When that happens, nobody wins - well, except the guy with the camera phone who posts the fight on YouTube.
I won't be visiting my neighborhood toy store this year. We got our kids' stuff at the very last minute, and we ordered it all online. Why? Because Christmas is a spy game, with parents hiding toys and kids trying to find them. There's one big question for parents to ask after the shopping is done. Where do you hide your children's toys to ensure they don't find them until Christmas?
I posed that very question to my Daily News readers last week after Little Solomon, 8, admitted that he and his sister, Eve, 11, routinely search for their toys.
A reader named Sticky Situation weighed in first.
"I'm an avid Amazon shopper so it's easy for me to choose gift wrapping at the time of my purchase," Sticky wrote. "Your little spies aren't going to open the larger Amazon box the wrapped gifts come in, so even shaking the larger outer box isn't going to give them the intel they seek." In addition, Sticky wrote, the big outer box will prevent the kids from unwrapping and rewrapping their gifts like Sticky used to do as a child.
My friend David tweeted me a few ideas, but one in particular stood out, because it was based on fear. "Gifts are hidden in the scary basement closet," he wrote. I immediately recognized the brilliance of the tactic. No self-respecting kid would dare search the dark cellar closet where the bogeyman is waiting to eat their eyeballs.
Reader Myshanna Long uses fear of a different sort. "I don't hide [the toys]," she wrote on Facebook. "I take [the kids] shopping and tell them to pick out what they want. There isn't a Santa Claus, but there is a Mommy Claus and they know not to touch nothing."
Or else . . .
Facebook friend Billie Bakshi suggested I hide the kids' gifts in a bowling alley locker. Reader Brenda Parker tweeted that she hides her children's gifts in the 10 boxes of books in her house. A Twitter follower named Citizen Wife said she takes the kids' gifts to her mother-in-law's. Reader Ivry Bland said she hides her kids' gifts in plain sight.
But between the mundane suggestions of using grandma's house or hiding toys under the bed, there was the occasional stroke of genius. People who went beyond the call of parental duty, who went so far they make the rest of us look like slackers.
Like Natalie Moore Taylor. Her determination to uphold the parental tradition of hiding Christmas toys is truly exemplary.
Where did she hide them? you ask.
"I hid them on the roof of my third floor apartment," she wrote me in a Facebook post.
Initially I thought she might have placed them there overnight. Two nights, tops. But when I asked her how long the toys had stayed on the roof, Natalie blew me away.
"A month," she wrote, explaining that she'd shopped on Black Friday.
It took me a while to process it all, but when I did I was duly impressed. Not only did Natalie risk life and limb while braving marauding hordes of Black Friday shoppers. She went the extra mile to assure that her purchases would never be discovered. Natalie was so determined to make sure her kids didn't find the toys that she hid them on the roof and kept them there for 30 days - even through a winter snowstorm.
I can only hope that my wife, LaVeta, and I can one day be so cunning. For now, though, we'll stick to the tried-and-true. We'll get the toys, take them to someone else's house and pray that we can sneak them home before the holiday.
If that doesn't work, there's always that scary closet in the basement. The bogeyman works overtime on Christmas.
Solomon Jones is the author of 10 books, including his latest novel, The Dead Man's Wife (Minotaur Books), and the humor collection Daddy's Home: A Memoir of Fatherhood and Laughter. The married father of three has been featured on NPR and CNN, and has written on parenting for Essence and other publications. He created the literacy program Words on the Street. His column appears Tuesdays. More at Solomonjones.com.