Number of parents who actually give their child a cardboard box in lieu of presents: 0
A month before Christmas, we attempt to have a clear out of toys to make way for the new arrivals. Both children approach this process as if we were taking food from their mouths. Toys which have been lost down the back of the wardrobe for six months are clutched to their breast like a long lost friend; jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces are professed to be their ‘favourite’; dolls with missing limbs who have been skulking at the bottom of the toy box have allegedly been searched for ‘for ages’. Next year we are planning a midnight smash and grab under cover of darkness.
They refuse to understand that, as we have a regular sized house without elastic sides, we need to make room for the plethora of toys which they seem to want this year. As the boy has started to outgrow Cbeebies and they have begun watching channels with adverts, so their awareness of the multitude of purchasable plastic rubbish has increased. Every ad break is met with a chorus of ‘Can we have that?’ ‘Can we get that?’ and, quite often, ‘Can I have that? What is it?’
My five year old son is actually very difficult to buy for as he becomes completely obsessed with one character to the exclusion of all others, but this lasts for about two weeks before he is onto the next thing (I could make a cheap joke at the expense of past boyfriends here but I will resist.) In the last two months we have been through Spiderman, Star Wars, Ninja Turtles and now the Matt Hatter Chronicles. Buy his Christmas gift too early and we could be heading for a gift disaster of a size not seen in our family since the Totes Toasties Tsunami of 1997.
The girl, on the other hand, is easily pleased by anything and everything that Disney has ever mass produced. I honestly think I could scrape something out of the street and stick it in a Princess costume and she’d want it. This leaves me in a dilemma: I have an ethical and active dislike of Disney Princesses and their need to be 'saved' by a man whilst my daughter seems to gravitate towards them with awe. I try to steer her towards more suitable female heroines: Marie Curie, Amelia Airhart, Emmeline Pankhurst. Although even I have to admit, as she correctly tells me, that their dresses aren't anywhere near as pretty.
Add to this my husband, the armchair eco-warrior, muttering about landfill and the environment and you can see why I want to go to bed with a giant size selection box and a tube of Pringles (I knew it was dangerously early to start buying the Christmas food.)
Nonetheless, this month will see me trawling the aisles of ToyRUs, selling my soul in the Disney Store and cross-checking prices on Amazon with the best of them. Unless I can find myself a nice cardboard box to hide in . . .