I Fought the Mall, and the Mall Won

20140505-120512.jpgReprinted with permission from The Daddy Diaries 

I’m a good gift buyer. I’m not bragging, or anything. I’m just saying, I’m an absolutely amazing gift buyer. Maybe the best ever. Actually, maybe that is bragging, a little bit. But I try and pay close attention to the things that the recipient of my gift wants, and then I plan and I shop for the best deal, well ahead of the special day that the gift is to be given. It’s a wonderful, thoughtful event.

Ok. I’m going to go ahead and be honest with you. I must confess that whole first paragraph was a lie. A big, fat, freaking lie. I don’t do any of that stuff. I wouldn’t say that I’m the worst gift giver in the world, but I definitely leave a lot to be desired. I may have an IDEA of what she MAY like, but I don’t plan it out early, and I’m just as likely to pay double what it’s worth, than to get a good deal.

Of course, when it’s the day before her birthday, and you’ve got presents to buy, worries about the gifts cost go straight out the window. Your only focus is having a good gift for her to open on her birthday. $400 for a purse? Sold! I can’t speak for all men, but I know that I’d gladly pay $400 to stay out of the doghouse. But maybe that’s just me.

Well, my wife’s birthday was on February 11th. Three days before Valentine’s Day. Which is cruel and unusual punishment, but I digress. Now, to add insult to injury, I’ve got three daughters, and the two older ones want to give mom their OWN presents.

As much I’d rather get in a bare knuckles bar brawl with Mike Tyson, circa 1985, than take Abby and Emma to the mall, I had put it off about as long as I could. So, on the day BEFORE her birthday, as much as it pained me to do it, I picked the girls up from school, and with the bravery and courage of a kamikaze pilot, we headed to the mall.

The excitement oozed from their pores, as we pulled into the parking lot. They couldn’t stop giggling and talking. “Dad is taking us to the mall! This is so much fun! We are going to spend all his money!”

As we are walking in from the parking lot, I begin to lay down some ground rules. “Ok, girls. Stay together. Do NOT run off by yourself. We aren’t here to shop for you. Let’s find some presents that your mom will like, buy them, and get out of here as quickly as possible. We all clear?? Ok…..ready….BREAK!” And into the mall we go.

Before we even get all the way into the main section of the mall, where all the stores are, I can tell that my ground rules are going to be VERY hard to enforce. Emma takes off at a near run. “EMMA! GET BACK HERE!”, I scream, as she goes directly into a fancy jewelry store. I have nightmarish visions of broken glass and thousands of dollars of damage, as my energetic little blonde haired tornado zips around the store like a bumblebee. I rush in and escort her back out with me. “Emma, I said DON’T RUN OFF.” She seems completely unfazed by my instructions as she heads off in another direction. Abby, although older and more calm, looks like a racehorse prancing just before the gates are opened, as well. I gather them together in front of the food court, to reiterate my ground rules, and get a plan.

Unfortunately, I choose to do this standing right in front of Cinnabon. As I am talking, I notice that Emma seems to be having a hard time paying attention. I say “Emma, are you listening?” To which she replies, “Can I PLEASE have an Oreo Chocolate Chip Diabetic Energy Explosion, from Cinnabon?” OK….that’s not really what it was called. But it was something like that. My kneejerk reaction is a resounding “NO”. But then, they team up on me. Abby joins in. “Pretty please, can we have one??!” Even against my better judgment, I let the flutter of their long eyelashes and their adorable smiles get the better of me. Just to put on a smidgeon of a show of authority, I say, “Girls, you don’t need one of those. They are big, and they are expensive. And we are going to go eat dinner when we are done here.” But, it’s all for show, because they know they are getting the damn 2,000 calorie Oreo Milkshake before I am even done with my feeble attempt to tell them no.

So, I’ve spent $14 already, and we have yet to actually do any shopping. OK, let’s get down to business. Mom’s birthday gifts. “Where do we need to go first, girls?”, I ask. “Let’s go into Journey’s!”, they emphatically reply. I said, “Girls, Journey’s only has girls’ clothes. Your Mom is turning thirty-three years old, tomorrow…..I doubt that there is anything in there that she will want.” But, as usual, my opinion is ignored, and we go into Journey. And they both began to look and ‘oohhh’ and ‘awww’ over the mountain of cute girls outfits that the store is full of. “Girls, remember. WE ARE SHOPPING FOR YOUR MOTHER!” They giggle at each other, and continue looking at clothes. For themselves.

