By MARY FYE
GLASGOW — During a particularly difficult patch of end-of-summer cleaning and reorganizing, the girls needed some solid motivation.
“Don’t worry,” I told them. “We have a surprise planned for you that will make you forget all about these chores.”
Our plan was to visit Holiday World just before school started. Once the trip was confirmed, we hesitated to tell the girls; we’re big on surprises. As a matter of fact, we decided to completely surprise the girls, saying nothing until they saw the entrance. What started out as an omission soon became a full-fledged conspiracy.
Years ago, when the girls were still tiny, we surprised them with a trip to Disney World. We even went so far as to have shirts printed (thank you, Disney Store) that said “Surprise Vacation” with the date. Camcorder at the ready, we woke the girls at 6 a.m. on the day of departure. Their sleepy reactions were just the sort of thing every parent hopes for when planning such a surprise. Now with the Holiday World adventure, I think that, if psychologically probed, you’d find two parents coming to terms with their almost teen-aged daughters and wanting to recapture that precious moment of childhood. That, or two parents who just love messing with their kids’ minds.
This time the girls did know we were going somewhere to do something, but we refused to fill in the gaps. Rumors soon emerged. We were going to Jackson’s Orchard. We were going to Disney. We were going on a buggy ride. Finally, my personal favorite: We were going to a chicken farm. As the day approached, it was difficult not to be tricked into revealing our destination, but we persisted in keeping up the charade.
Loving the chicken destination, Steve and I fed the girls tons of misinformation. (Of course that’s not quite the same as lying.) Any time the trip was mentioned, we would go on and on about the wonders of gathering eggs and plucking chickens. This did not sit well and both girls were quick to say that they 1) knew we were lying, er, misinforming them, and 2) if we were telling the truth, they would never pluck chickens. Gathering eggs sounded like fun, but it seemed weird for a summer surprise vacation.
The night before our trip, we gave the girls a list of items to bring. A swimsuit and changes of clothing would limit the surprise, so we added a few random items to the list: a can of SpaghettiO’s, can opener, pillow, blanket and gloves.
Eagerly, the girls scanned the list and tried to guess our destination. Ashley soon gave an excited whoop, declaring, “Yeah! We’re going camping!”
Before seeing my reaction, Erin burst into tears, crying “I don’t want to go camping!”
This scene played out as expected, with both girls carrying on and on with their opinions of camping. It’s not often that you can watch your children be confused and upset and be laughing on the inside at the same time.
We never let up on our ruse, not even on the morning of our trip. We did, however, give into one of their requests.
“How about if we guess the right place, will you tell us?” they begged.
Ironically, it seemed that every time we passed by a huge Holiday World billboard the girls would be turned away busy looking at something else.
Finally, they were looking at the right spot at the right time. “Is it Holiday World?” they asked, thrilled when we confessed that was our destination.
And their reaction? Of course they were happy – happy to not be plucking chickens!