Christmas surprises get easier when the kids get older | Living with Gleigh

My teen daughters got cell phones for Christmas this year. I know that’s not a big deal to a lot of parents, but I’m not a big believer of cell phones for teens. My younger daughter got a cell phone last year because her school bus dropped her off in the middle of nowhere and I wanted her to be able to call someone if for some reason we weren’t there to pick her up. But it was Dad’s old, leftover cell phone.

My older daughter has not really been interested in owning a cell phone until recently. But as a junior in high school she has to call me more frequently to arrange to be picked up from after school activities. And someday (I hope soon) she’ll be driving and would be safer with a cell phone.

I wanted to surprise them. I stress about pulling off surprises, because when they were little sometimes things backfired.

There was one Christmas when I ordered my kids’ presents online after agonizing over the right toys to get for them. The package came and a conscientious delivery driver put the box on our back porch. I was out for the evening and my husband was home with the kids; they were about three and five at the time. My husband headed out to his shop, which is a detached building ten yards from the house, to put something away.

That’s when he spotted the box and so did the kids. He swears he wasn’t gone five minutes when he came back and the girls had hauled the box into the house, opened it, discovered the toys and assuming they were for them, had opened the packages.

My husband walked in on my kids; my older daughter cutting up the plastic front of a Barbie Pegasus box with the kitchen shears and my younger daughter already playing with her Fisher Price doll house. He freaked out, scolded the kids, telling them “those are mom’s toys,” then swooped the toys out of their sight to await the wrath of mom. My husband figured he’d better call and break the news to me before I got home.

It made me feel sick to my stomach. The kids got a talking to when I got home. But once they realized the gravity of their actions, I felt they were punished enough by their normally easy-going dad’s atypical reaction and the fact the toys were taken away until they opened them on Christmas Eve. I guess they learned their lesson; they never messed with delivered boxes again.

So this Christmas, armed with past memories of surprises gone bad, I ordered the cell phones a month ago. The boxes came when the kids were at school. I waited to activate them until the night before Christmas Eve, as my youngest was still using her old cell phone. I successfully snuck into my younger daughter’s room to turn off her old cell phone, which was the only instruction for activating the new one on the company’s website. Then I went online to activate them – it didn’t work.

I called customer service and was told I’d have to call a different number at 9:00am the next day. I felt disappointed because I had planned to surprise my kids by ringing the cell phones in their wrapped boxes on Christmas Eve morning; the time we open our family gifts. Then I remembered I had teenagers. And my teenagers, like most teenagers, do what they do best at 9:00 in the morning – they sleep.

I got up around 8:00am, had a couple cups of coffee, made scones, called customer service, had the phones activated, charged the phones for half an hour, wrapped them, put them under the tree and woke my kids from their slumber around 10:00am.

They were satisfactorily surprised when the boxes rang; my oldest was baffled as to what the noise was and my youngest was trying not to get her hopes up. I had actually pulled off a Christmas surprise, which turned out to be surprisingly simple, thanks to my teens’ biological rhythms.

There are just some things in life that get easier when your kids get older.

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is committed to writing about the humor amidst the chaos of a family. You can read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website





We encourage an open exchange of ideas on this story's topic, but we ask you to follow our guidelines for respecting community standards. Personal attacks, inappropriate language, and off-topic comments may be removed, and comment privileges revoked, per our Terms of Use. Please see our FAQ if you have questions or concerns about using Facebook to comment.

Read the Oct 19
Green Edition

Browse the print edition page by page, including stories and ads.

Browse the archives.

Friends to Follow

View All Updates