Christmas was so much easier when my children were younger.
I could pop to the shops, pick up a few gifts and stocking fillers then head home, imagining the delight on their faces as they opened them.
Now it’s a different story. It takes a brave and extremely confident parent to buy and wrap a present for a teenager. Despite living with my daughters and seeing them every day, I still don’t know what they like.
I may think I do, but on the odd occasion when I bring something home, such as the skirt and top I picked up in Primark last week, there’s a 99.9 per cent chance it will have to go back. “I’m sorry but I definitely wouldn’t wear that,” one will say, even before it’s fully out of the bag.
I had a major breakthrough last week with a spotty top – another bargain at Primark – which BOTH of them loved. I thought I was hearing things when they started squabbling over it.
With a time limit to taking things back, I have to show them everything. I can’t just wrap and assume.
And things they do want – mainly items starting with a lower case ‘i’ – aren’t cheap. I hoped to find alternatives, but top teen gift websites spat out the same sorts of things: iPod Touch 4th Generation, at well over £100. Some advised: ‘don’t forget to add an iPod case and/or a gift certificate for the iTunes App Store’. Why stop at that? We’ve got so much cash we’ll probably throw in an iSatchel, iCupboard and iLuxury penthouse flat in New York!
I thought it was too good to be true when my youngest daughter asked for trainers and wellies. They were no ordinary trainers and wellies, but teen must-have brands Converse and Hunter, which together won’t bring much change from £150.
I wish they were little girls again, who would squeal with pleasure at a new doll, a colouring set and chocolate orange, along with all the little, inexpensive treats I’d put in their stockings.
Now their main presents cost so much it pains me to buy other things. But I wouldn’t want to come downstairs to a pair of wellies and trainers. So, perhaps stupidly – considering the way they treat me – I end up spending more.
At least they’re not male. Teenage boys are far worse, friends assure me. It’s either money or nothing. Even stocking fillers are a nightmare, whereas with girls you can chuck in make-up, toiletries and tights.
I get no sympathy from colleagues. “Give them a tangerine and a walnut,” I was told. I’m sorely tempted.