The Christmas present conspiracy

My boys go to separate schools. There’s a back-story behind this, which I’ll sum up in two words: waiting list. The happy side-effect of this bi-polar situation (the schools are quite different) is that while Son1 has to travel further on a bus, he loves his school.

He enjoys it for many reasons, not least because when the children have birthday parties, they get presents. This doesn’t happen at Son2’s school.

Instead, Son2’s school has a wonderful system where the mums give money (AED50) to the keeper of the birthday card, so that before a party, you’re not running around trying to find a pressie, gift wrap, Sellotape, etc. It also means that, if you’re the party host, you get a stash of cash to pay for the party buy your child something they want.

The towering pile of presents: A benefit of Son1's school
The towering pile of presents: A benefit of Son1’s school. Or money? Which system do you prefer?

Today, we held Son1’s ninth birthday party. It was an all-boy (and one girl) affair, involving 15 children, who we treated to laser tag and go-karting at Motor City, followed by pizza. To my relief, all went well – but, as I’d predicted, the presents were an issue with Son2.

“Na-na-na-nar-nar!” Son1 called out to his brother. “At MY school, you get presents.”

Son2 immediately started sobbing.

“Tell Mummy to put you on the waiting list for MY school,” Son1 helpfully suggested, as Catherine the Great and I struggled under the weight of the two huge bags of gifts we were hauling out to the car after the party.

And that’s when DH and I had an idea. Parents are so generous here, and the pile of presents really did look enormous (and excessive – I honestly wish I’d asked the mums to donate to charity instead) – and Christmas is so close. Surely Son1 wouldn’t notice if five or six of them turned into Santa presents?

I raised an eyebrow at DH. He agreed. We’d hide one bagful until Christmas, then Santa could give them to both boys. Was this ethical? Never mind. It was a done deal. It would, at the very least, stop Son2 from sobbing in the corner during the grand opening.

Well, let’s just say we very nearly got away with it. Catherine the Great successfully hid some of the wrapped-up gifts; Son1 dived into unwrapping the rest of them, giving his beloved Girl Next Door, and even long-suffering Son2, turns at opening them (they even tidied up, I’m liking nine so far!).

I sat back, watching, with a cup of tea.

Then, as the unwrapping frenzy slowed: “Mum, there was another bag. I saw it. The Toys-R-Us bag. Where is it? You know, the white bag.”

I don’t know if it was the nagging guilt I was feeling about our scheme, or the realisation that the children often tell each other what they’re giving – plus the fact parents put thought into it (hence, the Titanic jigsaw and Lego sets) – but we buckled, causing green-eyed Son2 to go totally silent and Son1 to whoop with unbridled joy.

Lucky Son1! I know I’ll regret it when it comes time to tackle the dreaded Christmas shopping. Gah.

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