OK, I am completely being taken advantage of. “GIRLS! LETS GO!” To which Abby replies, “But Stoney, they’ve got some really good deals! Can we please keep looking?!” I realize now the only way out of here is with brute force. I grab both of them by the arms, and we begin the march out of there, with both of them looking wantonly back over their shoulders. OK. We are out.

Now, I have got a pretty good idea. “Hey, there is The Sunglass Hut. There is a pair of Coach sunglasses that she has been wanting. Let’s go look over there.” We get over there to look through the sunglasses, and they seem about as excited as if I had just asked them to go do their math homework. I find the ones that I am pretty sure April wanted, so I ask Abby for her opinion. She is thirteen, almost fourteen, and pretty fashionable. She is also thirteen, kind of hormonal, and pouting because I just embarrassed her by dragging her out of Journey. I ask her, “What do you think of these?”, as I hold up the Coach sunglasses. She responds with a less than ecstatic, “I dunno”. I said, ‘what do you mean? These are cool; I think she will like them. I am pretty sure these are the ones she wants.” She said “I don’t like them. I don’t think she will like them.” Great. I was pretty confident about the glasses. Now, my confidence is wavering. “You don’t think she will like them?” I am a little deflated. I thought I had done so well. She just kind of shrugs and says, ‘’I am going to go in Claire’s.’’ Emma screams, “YES!”, and away they go.

Well damn. What now? I don’t really want to go the gift card route, but I also don’t want to spend a couple hundred bucks on a pair of sunglasses that she doesn’t like, so with a slightly bruised ego, I buy a gift card, and make my way into Claire’s, where they are again abuzz with energy, looking at the wonderland of hair bows, earrings, necklaces, headbands, bracelets and thousands of other little girly trinkets that you could ever dream of. On the one hand, most of this stuff is cheap. On the other hand, it’s mostly a bunch of glittery, sparkly little girl crap. I find both of the girls, each with their own shopping bags, full of wonderful, little things. Emma has a yellow hairbow, a yellow headband, some sparkly, dangly earrings, and a funky bracelet. Abby has a couple of bracelets, another headband, a necklace and a few other oddities. But NONE of them looked like anything that April would like, to me. It all just looked like stuff that a 9- and 13-year-old girl would like. I smell a conspiracy.

However, I am not going to argue with them about it. We’ve got the gift card for the sunglasses, and now the girls each have several little things to give their Mom that is only from them. The end is in sight. I just might survive this deal, after all. I ran a half marathon, once, and this is how I felt when I could see the finish line. My heart was racing. I’m filled with adrenaline. My confidence is soaring.

And then, as it usually does, when Emma and I are involved, disaster strikes. Emma drops her $6 Oreo drink. It lands hard on the tile floor, the cup splits in half, exploding all over the floor, and all over racks of merchandise. I jerked spastically to try and catch it, and when I did, I knocked over a rack of headbands, sending them scattering all over the floor. The lid somehow flew off of the cup, and the cold, sticky milkshake managed to cover anything and everything in a 10’ radius. It was on me, on Emma, in her hair, and on a lady that we didn’t know that just happened to be standing a little too close. ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME???

I looked around with an apologetic look to anyone that would make eye contact. I snap into action, grabbing some paper towels and made a miserable attempt to clean up the sudden horrible mess that we had created in this store. And I give a handful to the unlucky lady that was standing to near to us. And apologize, profusely. I pay for our things, quickly, and get the hell out of there, before we tear anything else up.

I am now in as big of a hurry to get out of there, as the girls were when we arrived an hour and a half earlier. Emma is behind me, trying to keep up, and she suddenly yells, “Wait! We need to go into Build-a-Bear!” I said, “Emma, your mother does NOT want anything from Build-a-Bear. I am sure of it.” She replies, “Well, she probably don’t want any of this crap we got for her at Claire’s, either, but we still got it for her!”

That’s a very good point, Em. But no dice. Sorry, Mom. Better luck, next year, I guess.

-by Stoney Stamper



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