I think we are all familiar with the surprise party. And that hint of awkwardness as the guest of honour tries to be sufficiently overawed for an extended period of time so that the effort made by everyone is duly recognised.
It's much more fun doing the surprising. You get the thrill of keeping a secret, the camaraderie of organising as a team, the excitement of the moments before the trap is sprung, and the eventual release of energy as you leap out and yell that famous word!
You then tend to slap each other on the back for a job well done and relive all the stories from the planning, the build-up and the look on thingamy's face.
This is not a conversation the birthday subject can join. They are banished to a corner where they must repeat, "Oh, man! I was so... surprised!" whenever prodded. They do this with a diminishing amount of zeal each time.
The truth is they've never been more excluded in their life. It's not about them.
I'm here to tell you about a much better surprise to spring on your loved one. It's one that Megan and I do on a regular basis and I'm about to spring one on her right now!
It's the "tidy up" surprise.
It occurs when your significant other goes out and you start tidying. As you get enthused, you realise what a wonderful welcome back it would be if a stunning change has occurred when they walk in the door.
Perhaps it's something you have already discussed.
A rearrangement of furniture, a long-standing chore, or even a spot of redecorating. You are only limited by your imagination. And time. And budget. And ability. Quite limited, actually.
What I have done today is move some bunk beds from the garage, where they have been in the way. She will be very happy when she gets home from two hours of shopping with the kids.
I didn't tidy up the other side of the garage where paddling pools, toys and bicycles remain strewn. This is because it is very important you are not busy when they return. You must look calm, nonchalant and un-sweaty. Unlike the party surprise, you need do nothing but wait.
When they see what you have accomplished and start screaming with joy, you must be able to give a casual shrug and say something like, "Oh, yeah. That little thing. Done." Then sit back, soak up the plaudits and rest on those laurels. You may even get a treat!
I wonder how many times she will thank me. How many times she'll mention the surprise? She'll probably wander out to the garage several times to relive my stories. I guess that's her call. After all, it's her surprise.
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