My kids’ favorite spot in the house is any couch that has books or toys within reach. Yet every December — without fail — they become a mini Lewis and Clark, constantly wandering across our home, intent on making new discoveries. Sure, they act all cool and nonchalant about their endless roaming, but I’m hip to their game. Those two don’t have a sudden interest in the history and fine art of exploration: They are trying to find all the gifts I hide for the holidays.
Long gone are the days of them being innocent tots ignorant to the spinning sound of Hot Wheels tires coming from the bag I carry past them. Now I not only have to be sneaky, I have to be smart. Those two wrestle with wanting to be surprised and wanting to outsmart me. Luckily, I grew up with an equally curious big brother, witnessed all his tricks, and put that knowledge to use against my own offspring’s attempts to uncover in advance what to expect under the tree.
If you still have kids too little to require such trickery, take note: Soon enough you, too will be wearing your quietest slippers as you creep around the house with wish list items hastily shoved under your clothes for secure passage past bedrooms and overly-observant kids. And here are some other things you’ll understand about hiding those holiday gifts each year:
1. You will always be just a little bit better at hiding gifts than at remembering where you hid them.
2. You will never move as quickly as when you’re sneaking a big bag of gifts into the house to hide and you discover your kids have wandered into a room you need to pass through.
3. A vital tool in your gift-hiding arsenal is WD-40, in order to make all doorknobs and closet doors soundless during your sneakiness.
4. You will become so good at making up off-the-cuff stories as to why your kids can’t walk into the guest room or play in the basement (so as to not catch you hiding things) that you’ll start to consider a career as a novelist.
5. SANTA IS ALWAYS WATCHING YOU quickly changes from making sure they end up on the Nice List to a way to dissuade them from tearing the house apart to find where the loot is hidden.
6. The attic is usually spacious enough but FAR too cold to persuade you to use it in many a northern state. (And why are attic doors placed just outside childrens’ bedrooms the loudest, creakiest things on earth? WHY??)
7. If you let the kids slide on their contribution to a tidier home, everyone will forget the laundry room exists. BOOM: Plenty of places to conceal Wonder Woman and her DC Super Heroes friends!
8. It’s a scientific fact that kids are horrified by their mom’s underwear drawer, making it a great space to tuck the more diminutive bits and bobs among the baby teeth you already have in there.
9. Minivan trunks were made for this gig.
10. If you hide presents under the bed you deserve to have them found. We both know you can do better than that.
11. All December long you’ll need to triple-check each black garbage bag before dumping it in the trash bin outside to make absolutely sure it’s actually garbage and not a camouflaged toy stash.
12. There’s always that one gift that threatens to reveal its location by intermittently buzzing, clicking, or playing music.
13. Hiding wrapped gifts for yourself among those for your family is a fun way to get surprised by exactly what you wanted on Christmas morning.
14. Making friends with your neighbors is a healthy way to build your community and also to have an alternate shipping address for all those gifts you ordered online. BONUS: If you’re nice enough, you can just hide the Hello Dreamhouse there because all the fun interactive stuff you can do with it is too tempting for you to keep in your own home.
15. Wrapping gifts increases their size exponentially, requiring five times more space to put them back into hiding.
16. You will un-hide the gloves, a scarf, and an external battery charger before the holidays because the need for them will become more imminent than you once expected.
17. “Oh, that box has always been there” and, “This must be work stuff Daddy ordered” are lies you will say on the regular now.
18. If you hear a chair being dragged in September, it’s a kid trying to reach a snack she can’t reach. If you hear a chair being dragged in December, it’s a kid trying to reach a high shelf she thinks there might be toys hidden on.
19. There will come a point when there is so much stuff hidden in your bedroom that you reflexively yell, “JUST A MINUTE” in a panicked voice and look around you to make sure nothing is showing when anyone so much as approaches the doorway.
20. Collecting all the gifts once everyone is asleep so you can put them out takes one thousand times longer than it did to hide them.
21. You will spend a good part of Christmas Day disappearing to where you just now remembered you hid Grandma’s gift. And again for your son’s gift. And, “Oh that’s right your brother’s gift is in the glove compartment, isn’t it?” — but their faces when they realize there’s just one more gift for them to open will make all those extra trips worth it.