kids

"The genius way I stop my kids touching presents under the Christmas tree."

I know many things about Christmas are controversial: when do you put up decorations? Rum or no rum in the trifle? Elf on the ShelfLove Actually, or the first Die Hard movie? So many choices, so many debates.

But one thing I think we can all agree on is that a Christmas tree just doesn’t seem complete without wrapped gifts under it. The tree can be adorned with all the lights and baubles and tinsel in the world; but if it’s not fulfilling its original purpose of being a home to wrapped gifts patiently awaiting their recipients, it is void of the entire meaning of Christmas: commercial consumerism.

But as most parents know, the placing of wrapped presents under a tree is problematic because: children.

Those snoopy, over-excited little beings just can’t keep their hands off items that are usually clearly marked with their names on them – no matter how much we may threaten. Inevitably, a corner is torn, or a present is utterly felt-up, or even totally violated by having its cover removed – all of which makes Christmas morning a little less magical.

And so, we hide their gifts, waiting until they finally bloody fall asleep at 2am on Christmas Eve, so we can place them under the tree.

Yes, part of the reason we do that is to pretend they have been delivered by Santa – but really, it’s to also protect the packages.

But – and this will be controversial –  what about us? What about the enjoyment we get from seeing a beautiful tree we decorated, complete with lovingly bought and wrapped gifts which are the result of our time and money under it? Don’t we deserve to enjoy that for more than a few hours?

Don’t we deserve to look at that Christmassy spectacle and congratulate ourselves for being amazing parents for yet another year for as many nights as possible?

Yes, sure, one could put up some ugly play pen thing around the tree. Or…one could use mind games, as I do.

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About ten years ago, I came up with a way for everyone – but especially me – to get what we wanted.

I sourced gifts. I wrapped them, as and when I bought them. Then, instead of finding some ridiculous secretive place to hide them, I brazenly put them under the god damn tree.

This is what I told my, poor innocent step son, who was eight at the time:

Me: “Looks like Santa’s delivered a few presents early!”

Tim: “Can I look, can I look! Can I open one? Can I just peek inside?”

Me: “Sure…but just so you know, one of the baubles on the tree is actually a spy camera which streams footage to the North Pole, so Santa will know if you’ve done that…and he might consider that ‘naughty’ when he comes back with his other gifts on Christmas Eve.”

Yeah. I said that.

It was outright BS and he totally believed me.

It sounds deceptive (because it is), but it really was a win-win situation. I got to enjoy a tree full of presents in the lead up to Christmas Day, and Tim got to sit at the base of it, on his hands, trying to guess what he was getting – getting no give aways by tearing a corner or feeling a shape – his excitement building until 6am on December 25th – as it rightly should.

Because isn’t that half the fun of gift-giving, especially for kids? The anticipation?

These days, with my 11-year-old son, things are a little different. He stopped believing in Santa or the North Pole about five years ago – but I’ve still been able to use some mind games.

Because of course I have.

Like his older brother, I’ve found that the key is to plant a seed of doubt in his mind – so that no matter how implausible my warning sounds, there’s just enough potential truth in it to make him stop and think.

The other day I told my son, after I’d wrapped a massive scooter-shaped present and placed it by the tree: “Go ahead and open it if you want. I don’t know what it is, because Santa delivered it. But if you do open it, it will magically disappear over night. So, that’s the risk you take.”

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Obviously, he looked at me as though I was nuts and called me a liar… but the present remains there, totally untouched. And whenever he walks past it, he’s so excited.

As a parent, that’s all I want. Seeing that excitement. Oh, and beautifully wrapped presents under the beautiful tree.

Now, I understand you may not be entirely comfortable making up pure fiction and messing with your child’s mind with your words. In that case, please let me also helpfully suggest a more direct tactic – scarring them for life with a once-off surprise present, such as in this scenario:

via GIPHY

They will never touch another present under the tree until Christmas morning again (and maybe not even then).

If all of this feels overly deceptive to you, think of it like this: Christmas, itself, is predicated on a lie. There were no pine trees at the birth of Christ. No Santa, and no stockings hanging over fireplaces.

The way I see it, if you’re not lying to your kids at Christmas, how do you even know you’re a parent?

Do you have a way to keep your kids from finding their gifts? Tell us in the comments below.

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