Making up your mind, knowing what you want

My kids Sophia (13) and Elmo (11) are a study in contrast when it comes to picking out a few things from the store.

Since Christmas is fast approaching, and their respective school parties are scheduled next week, today we took advantage of their city holiday to have a “smart” shopping spree. The plan was to be at the mall before lunch and be back home no later than three in the afternoon.

The older ones who are in college also joined us because Friday is their free day.

We had a fun, early lunch at Four Fingers, after which I distributed their shopping money for their holiday outfits. It was not much, but it was something I had been preparing for over the past few weeks. We broke into three groups (Bea by herself, Elmo and I, and Josh and Sophie), agreeing to meet at a bookstore after two hours.

Picking out a polo shirt and a long-sleeved shirt for Elmo was the easy part. I had been looking around and had settled on a brand. It was a matter of making sure he liked what I had liked and that it fit him.

The shoes were a different story.
Elmo agonized over which pair of shoes to get for a long time.
He finally settled on this -- as modeled by me. Yes, he's that big already.

He could not settle on a pair even though we had earlier agreed on a brand and a price ceiling. We picked out three which looked nice and grown-up enough (yes we went to the men's section already). The sales clerk helped determine the best size for him, and then his choice was down to two. All that time, he still kept looking around and asking me if I thought his choices were okay.

I then remembered that Elmo really had difficulty making decisions. Sometimes when you ask him what food he wants, he would say “anything” and end up ignoring his order and eating yours. He looks up to his older brother too much that he once asked me to take a picture of how he styled his hair and send it to Kuya Josh for his approval. The problem was, Josh was in class at that hour. Earlier this year, while we were shopping for school shoes, he also asked to call his brother if buckled or velvet/velcro was better.

It took him a while to pick out his shoes and he practically begged me to make that decision for him. I told him, just this one time because I am becoming impatient, but next time you have to be the one to pick your own stuff. In shopping and in real life.

An hour later, all five of us were seated at the children's books section of Fully Booked comparing notes on our shopping expedition. I asked Sophie if she had gotten anything nice and if she had spent all her money. To my surprise, she gave it all back to me for safekeeping.

“I couldn't find anything I liked,” she said.

And then I remembered the past two Christmases when accompanying her shopping – in Makati where the office was, in those days – proved to be a taxing experience. Sophie knew exactly what she wanted and did not stop until she found something that met those specifications. “I will know it when I see it,” she used to say. So we looked and looked and looked and sometimes also came home empty-handed until we simply had to get something because we were running out of time.

This was a good attitude when applied to boys, I said, but not for stringing your exhausted mom along from one shop to the next. The mom tends to get reaaallllyyy impatient and may just go on a get-the-first-thing-you-see-and-we're-out-of-here mode.

She and I are venturing out again later this weekend. In the same way I am glad that my daughter won't settle for anything less than what she wants, I truly hope we find what she's looking for.

Christmas could be a stress-filled season, but let's try – I definitely will! – not to focus on that. Here's to finding joy in big and little things alike.