The dread slowly builds in the pit of your stomach. Your first inkling that you can't escape it is when stores break out the Christmas decorations mere days after Halloween. The half-off candy sale isn't even over before you have your choice of chocolate Santas.
November arrives, the temperature drops and the clocks turn back. Suddenly, it's Thanksgiving. As you rouse from your turkey induced coma, it hits you. You're at the precipice of Black Friday. Shopping Armageddon is upon you.
But this year is different. You've done your research, made your lists and mapped out a store flow chart. Now all that's left is to survive Black Friday is to factor in your one wild card: shopping with your kids. *Shudder*
So you've decided to tackle the shopping rush with a newborn. So be it. There are pros and cons to this scenario. You're no fool, so you recognize that the best means to carry your baby is strapped to your chest. This allows you to negotiate the obstacle course that is the swarm of holiday shoppers.
The bigger issue your newborn presents is the sheer number of unexpected scenarios that could play out. That could include a massive diaper explosion – when you're just two people away from the register – or a massive hunger meltdown. Preparation is key. Make sure you've packed the ultimate diaper bag that contains all the necessities, and bring an extra bottle or two --because meal time is go time.
This age range – say, two through six – can be a mixed bag. They're young enough to get excited about a trip to the mall with mom or dad, but they present their own unique travel challenges.
First, you probably have to break out the carriage. No three-year-old can survive four hours of shopping chaos without throwing the type of epic meltdown that makes other shoppers give you a wide berth.
Maneuvering the carriage through crowded stores presents an entirely different set of problems. Namely, how many dirty looks will you receive after clipping heels with the carriage nose?
Another key to avoiding one of "those" meltdowns is snacks. Lots of snacks. Your 36-inch high monster will not give one hoot how many racks you stop at as long as he's being carted around like the main float in a parade while washing down animal crackers with a chocolate milk chaser.
If you're looking for food on the healthier side, check out our list of snacks with no high-fructose corn syrup.
Your only conundrum is the inability to shop for your travel companion that day. After all, unless an older sibling has already ruined it for him, your little boy probably still believes in Anta-Say Lause-Cay.
Elementary School to Middle School
This age group is particularly challenging to Black Friday shop with. They're too old to be pushed in a stroller, but you can't let them out of your sight. Their attention spans probably last as long as their patience well is deep. So, you're apt to hear a lot of "mom, are you done yet?!?!?!" Fear not, there are some strategies you can employ to keep them from taking out their boredom on you.
If they choose to bury their faces in their phones, let them. Even though that might get your goat when you're talking to them at home, it buys you valuable shopping time. And keep a spare snack or two handy. Mindlessly surfing the web on a phone works up an appetite.
Speaking of eating, if they totally balk at the idea of all day at the mall, promise you'll take them out to lunch when you're through. Sure, it will cost you a few bucks, but they'll love it and you'll get some quality time with them.
At this point in their lives, your teens probably aren't interested in you. Don't take it personally, it just happens. Your kids can't let their friends know they have *gasp* parents! Remember your adolescence. Most teens desperately want to fit in and be cool. And mom and dad, well, you aren't cool. But, your teens will gladly catch a ride with you to the mall. Once there, certain rules apply.
There's a good chance your teens will want to meet up with their friends instead of hang with you. That works nicely, since it allows you to shop for them. Be sure to pick a designated meeting spot and time, though. And they have to keep their cell phones on.
Speaking of their phones, there's a better than 50/50 shot your teen will find his way to the Apple store. Now you know for sure what's on his wish list; if he hasn't asked for a car already. Either way, he'll do his best to bankrupt you.
When the day is done, and you've survived Black Friday shopping with your kid, don't forget the last gift on your list. Something for you. You'll have earned it.