“They cost how much?!”
Words that would be echoed in many households on the run-up to Christmas, especially those homes with teenagers.
While I waited for the response from Favourite Son, it suddenly dawned on me that I’d lost Christmas. I appreciate this sounds dramatic, but I did feel like the protagonist in a Disney film, about to endure a mild trauma before everything works out for the best.
In keeping with the theme, in a Disney-esque flashback, I recalled the year when, at about 2.30pm on Christmas Eve, Favourite Son announced he’d really been wishing for a skateboard but hadn’t put it on his list because: ‘If Santa was real, he’d be able to read the list in his mind.’ A skateboard was not waiting in the cupboard upstairs, all wrapped, ready to go under the tree!
I couldn’t help myself, I wasn’t ready to lose his belief/the battle just yet. I bundled both Favourite Son and Daughter into the car, making up some excuse that I had to collect something special for Mr McGowan (AKA Dad). I dashed to that once ubiquitous high street retailer, that seems to magic any manner of items on a conveyor belt from the back of the store. I quickly flicked through the pages of a tome of a catalogue, before spying the desired item. Without much care or consideration of the specifics, I popped a random six-digit code onto a slip of paper. I then rushed to join the queue of what seemed to be exclusively men, before handing over the slip to a nonchalant teenage cashier to process the purchase. Then I waited for the magical words – “953 to your collection point please”. Phew, Christmas was saved…for one more year at least.
It’s not always been easy, maintaining the magic. As parents, without the need for words to be spoken between one generation to the next, we silently agree to take on the mantle of the spirit of Christmas. But let’s be honest, much of Christmas is really consumerism, we are buying gifts to represent a concept that we know will bring our children happiness and joy – we do what we can to make our children happy – this is the value proposition. With Christmas, this involves buying things en-masse and it’s a marketer’s dream – a ready primed target market, who need no convincing that there is a need to be satisfied.
We are not entirely selfless in this seasonal situation; we know there is value to us that is worth the asking price. What we truly value is the pure delight we bring to our children; that fleeting moment when together you open the door to a darkened room, both hopeful that there is something there that is going to be cherished. That split second when you flick on the lights and your living room looks as if it’s been touched by magic – we almost believe it ourselves. This is the customer value Christmas represents to parents. We are not the end-user of much of what has been bought, but we are still consumers of Christmas.
Flash forward to this year. Favourite Son is no longer that little cherub who looks up, asking; “Do you think Santa will bring him a skateboard this year?’ He’s fourteen years old and has just informed me that one of his friends has asked his parents for a new pair of trainers for Christmas. Okay, so far nothing overly concerning there. “Nah, you don’t understand Mum. These are special trainers. They are Yeezys and they cost £1,200.00.”
Right, I get you. How silly of me!
Yeezys, for those of you that don’t know, are the Adidas and Kanye West collaboration trainers. Still trainers to the untrained eye, so, where’s the perceived value for mum and dad in giving this gift at Christmas, I wonder to myself?
Then it hit me. By this age, Christmas is not really about the value we get as parents. It’s about the value that our children get as consumers in their own right. We (Mr McGowan and me) are now merely a means to an end.
Yip, I’d lost Christmas all right.
And my song of choice? Yikes by Kanye West (and yikes it would have been if Favourite Son had asked for a pair of Yeezys too!)