE!”

“Come on love, it’s a bit expensive. We can pop it on Santa’s list. We’ve got one just like this at home. It’s only for grown ups. IT’S NOT ACTUALLY FOR SALE, IT JUST LIVES HERE!” I used up all my best lines, whilst trying to prise the overpriced, oversized monstrosity out of his hands. “NOOOOO!” he shrieked and like a whippet out of a trap he escaped my grasp and was off!

God, he was fast! I chased him down the aisles, catching glimpses of his red anorak as he flashed around corners at high speed. He was noisily whacking a giant tractor against shelves, shopping baskets or any shins that were unfortunate enough to be in his way.

The fondue set and bath bombs became the first casualties of this war – dumped (probably for the best) on top of a barrel of wrapping paper as I tried to keep up with a toddler whose wellies were surprisingly no barrier to speed. The frantic chase finally came to an exhausting close as I crawled under a rail of nighties and dragged him out, backwards, flipping like a fish on a hook.

As battles go, it’s probably not the hardest we’d had that day – there was always something to do with putting socks on – but to be honest, I just couldn’t be bothered anymore. Before he had time to throw a mega-tantrum, I was in a snaking queue for the till, about to buy a huge toy tractor. And vouchers for everyone else.

Finally, we could go home…but not before one last public scene. “No! Don’t want to walk! Carry meeeeee!” he cried on loop until I lugged him up onto my hip and walked, Mrs Overall style, up and down the car park trying to remember where I’d left the car.

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