It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Everywhere you go, you get a whiff of desperation as shoppers rush to their nearest retail mall, fight over precious parking spots, then aimlessly spend the next few hours wandering and wondering what to get for each of the family members and relatives who are probably doing exactly the same thing.

This excruciating ritual has become such that I can think of many reasons why it is more stressful than parenting (I have both a six-year-old and a four-year-old). Here are just three:

1. A covert operation vs an overt confrontation

Christmas shopping would be a whole lot easier if each family member and relative told you exactly what he/she wanted and, more importantly, what he/she is expecting from every other family member and relative. Unfortunately, it NEVER works that way, as every adult will bashfully decline to tell you what she wants and every child will forcefully tell you to get the same toy that he has told everyone else to get.

You are then left with a covert assignment, trying to ascertain what everyone wants for Christmas through third-party intelligence. Fail this assignment and you will spend even longer time after Christmas, rummaging for lost receipts and returning/exchanging gifts that you spent so long getting in the first place.

When it comes to parenting, however, there is nothing covert about anything. Your kids will tell you exactly what they want and don’t want at all times, often with extreme prejudice and emotional force. While this can, at times, make a grown woman cry and a grown man lose his hair, at least you know exactly where you stand at all times and can decide whether to fight head-on or flee high-tailed.

2. Christmas shopping doesn’t nap, nor go to school

No matter how stressful parenting is, you always get that time-out when the children are at school or in bed. However, Christmas shopping, or the nagging feeling that you need to get off your butt to go do so, is in your face 24/7 at this time of the year.

TV and radio bombard you with jingles hypnotizing you to go and spend. The World Wide Web showers you with so many Christmas gift ideas that you half wish for the return of those Viagra and singles-dating pop-ups, just for a change. Heck, you can’t even go for a run out in the open without seeing a Christmas shopping billboard every 200m reminding you how pathetically empty the bottom of your Christmas tree is!

To make matters worse, as you get closer to the Day, those children who are usually at school are suddenly not, waking those at home who normally take naps, but are suddenly skipping them. Before you know it, you have to tackle the challenge of Christmas shopping with your hyperactive and/or cranky kids in tow.

3. Financial stress from frivolous spending

From the moment your kids are born, you are mentally prepared for the financial burden that comes with parenthood. Sure, if one actually bothered to sit down and do the sums on how much it costs to raise a child until he leaves home, it would drive him to drink until the kid actually leaves home. But your unadulterated love for your children means you don’t think twice about the money aspect of bringing them up.

Christmas shopping, on the other hand, consists largely of one load of frivolous spending after another, buying presents you are not quite sure the recipients would like or need, with money you are pretty sure you don’t have but always need. Then you get the credit card statement the following January and trudge back to work knowing exactly why you are doing so.

It’s the thought that counts

Or so they say… but the whole meaning of Christmas, it seems to me, has been lost amid this frenzied materialistic consumerism. So much so that it is not the “thought” but the “dough” that counts.

I shared this revelation with my wife yesterday and her response was “Don’t be cheap, and go and get the Christmas shopping done”. I said the same thing to one of my friends and his response was “Have you been drinking?

So, I decided to take my 6-year-old and 4-year-old sons to go Christmas shopping. Challenging as they were to control in the crowded shopping mall, we had such a great time hanging out together, having so much fun that I forgot why we were there in the first place. Then I remembered when I saw a Christmas tree with gazillion little wrapped boxes under it in front of a glitzy department store. Sigh…

Featured photo credit:  Child Afraid of Santa Claus via Shutterstock

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