Parents, take note.
Do you like to see your children happy? Do you enjoy creating lasting memories with your children? As in memories they’ll love to remember the rest of their lives? Do you love your children? If you answered “yes” to all these questions, consider following my parent’s example. At least on this particular subject. We can discuss the merit of a few of their other parenting tactics at a different date (totally kidding, mom and dad. Best parents ever).
Starting with me (AKA the oldest, AKA the favorite), my parents started the tradition of the surprise 12-year-old trip. I don’t think there was any special reason they chose the age of 12 besides it was convenient for scheduling purposes. But I personally think it’s a great age for a surprise trip. One last hurrah before the hellish middle school years and all the not-so-nice surprises that go along with growing up.
My dad told me a few days before my 12th birthday that he was so sorry, but he wouldn’t be home for my birthday because he had a business trip scheduled. Sure I was sad, but I was already learning the teenage art of suppressing my emotions.
A few days later, we drove my dad to the airport. On the way to said airport, it was revealed that this was all an elaborate rouse. My dad wasn’t going on a business trip, he was taking me to Seattle for a long weekend to celebrate my birthday (and to see a cousin get married, but that was more of an afterthought). It’s gotta be clear why that’s one of my favorite memories ever.
We had an absolute blast. My susceptible almost-12-year-old heart fell hard for the Pacific Northwest and still pines after it to this day. And I went in January.
But what I remember most about that trip is how cool it was that it was just me and my dad for a whole three days. We played Would you Rather during a long car ride, I told him about my crush at school, we danced together at the wedding, he showed me his childhood home and we ate greasy pizza at a quiet, tiny shop on the way. That trip was everything to me.
I can’t speak for my brothers, but I can guess they felt similar about their trips. One brother got pulled out of school for a “dentist appointment” only to be driven to the airport and told he was going to go on a mission’s trip to help build houses, which he was totally fine with. Only later to be told they were actually going to Florida for his surprise trip. The other brother was halfway to Virginia before realizing he was not, in fact, being driven to the movies.
Now, it’s going to be slightly different for my youngest brother because lately he’s become a world traveler… But I guarantee he’ll also remember it for the rest of his life.
If you decide to do something like this, I’d like to stress that this in no way has to be a trip that breaks the bank. Every trip, we’ve stayed with family and done more exploring than anything else. It doesn’t matter where you go, all that matters is they get to see a piece of the world with you by their side.
So, thanks, mom and dad. That trip was the best gift any 12-year-old could ask for.