"Dad," Robbie pulled me aside and confided in a low, somber tone. "We have a problem."
Earlier, he had spied some wrapped presents tucked under the tree. The half-hidden stash was an irresistible lure for a six-year-old boy. With only twelve more shopping days left until Christmas, he knew he had to schedule some urgent reconnaissance.
This was a job that required absolute secrecy without any interference from his two older brothers or, even worse, Mom. His mission: to determine whether he'd get his fair share of loot for Christmas.
First, he made sure the rest of the family was busy - and not in the living room. Then, he crawled under the tree. Once he reached the target, he weighed and measured the presents from every angle. He undertook his inspection with the precision of a diamond dealer. He probably used a loupe.
The data, once analyzed, confirmed his worst fears. He had one present under the tree. His brothers each had three. So he filed a grievance: "It's not fair." But, he assured me diplomatically, we still had time to fix the situation.
When it comes to Christmas, I'm convinced that every kid on the planet is born with an internal abacus. When they're young, they're thrilled just to unwrap a box. Soon, they start keeping count of the gifts. Every child has to have precisely the same number as his or her siblings - or you're risking a riot.
When they're teenagers, they develop a sophisticated sense of value and style that shifts daily, which creates a gift-giving nightmare. Two parkas, both equally warm. North Face or L.L. Bean? Take it from me, one of those is going to be a big mistake. Tears will ensue. We're not quite there yet at our house but I dread the day.
Admit it. All of us have a little kid inside secretly checking out everyone else's gifts. So if you're racing around trying to even out the ratio, you'll find help at FCG.
Yesterday, a harried shopper dashed into our showroom in Hanover. "Something for my daughter," he gasped. "All out of ideas!" Minutes later, he tore out of the store with a generous gift card, his arms raised in triumph. "I'm done!" he roared happily. "Done, done, done!"