On the way back, stunned into silence by the melodious tones of Killswitch Engage and the loud sucking of Wether's Originals from the back of the car, I found myself wondering how other parents approach buying Christmas presents for their brood. What is the best approach? Do you set a budget per child, which means they simply will not receive some of the toys they have on their Christmas list, or buy them one big present supplemented by smaller stocking fillers, which is what my parents did.
I know I should be disciplined and start putting away a few bits and pieces now to avoid the nightmare that is Christmas shopping with children and the painful January credit card statement. I say every year I will have all the shopping done by 1st December. I've never managed it yet! You can see why online shopping has grown so rapidly - at the very least you avoid 'pester power'.
Wanted: for incomplete Christmas list fulfillment
Christmas has become a time for conspicuous consumerism. I remember my mum reading Louisa May Allcot's wonderful novel "Little Women" to me when I was very young and I've never forgotten the bit where, on Christmas morning, the four March girls agree to give up their breakfast for a poor mother with a new baby and six other children to feed. Even at a young age, I could appreciate that the feeling of contribution and doing some good could outweigh the pleasure of receiving a gift. The value of charity and community is certainly something I will be teaching my kids.
In the meantime, it's time for parents everywhere to gird their loins in preparation for the annual marketing onslaught that begins any day now on every single medium you can think of - TV, radio, press, internet, billboards, trains, buses, taxis - there truly is no escape.
And I'll be sitting down with a calculator to work out a sensible budget.
Little Women is available free for Kindle from amazon.co.uk.