Step 1: Get the Kids' Winter Gear On
It's cold and snowing outside, so you should budget one to two hours for getting coats, hats, and boots on your toddler(s). I recommend starting this process around 7 am to ensure you get to the mall before it closes.
Step 2: Warm Up the Car
Run outside and start the car so that you don't get frostbite while you're driving.
Step 3: Put the Kids' Winter Gear On
Yeah, they took it all off while you were starting the car, and now they want to wear their sandals. Hurl the sandals into the basement and wrestle their boots back on.
Step 4: Pee Break
Now one of your kids has to pee, and they don't want to go to the bathroom while wearing a coat.
Step 5: Get the Kids' Winter Gear On
After your child has used the bathroom, you will need to dress them again. This gets progressively harder every time, so you should expect some tears. Once you've stopped crying, you should put your coat on, too.
Step 6: Bring Kids to Car
Haul them outside. Despite their earlier reluctance to dress properly or leave the house, they are now overjoyed to be outdoors. They begin frolicking like kittens in a field of flowers, stomping and rolling in the snow.
Step 7: Put Kids in Car
The car has been warming up for 45 minutes now, so it's time to strap the kids in. They are having the time of their lives outside, so they won't go willingly. Pick up a child and attempt to place him in the car seat. He will spread his limbs wide and go rigid, as if you are trying to stuff him into an active volcano. Wave merrily at the neighbours to reassure them as your child screams in rage.
If you have two toddlers, you can now repeat this process on the other side of your car. If you have more than two toddlers, you are screwed.
Step 8: Bribery
Now that you've been at this for over an hour, you are willing to resort to bribery. Promise your kids a treat once you get to the mall. I may have occasionally used the phrase "I will do ANYTHING if you will JUST SIT in your car seat." Try not to sound too desperate, though - they can smell your fear.
Step 9: Drive to Mall
If your car is anything like mine, the drive will be accompanied by your kids singing along to "Let it Go," which has been on repeat for about a year.
Step 10: Attempt to Begin Shopping
Something is wrong with your child. The issue could be any one of a number of things (eg: coat too heavy, lights too bright, hungry, cold, hot, cold but also hot). The result is always the same: you begin a debate that would test the skills of top hostage negotiators.
Step 11: Ignore Fellow Shoppers
Your child will now lay down on the floor to ensure she has optimal acoustics for her screams of rage and indignation. Tantrums are great entertainment, so everyone passing by will stare at you. 50% of them are sympathetic, and 50% of them are judging you. Ignore them all - they are merely a distraction from your shopping mission.
Step 12: Shopping
Strap your kids into a giant mall stroller that does not fit down the aisles in any mall stores. Give them popcorn, cookies, or some other treat that cost you three times as much as it would in a grocery store. This treat is your hourglass: when it runs out, so has your time for shopping.
Dash through stores like a crazy person, attempting to locate gifts that are meaningful, practical, and within your budget. Divide your attention between this task and the machine-gun barrage of questions from your kids ("Who's that for? What's that do? Can I have one? Why not? Why are cookies round?").
Step 13: Paying
You have found several of the items on your list! You are a Successful Person. Your elation is short-lived, though, as you quickly discover that the line-up for the cashier extends out the door. You eye your kids' dwindling cookie supply as you join the line.
Step 14: Giving Up
The line edges forward in excruciatingly small increments. "Frosty the Snowman" plays for the billionth time. Time loses all meaning. Your kids start to cry / complain / bite each other. The person at the front of the line is paying for a $50 purchase with quarters. You toss your would-be gifts on the nearest shelf and head for the exit.
Step 15: Put the Kids' Winter Gear On
One of them has lost a boot somewhere in the mall. Retrace steps. Vow to never leave your house again, threaten to never give kids cookies again for their whole lives.
Step 16: Buy Everything Online
I suppose you could also start with Step 16. You know, if you don't want a challenge.
But really, just shop online.Now you don't have to dig through piles of clothes looking for sizes, you won't be stuck with a lot of impulse purchases, and you don't have to worry about hiding things you're buying for the kids. Bonus: you will also save money on bribes!