Those were the three words I said to my parents Wednesday night when they answered the phone. I’d just spent the better part of my evening experiencing one of the most overwhelming, intimidating, mentally and physically exhausting excursions since giving birth to my two boys. What did I do? I went to Toys R Us to buy their presents from Santa. Yep, my husband and I accomplished it in one fell swoop and if we hadn’t been beaten up so badly, we’d likely have done a jig, followed by a high five.
As with most things I encounter on a day-to-day basis, I find that I was completely oblivious to level of work my parents put into me and my brother. As a child, I thought they were so mean, self centered, and slave drivers. Yes, I did think the last thing especially when I had to mow the lawn on the weekends. With each new day of me raising our boys, I develop a different level of respect for my parents, for their hard work, their resilience, their strength (both mentally and physically), their heart, and their intelligence. It doesn’t seem to get easier as the boys are growing, just more complicated.
Wednesday, my husband and I walked into the doors of our local Toys R Us. I stopped for a moment and looked around. Skylander toys seemed to be yelling down at me from banners. Queen Elsa and Princess Anna smiled devilishly at me, their backs against each other. I could hear them laughing at me while saying under their breath, “oh, here’s a new one. Let’s see what we can put them through.”
There were Paw Patrol toys, FAO Schwartz, Disney, Thomas the Train, Legos, Avengers, Star Wars, Barbies, bikes, balls, pretend clothing, books and games. There were so many levels and dimensions of each toy and each brand that I slowly felt my anxiety start wrapping around my heart and lungs, constricting my airways and veins. This experience was going to be the death of me. I knew it. I knew it, even though my husband and I had a plan and a list. I knew it as I was entering the realm of medieval torture.
My husband grabbed a cart and we immediately went to the Paw Patrol toys and Transformers. Henry loves Paw Patrol. You name it and he wants it. Davey is all about his Transformers and Avengers. He’s a super hero kind of kid (both literally and figuratively). And of course, we’re smacked with a double whammy, as Henry’s birthday is 12 days before Christmas. Yes, I know, we planned poorly.
We looked at our watches, determining that we had exactly 45 minutes to accomplish our task and set out to get it done. This proved to be a bit too ambitious on our part. 45 minutes is ample time to discuss the absolute atrocity of pricing a chintzy plastic toy $56. 45 minutes is not ample time to get presents for our boys. It was ludicrous on our part.
After completing our purchases, which nearly required two carts, we set out to collect the boys from church and quickly whisk them away to bed. While my husband separated out our purchases, making sure that we had both boys taken care of, I placed the phone call to my parents, and what my dad told me made me love them both even more. Not so much for the gift, but for the fact that they were willing to sacrifice for both me and my brother. What he told me made me proud, and made me want to be as great as the two of them, although I can only hope to be half as good.
In the early 80s, there was a huge toy phenomenon known as Cabbage Patch Kids. They were everywhere and yet nowhere. Every child in the country wanted one, but they flew off the shelves faster than a North American X15 Thunderbird. I was one of those children desperate for a Cabbage Patch Kid. On the Thursday before Christmas in 1982, my dad cashed his paycheck and then set out to find a doll. For those of you unaware, Christmas Day was on Saturday of that year, so he admitted he was a bit delusional, but also desperate as he and my mom had spent the better part of 3 months attempting to get one for Christmas. He told me that he didn’t care what color, shape, size, or gender my Cabbage Patch Kid was, he just knew that he HAD to get one. It’s the only thing I’d asked for and he couldn’t bear to face his child without one. He made his way to Service Merchandise and there were two on the shelf. He grabbed one as another person was grabbing the other.
As he told me this story, especially the part of not being able to face his child without her gift, I started to tear up. I get it. I really do. Every parent wants their child to be happy. No parent wants to see their child sad. Until I had children of my own; however, I had no clue how stressful and yet heartbreaking shopping for them can be.
So as he finished his story and I thought back to my experience only hours before, I could only say these words, “I’m sorry. I love you. Thank you.” I’m sure I’ll be repeating these words to my parents for years to come, especially during this time of year.