With the holiday season in full swing I have found myself running out of time to get all my shopping complete. Earlier in the month I was happily ordering things online to fulfill my shopping lists. As the days until Christmas dwindled down though I found myself left with a small list of people still to shop for and no time to secure delivery before the holidays. So out to the shopping center I had to go – with a 2-year-old in tow. This isn’t my first rodeo of course, but shopping at the holidays is a special kind of horror when you have small kids. The crowds, the lines, the ‘tudes – all of it spells disaster but when you have a mood shifting terrible 2-year-old to factor in to the equation as well – I’ll just say, it’s best to take a note from the Boy and Girl Scouts of America and always be prepared. So with that I will try to share my knowledge and experience in the hopes to make your shopping at the holidays with a 2 year old a success.
Step 1: Arrive Early
Arrive at the stores as close to their opening times as possible. This almost assures you that the majority of shoppers will be other mothers of young children who also don’t know the concept of sleeping in. Safety in numbers. These shoppers are less likely to side-eye you as you mom hiss at your child and when you lose him/her multiple times in the clothing racks. It also gives you the 3+ hour window you need to complete the shopping you used to be able to knock out in 30 minutes and still have them home before naptime. Do not – I repeat DO NOT attempt holiday shopping around nap time.
Step 2: Prioritize
Hit your shopping destinations in level of importance so if at any point you have to abort mission you have at least knocked off the most crucial errands. Acknowledging that you may have to abort your mission at any time is the best way to keep your cool through the shopping process. Hope for the best. Plan for the worst. If you don’t plan for the trip to be crap, it will be. If you do plan for the trip to be crap there is a 35%* increase in the odds it goes well and for the other 65%* at least you aren’t surprised.
*Full disclosure: all statistics are made up on the fly and have no scientific background at all. That’s just how I do.
Step 3: Bring the Things – All the Things
Remember to bring along your toddler’s favorite items of the hour. This is not worth the fight about leaving them in the car. In my case this would include a stuffed puppy, old dog collar and reuseable shopping bag also covered in – you guessed it – puppies. The shopping bag has a dual purpose. It helps make it easier for my toddler to drag all his shit around. It also helps make it easier for me when 10 minutes later he wants me to drag all his shit around. Side note: Get your toddler a reusable shopping bag.
Step 4: Feed the Beast
Never ever forget to bring along your toddler’s favorite snacks. If you do forget, know that they will request food and/or drink within 2 minutes of entering the first store. When shopping is of critical importance, toddler math dictates that you pack as many snacks as they would normally consume in 2 days times plus one bonus snack, a couple small toys, divide by stores you need to stop at and carry the one. I also suggest that you throw in at least two high value snacks that can be used as bribes in your bag to bring along for the moments when you are too vested to leave the store (i.e. when you have an arm full of shopping items and are only 3 people away from the register and your toddler has suddenly decided that they need milk NOW and right freaking NOW.) These high value snacks often have the ability to wipe all current request memories from your toddler and replace their need with the coveted treat. I call this the, “shiny object phenomenon.” Personal favorites in this house are suckers and fruit snacks.
Step 5: Sugar has a Purpose
If you DO forget your toddler’s favorite snacks and/or drink or when you realize that you have exhausted your snack resources have no shame and purchase the freakin’ $4 bag of fruit snacks and some mini M&Ms at the counter. Ever wonder why many stores have a random collection of sugary foods and drinks in the front by the register? This is that moment it all makes sense. Deal with the consequences later. Desperate times, desperate measures my friends. Future you will understand. Side note: To make mini M&M’s last longer, sprinkles a half-dozen or so in each of said toddler’s pockets. Much like a puppy with a kong toy, making the snack a little harder for the toddler to get to buys you more time.
Step 6: Own It
Flip the script and be like Fat Amy. Don’t even give people the chance to try to knock you down a few pegs. Announce to every person you come in contact with that the child is two and all the things that go with being two.
Oh my, such a two-year old he is. Aren’t two year old’s so energetic? Yep – my hands are so full thanks to my two year old. He’s a rambunctious one! Gosh my two year old is a busy busy boy! Did I mention he’s TWO?
I suggest making eye contact often. Smile. Don’t look embarrassed. Don’t break eye contact first. Holiday shoppers can smell weakness…
Step 7: Don’t Push It.
And lastly, when you *think* you may have exhausted
their ability to be in public, don’t second guess it. I love my girls, Salt-n-Pepa – but this is not the time to push it. Even if you think the last mild tantrum was resolved without issue. Even if you only have to run in and grab a gift card. Even if you have one last bag of fruit snacks chillin’ at the bottom of your purse. That last store is not worth undoing all the progress you have made in shopping without major melt-down. Tantrums are like contractions. They start coming closer and closer together and when the crowning starts you most definitely don’t want to be in the middle of a Kohl’s department store. Head home, tuck your little one to bed to sleep off their sugar coma and put your feet up. You done good, mama.