Cameo's Guide to Gift Buying-NOT

I wish that I could say I love the holidays, but that would only be semi-truthful. I definitely love the idea of the holidays—the decorations, family get-togethers, the snowy evenings filled with hot cocoa and romps in the snow, etc.—as long as someone else is doing the decorating, the preparation, and the romping. One thing I do love to do is cook treats, like cookies and other nifty stuff, but I’ve been put on a short leash on that one because of buzzkills who watch their weight and think one little cookie…or maybe two or three…a day…will ruin their diet plan. Pshaw!

I also like to buy gifts for family, friends, and those in need. I discovered something this year, though, that is quite unsettling: I’m incredibly bad at buying gifts for our grandkids. Like any good grandma, however, I’m choosing not to take the blame for this. Instead, I blame my son. It’s all his fault, and here’s why:

1.      He is terrible about giving me ideas for what our grandkids like. Living far away from them means we don’t get to see them as often as we want, and even though we keep up on the major life changes—like from Fischer Price to full throttle Mattel—the minor adjustments in their tastes in toys and such, for example when they move from Mickey Mouse to Miley Cyrus, often slip past us with nary a whimper. And when we directly ask our son what to get so we won’t look like out-of-it slacker grandparents or thoughtless scrooges, he just says things like, “Oh, you know. Boy stuff.” Which leads me to my next reason for blaming our son…
2.      He had boys. They are dear and sweet and wonderful and I wouldn’t trade them for the world or even a Klondike Bar, but because of my son’s apparent inability to pass along one lousy X chromosome once in a while, they are of the gender for whom my shopping intuition does not apply, and due to my husband's current workload, I'm the one doing the shopping. My little dears are like Kryptonite to my grandma shopping superpowers. Even if I do find that one item that my son managed to verbalize to me, I can’t find it in the right age range or color or it won’t be the right character. I can search for hours in the superhero section until I’m dazed and drooling and never find one damn G. I. Joe. However, I can turn around and face the other aisle—the GIRL aisle—and I become the Martha Stewart of girl toys. I know just what fashion doll to get for every young cousin or the best baby doll for every friend’s kid. I can tell you which dollhouse to buy for a 40-year-old empty-nester. I can point you to the right makeup kit for your thirteen year old or the least expensive but most appealing kiddie kitchenette for that budding Betty Crocker. But stick me in the aisle with model airplanes and super blaster water guns, and I’m at a loss.
3.      You might wonder how I could have raised a boy and yet still can’t buy toys for boys. Well, that’s my son’s fault, too. He was an unusual lad, one that skipped from splashing in mud puddles to building bridges over them or little sailboats to sail across them before the diaper came off. Yep, he’s an engineer, and when he was very young, my husband and I divided up the toy shopping thusly: He shopped for the boys and I shopped for the girls. It was simple and fast and I always figured that I’d have time to eventually buy something for my little da Vinci before he moved from Marvel comics to the marvels of constructing the coolest treehouse in Ithaca. I didn’t. When most of our neighbors’ kids were still struggling with trying to figure out where their poop came from, my little angel was disassembling his potty chair to see where the poop went after it plopped out. An amazing boy, but such a disappointment in terms of helping me train for grandkid gift buying.

So here I am, a week before Christmas, trying to find the right thing so on Christmas morning my grandsons won’t open their gifts and bleat a collective “Eeeewww!” so loud I’ll be able to hear it all the way across the country. I’m tempted to do the Revenge of the Grandparent thing, where we buy the kids a drum set or a play electric guitar. Or even worse, one of those recorders every kid learns to play—if you can call it that—in 5th grade. Maybe I’ll do the chemistry set thing, so that my dear son can see the error of his ways brightly lit as his little scientist in the making whips up something slightly flammable but oh so colorful. Then there’s the Slime and Playdoh options, also known as “Your Carpet Will Never, Ever Be the Same” options.

You know, I think I’m inspired. I need to post this so I can go shopping. I saw a karaoke machine at Target with enough Disney tunes on it to make my point to my son loud and clear, or put him in a coma from all the buzzy tunes, and I think it’s on sale. Yes, that, and maybe a set of bongos, will make nice presents this year.

What about you? Experiencing any shopping woes? Highs? Got any advice? Please do share, and in the meantime, may you enjoy a very happy holiday season filled with peace, joy, and love. :)

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