Help for Last-Minute Shoppers

My husband dreads Christmas shopping, and it’s mostly my fault. I don’t make it easy for him to find me the perfect gift.

I don’t want to tell him what I want, for fear of sounding needy or greedy.  I can’t trust him to pick up subtle hints, such as, “I love cashmere sweaters, and have every color I need except aqua.” And I really can’t expect him to walk around the house or, God forbid, go through my closet, and figure out what’s missing. I want my husband to be a mind-reader, and I am well-aware that I’m asking a lot.

Even more important, I want him to plan ahead, to show that he was thinking of how to make me happy long before Christmas Day (or Mother’s Day, or Valentine’s Day or my birthday…). If he comes home with shopping bags five minutes before a celebratory dinner begins, it really doesn’t matter what’s in the bags.  The notion that he forgot about his treasured wife’s special day and rushed to buy an obligatory gift on the way home really raises my hackles.

However, he really is thoughtful and generous, and always rises to the occasion – eventually.

One of our special traditions involves preparing Christmas stockings for each other, filling them with chocolates, magazines, new toothbrushes and a few other fun or useful items from Target or the Sharper Image. When we were first married, we both enjoyed this exercise. Now that our extended family has expanded (together our clan, including in-laws, comprises three parents, 15 siblings and 17 nieces and nephews), shopping for trinkets has lost its luster.

One year, when my husband was staffed on a consulting job in California, he completely forgot about the stocking. He had dutifully shopped at the mall near his client site, finding an adorable outfit for me, presents for his parents and small gifts for the kids, but the stocking slipped his mind.  Back at home on Christmas Eve, after we had enjoyed the annual holiday dinner at his parents’ house and snuggled the kids into their beds, we queued up our favorite Christmas movie (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation) and started wrapping the “Santa” gifts.  He suddenly got a look of panic on his face, and set out for the nearest 24-hour Walgreen’s Pharmacy. I knew, and he knew that I knew, and there wasn’t much he could do about it.

The next morning, I found a stocking brimming with wonderful items – probably more lavish than in other years – but it took me a while to get over my funk and appreciate the bounty.

I know, I know, I’m a terrible ingrate, but I am working on self-improvement.

Along this vein, Carol and I came up with a solution for husbands who stress over shopping or have trouble planning ahead. Even as late as Christmas Eve, they can sit at a computer and buy their wives the fabulous gift of time: permission and plans for a vacation with their good girlfriends.  So, for those of you who suspect your husbands may need a little help, print out the following list and leave it on his pillow:

The Top-10 Reasons Why Girlfriend Getaways Make Great Gifts

1. It’s a Great Way to Acknowledge That Special Someone’s Value: When a man offers a woman an all-expenses-paid vacation – a true break from her duties at home – he shows how much he appreciates all that she does to keep the family running smoothly.

2. The Gift is Guaranteed to Produce a Smile: A vacation with friends will delight even the hardest-to-please woman.

3. You Can Avoid Holiday Crowds: Just log on to your favorite travel-planning site, such as Expedia.com or Travelocity.com, and book the flight, hotel and rental car in one fell swoop.

4. Vacations Work With any Budget: The trip doesn’t need to be extravagant; frazzled moms can benefit from as little as one night away at a nearby resort. Of course, a shopping trip to Paris works, too.

5. You will Appear Thoughtful: Your wife or partner needn’t know when you made this purchase. And, you can always say that you spent weeks checking flights and hotels before making the final selection.

6. It’s a Guaranteed Keeper: This gift won’t get stuffed into a drawer or closet, and you won’t have to suffer through long lines to exchange it.

7. The Trip’s Value Far Exceeds its Cost: Whether you pay full price or cash in frequent-flier miles and hotel points, your wife or partner will place a high value on time away with girlfriends.

8. It’s a Gift that Keeps on Giving: After the trip, your partner will return home glowing and happy, relaxed and refreshed. The tone of the household will change – at least until she’s due for another trip.

9. Dads Benefit from Girlfriend Getaways, Too: While your wife or partner is away, you will have the chance to work on your relationship with your child(ren) and run the household your way, without a critical spouse hovering.

10. You Get to Be a Hero: All of your partner’s good friends will be envious of her. You will enjoy hero status among her friends, family members and colleagues (however, be aware that your male associates might resent that you have upped the ante).

– Linda Williams Rorem, 20 Dec. 2010

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