I'm not super superstitious, but finding a spot within four laps of the shopping centre car park on any December weekend is a sign. This may go better than expected.
Anything over six, and you may as well go home; nothing good will come of this.
Schlepping for a space, possibly/probably being car park-raged, then almost walking in front of a car (you're not on your phone, you're just as blasted as the next person at this time of year), all this should be written into a Christmas carol it plays out so predictably.
Every year you think you will get organised sooner.
Every year you don't. Then you have to face the full-frontal crazy of the malls of Xmas/excess. You know you have no one to blame but yourself.
Christmas is still something to get excited about if you are a kid or want to make a lovely memory for a kid/kids. And you really, really need to nail that thought to your frontal lobe as you descend into seasonal shopping hell.
The foot traffic is enough to make you check your prejudices: prams, yes I used to use those – even a double one – why am I so intolerant of being gently scraped on the ankle in the commercial rapids?
Slow walkers who amble three abreast through this over-lit, over-fragranced, overdubbed vortex as if on a pleasant walk in the park; I should not be having evil thoughts about those innocents.
People who cannot calm toddlers doing piercing dummy spits because these kids are as overwhelmed by the sensory overload as I am, they are not the enemy. They are me 12 years ago. Have a bit of understanding.
There are several phases of retail grief to be navigated if you do leave your present buying until December, then try to do it "in one hit".
These differ from actual grief, as the resignation comes first: "I know I have to do this, let's just smash it."
There is denial after that, which is fruitless. Once you are actually inside, the hardest bit kicks in.
A rush of anxiety, but also faux-exhilaration hits: look at all this shiny stuff, however do I choose between it, I need it all, my kids need it all, all these "special offers" are too good to pass up, perhaps I am going insane.
This passes as your nervous system adjusts to the new environment.
The next stage is navigation agitation.
You don't like malls and have avoided them for ages, where in the hell is everything? I am certain Kikki.K was next to Target, wait, perhaps I got my escalators wrong.
A lot of walking and time for self-reflection ensues. You look for the glass half full, "this is more exercise than I've had time for in the whole of November".
You think of the pay-off of someone being happy to have this new thing you are buying them (then you remember all the gift-returning walks of shame when, yet again, you have demonstrated grown women and 14 year-old boys have no overlapping taste in clothing).
You drink bad coffee and eat a tepid Pad Thai and get lost.
You do some mental maths and start to dread the price tag tally. The plastic bag handles are starting to carve into your fingers.
The only way is up when you reach the point of thinking back to all the good things about being a parent and wondering, just for an instant, "but was it worth it?"
There are items still on your list. Stuff it, you've done your time. You flee to the car as a relieving fog of numbness descends.
You swear to yourself next year you will be more organised, you will not put your December-trashed self through that again. You know very well the chances of that happening are approximately zero.