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Mommy Fail! I Think I Just Ruined Christmas

By Emily |

Or the alternate title: Don’t take your toddler Christmas shopping!

I thought I had a great idea this year to give each of my kids a set amount of money and take them shopping to pick out a gift for each other. I thought it would be a good way to start teaching them that it is better to give than to receive, and that they would get excited about picking out something that their sibling would really like.

So, today I took my son shopping because next week my daughter will be on break from preschool, and we looked at a few different things and different stores and finally settled on a gift that both of us were happy with. He wanted to give her the flashiest, most annoying toy in the store, and I wanted to give her a natural and non-toxic toy from the specialty toy shop — guess who won?

As soon as we picked up my daughter from school though, I realized that maybe my great idea, wasn’t so great after all.

Right away, he started trying to tell her what we had gotten her. And she of course, being curious, kept asking about it. I managed to keep him quiet about it until we got home, and hoped that it had passed and he would just kind of forget about it.

But, later tonight my daughter came up to me upset, “Bren told me that you got me an ice cream game for Christmas and I’m mad at you because I wanted a baby doll. I told you I wanted a baby doll!”


She’s upset because she doesn’t think we got her what she wanted (even though we’re getting her a doll too), and the surprise of her gift from her brother is spoiled too. Basically, I feel like a really bad mom who just ruined Christmas for my kid.

So, should I take the ice cream set back and get her something else that my son doesn’t know about?  I don’t really want to, because I know the toy is something that that both my kids will really like and will play with a lot, but I just feel bad that she already knows what her present is.

Obviously, I’ve learned my lesson that 2 1/2 year olds are not old enough to keep a secret!

What would you do if your child found out about their present? Take it back, or give it to them anyway?

Photo credit: alancleaver_2000/flickr

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About Emily



Emily McClements is passionate about caring for creation while saving money at the same time. She is a blessed wife and mama to three young children, and blogs about her family's journey toward natural and green living on a budget at Live Renewed. Read bio and latest posts → Read Emily's latest posts →

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6 thoughts on “Mommy Fail! I Think I Just Ruined Christmas

  1. Christine Roosa (@biochemtine) says:

    Let your son still give her the ice cream toy. And give her a doll too. It’s a good lesson in being gracious and that you don’t always know everything. The ice cream toy is from her brother, the doll is from YOU.

  2. Kathy says:

    Let yourself off the hook, Mom. You had good intentions and well, it didn’t execute as planned. No biggie. Just let him give her what he picked. Once the excitement of Christmas day is here she’ll forget all about it. Kids are resilient! Perhaps take it as an opportunity to teach them that Christmas isn’t always about the perfect gift?

    I once “ruined” Halloween for my then 4 year old by trying to implement the “Switch Witch”. I never saw so many tears over missing candy. Oh well! Lesson learned on all ends. :)

  3. Talia says:

    Christmas isn’t ruined! The fact that the little boy was so excited to tell his big sister is part of the fun for him! Toddlers can’t keep secrets, it’s true. But since you told them they could pick out presents for each other, and your reasoning on that score seems totally sound, it would be good to let them do it.
    Plus, it’s a good lesson in self-control. If you daughter gets to pick out her little brother’s present, she’ll have the responsibility of keeping a secret too. Now that I’m almost 30, I still have trouble resisting the urge to tell my brother everything!

  4. Jilly444 says:

    Honestly, I don’t think you should take it back. One, she’s still getting the doll. Two, think of the lesson you’re trying to teach. It’s not the easiest lesson but it is a great lesson. There is a brief conversation to be had after she gets her gifts keeping in mind she is only 2 1/2. Your heart is in a wonderful place. And with the secret keeping…how wonderful to have a brother SO excited and happy for his sister knowing she’s getting a great gift! He meant just as well as you!

  5. Monica says:

    I have always done the give buying thing with my kids, let them select something for their sibling. It usually works out great. This year my 4 year old preschooler had a little shop he could go shopping at for everyone. Mom, dad, and sisters. I was so excited to see what he would choose with someone else’s guidance in this area and not my own. I had been talking to him about it for a week before reminding him to keep the gifts a secret and he was to buy something that he thought his sisters would like not something he would like. Because what happens when a 4 year old goes shopping, he gets the I wants of course. I was not happy when he came home either. He announced to me what he got for me which was fine I pretend to not hear, but when I was trying to figure out what he got for his sisters he informed me that he bought himself something and two gifts for his baby sister. There were no gifts for his two older sisters. He bought himself cars, soap for the baby, and a stuffed animal for the baby. I got him to say the soap only was for the baby and give the cars to one of his sisters and the stuffed animal to the other, but now he wants the soap. Ugh, and then there’s the fact that I figure his sister will just end up giving him the cars anyways so she’ll end up with nothing. So since I still have to shop with my oldest I am thinking she can give him the two items that he already bought and wants and give those to him and I will take my four year old shopping for gifts for two out of the three of his sisters. This was supposed to make my life easier not harder. A parent helped him pick out gifts apparently and she thought that cars were what his 9 year old or 12 year old sister would want? Or truck shaped soap for one of them. Ugh, really wish they have guided him better in that regard. I guess at least he’s not spilling the beans on the gift. In your case I would keep what you got from your son to your daughter. Let her open it up Christmas morning. She’ll still be surprised because she thinks it’s coming from you and she’ll also have the doll she told you she wanted. So nothing is ruined.

  6. Sadie says:

    oh by the time she’s opening her presents she won’t even remember. and when she opens the ice cream set, she’ll be thrilled.

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