When my husband and I had our first child 17 years ago, we decided that, when it came to Christmas gifts, we would follow the three gift rule. We joked that it if it was good enough for the infant Jesus, it surely was good enough for baby Tom.
As our family grew to three children, this tradition has continued to work for us. I love that I can narrow my search down to a few, special gifts. Because of this we make sure that whenever possible, we fulfill a special request the kids have for Christmas.
But this year I found myself in a panic, because the ONLY thing my 10-year-old wants is this year's version of the Hess truck. For as long as he has been alive, he has gotten one, and he really enjoys them. Peter loves toys. Although he is getting older, he will still get on the floor with his cars and trucks. Sometimes he's joined by his 17-year-old brother or 13-year-old sister.
As soon as I saw the new truck online, I mentioned it to my husband and we agreed to order it and avoid the panic we went through last year when at the last minute they were virtually sold out. It was only because Joe drove all over Long Island and got lucky enough to stop in the one Hess Station that still had a few left that we managed to have one under the tree. We weren't going to risk that again.
I even made sure to let my mom know because she loves to get them for my two nephews. She asked me a few times if I was sure that I ordered mine before she went online, because she could easily get an extra one for Peter. I reassured her that we had it covered.
Unfortunately, we did not. Joe thought I had bought it, and I thought he did. Well OK, no problem, it was only December 9, I would just go online and get it.
Not so fast Kathy. My heart dropped when I went on the Hess truck site and saw in large white letters that they were sold out. A host of four letter words came to mind, and a few came out of my mouth.
OK, I thought. Don't panic. Surely where there is a will there is a way. I found out that a few malls were carrying them. Easy peasy, Joe loves to drive, and we will just find a mall that has one.
Strike two. It looks like all of the malls in New York are out.
I went to Amazon. Surely they wouldn't fail me. My heart leaped when I saw that they had a brand new, 2015 truck in stock. Score. I went to buy it and noticed that it was $144. Keep in mind, the list price is about $30. I'm ashamed to admit this, but I did contemplate splurging. After all it is the only thing the kid wants. How could I disappoint him? He is only 10. Does he need to learn now that life isn't always fair?
It dawned on me that if I shield him from life's little disappointments, how will he ever learn to handle the bigger ones that will ultimately come his way? As much as I want to protect my kids, they are going to get hurt. People they love will sometimes let them down and make mistakes. Sometimes the miscues will be minor, like not ordering a truck on time. Sometimes the mistakes will be much worse.
I decided to come clean and let Peter know what was going on. The fact that this is the first Christmas where he knows that Santa is a fun myth made it a bit easier. I didn't have to fake a story as to why the big man himself couldn't deliver. I felt horrible when his sweet face crinkled up, and he started to cry. But I continued on. I held him. I said I was really sorry and that we made a mistake. I explained that a lot of kids wanted the truck this year, and that the company just didn't make enough for everyone to have it.
After a long hug and few tears, he calmed down. He said that I shouldn't make that mistake again, and I agreed We then got on the Internet and started looking at other types of fire engines that were available. We spoke about how lucky he was to get presents while some children were not as fortunate. I was also able to talk a bit about how Christmas was so much more than what was under a tree. This is a bummer, no doubt. But it's not the end of the world.
As a mother, I do want to shield my kids from the messiness of the world. I want them to feel safe, and loved. I would love to keep up the illusion that life is fair and everything will always work out. Of course I can't. But I am grateful that, at least for today, the biggest disappointment my little one faces is not getting the exact fire truck he wants.
This piece was previously published on Kathy's site, My dishwasher's possessed!