Last week was Stephanie’s birthday. We started the day with our regular ritual of giving Stephanie a Tiramisu Cake in bed with her morning coffee. Next came the cards from the kids and each of them made her a special present in their free time. Stephanie was having a wonderful morning.

“What did you get Mommy?” Josh asked after I handed her my card.

“Mom picked out her present last week,” I replied.

Josh looked at me awkwardly. He didn’t get the concept of Stephanie picking out her gift. And he isn’t the only one; A few friends of mine have told me that I am lazy! One of Stephanie’s friends told me that I lacked creativity. I have tried to explain the reason to a few people but they still think the rationale is a lame excuse. I was even told once that I “simply lack the proper attentiveness towards my wife.”

Stephanie does not like surprises. And as much as I understand the rationale of “thoughtfulness, understanding, compassion and general creativity” in regards to gift giving, Stephanie really doesn’t like surprises. It is as simple as that.

I used to buy Stephanie jewelry. I used to go back to stores and buy items she would comment on months earlier when we were skulking around town. I would even think outside of the box every once in a while and buy gifts that I thought were perfect for my wife. And Stephanie loved every gift that I bought her, but the functionality of the gifts is where my thought process broke down.

Jewelry is good if you have someplace to wear it. We have small kids and we don’t go to formal functions like we used too. Out of the box gifts are fad gifts. They fade into the background like all of the other trinkets that have collected dust in our garage over the years. And “thinking out of the box” when it comes to gifts violates the very first rule, Stephanie does not like surprises.

To be honest, I haven’t always let Stephanie pick out her gifts. I like surprises and liked the idea of trying to surprise Stephanie for her birthday until we accidentally stumbled onto our current arrangement last summer. Stephanie saw a concert she wanted to attend on So she bought the tickets, printed the tickets and put them in an envelope. When I came home from work, she handed me the tickets and said, “Thank you.”

“For what?” I asked as I opened the envelope.

“For buying my birthday present,” she replied. Inside the envelope was a pair of tickets to the Rascal Flatts and Darius Rucker concert. I gave her the tickets for her birthday like she told me too and I booked a babysitter for the night of the concert. We had the best time at the show and the memories of the night we spent together will last longer than any of trinkets or baubles I could have bought at one of the local shops.

This year Stephanie wants to spend a day at a local Festival and then she wants to end the evening at the Darius Rucker concert. Done and done! At this stage of our lives, the memories created by doing something with our children and with each other is more important to Stephanie than the materials gifts I could have “surprised” her with on her birthday. Besides the anticipation of the adventures that await us at the Festival and at the Concert make the joy of her birthday last longer than just one day.

Some may still call me torpid but I like to think of myself as innovative. Stephanie wants to spend time with me and the children creating memories; memories that will last a lifetime! And in the end, isn’t that what matters?!

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7 Responses to Birthdays

  1. angie says:

    I love it! A birthday should be celebrate the way the person wants to celebrate! I can not wait to celebrate with Steph when I come down!

  2. Marie says:

    Dear Douglas,

    Missed your writings. I agree with you wholeheartedly, it’s the memories of spending time together that really matter to me also. The ‘stuff’ is just stuff, but the gift of time spent really being together to me is what really matters. This is what we are trying to accomplish with our grandchildren. Rather than ‘stuff’ we like to take them places, and experience things with them, which to me is the greatest gift. Of course they are getting bigger, and we will see how long they want to hang around the ‘old folks’.

    Keep up the good work. Love to all and belated Happy Birthday to Steph.

  3. Wendy says:

    Doug, I agree. This arrived in my mailbox today, my birthday. At this stage in my life I know what I want and usually will get it if I really want it. If I want to go to a show or something special, like Stephanie I’ll call it my birthday or Christmas present. There is no reason for anyone to buy me something because I just don’t need anything. I do love to window shop and look at things but that does NOT mean I want it. If I’m with Bob he wants me to buy everything I touch. Again just because I touch it doesn’t mean I have to have it. We have 4 kids in our house most days and my joy is seeing them happy and playing with their things or doing an unexpected pizza night. That is where my energy and money belong not on silly things that sparkle and shine.

    Love you guys.

  4. Uncle Mario says:

    First…Happy birthday girl! I think Stephanie is a very smart girl selecting before hand what she REALLY wanted….I am going to let Carmencita do the same on her next birthday, because her next birthday is next Sunday and I have already selected her present!.

  5. Jenn B says:

    At first I couldn’t believe you didn’t buy your wife a present, but I continued to read….I totally agree!!! For my birthday the only thing I wanted was to spend the day with my kids and see them smile. Amazing how we think differently when kids and spouses are involved. Better to make memories then dust. Glad she had a great birthday!!

  6. Ed Larsen says:

    Do what works for you! Don’t listen to others about surprises or anything of the sort. Sounds like she is just fine with everything you’ve been doing and that is all that matters.

  7. Mary says:

    Wow all I can say is that you are a great writer!

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