Food for the Soul
12/4/15 at 02:01 PM 0 Comments

Confessions of a Bad Wrapper: How One Dad Got Creative by Embracing his Awfulness

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Guest Article by Bob Smithouser

Hi, my name’s Bob, and I’m a terrible gift-wrapper.

Every Christmas, as we prepare to celebrate God’s perfectly wrapped gift to us, it’s been the same, sad story: My creases aren’t tight. There’s tape everywhere. And any present lacking natural 90-degree angles is guaranteed to have unsightly wrinkles and bulges. I’m a holiday hack. And it’s been 11 months since my last failed attempt at curling ribbon.

For years I tried to hide my incompetence by packing everything into shoeboxes first. That worked until the Christmas my young daughter peeled back cheerful reindeer paper to find her new stuffed animal crammed, face down in a Nike box. She thought it was dead because it couldn’t breathe. A little mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and everything was fine, but I needed a new way to conceal my severe gift-wrapping impairment. My response was the “Frankenpresent.”

This frugal accident from the mid-2000s remains a family tradition to this day. The idea arose because I hate wasting paper. It bothered me to throw away those little strips and squares barely big enough to cover an iTunes gift card. One year I gathered enough scraps from various sheets and rolls to wrap a DVD—a patchwork monstrosity that looked like it had lumbered out of a mad scientist’s laboratory. It was intentionally awful. The kids loved it! Now it’s a seasonal source of pride to be the one who receives Dad’s Frankenpresent.

Hooray for Digital Gifts

A more modern parenting challenge involves packaging “digital” Christmas gifts for our kids. Downloads. Online subscriptions. On the plus side, those of us with severe wrapsy (I’ve been told naming my illness is the first step toward conquering it) are thrilled anytime we can put away the paper and dispense with those tape dispensers. No crooked corners. No sloppy seams. No public ridicule.

Odyssey Adventure Club

Indeed a digital gift, such as a yearlong membership to Focus on the Family’s popular Odyssey Adventure Club, already saves me a trip to the mall. Just a few clicks on and my whole family is hooked up to over 800 audio dramas and enough fun activities to make my kids forget all about the Disney Channel. But because the process of ordering subscriptions like this is so easy, a lot rides on the presentation of such a gift. Once again, a little creativity is in order. The key elements are anticipation and surprise:

Send children on a treasure hunt.

In lieu of tearing open a pitifully wrapped present, my kiddos enjoy the chance to follow a series of clues or riddles to their digital prize. Give it a try. Put the first clue in a greeting card. Let it direct the child to a mysterious slip of paper in the sugar bowl, in the microwave, or under their pillow. Anticipation builds as the string of clues continues. Six or seven should be plenty. Otherwise, cries of “Are we there yet?” will make Christmas morning feel like a road trip across New Mexico. But have fun. Make your clues rhyme. Use pictures. Be sure to put your computer or mobile device at the end of the trail, where the push of a button will bring their gift to life.

Hide characters or logos in your tree.  

When our daughter became old enough to have a Facebook page, we created a decoration out of the social network’s logo and hung it on our tree. Christmas morning we told her to search for a new ornament. Finding her name spelled out alongside that icon was like a rite of passage. Likewise, cutting out images of friendly Adventures in Odyssey characters (you can find them online) and hiding them in the tree is a great way for your children to discover that they are now part of a safe, spiritually rich, global community in the Odyssey Adventure Club.

Do you constantly find yourself cutting giftwrap too small, then trying to cover the bare spots with ribbons and bows? Join the club. Let’s face it, not everyone has what it takes to score points with a perfect wrapping job. But if those of us suffering from chronic wrapsywill creatively embrace our limitations and choose God-honoring gifts our kids love, it can be a very merry Christmas.


Bob Smithouser, Focus on the Family
Bob Smithouser

Bob Smithouser has served at Focus on the Family for nearly 25 years and spent the majority of that time pioneering and expanding the media review ministry of Plugged In — including 16 years as editor of its award-winning magazine and four as host of the popular podcast. A columnist, speaker, author and proud dad, Smithouser has also co-hosted the Official Adventures in Odyssey Podcast since 2006. His love for Odyssey and teaching children about Jesus led him to accept his current position, producer of the Odyssey Adventure Club.

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