Disney World Captures the Joys and Horrors of Parenting
I almost died after giving birth to my daughter in 2006. I spent 218 days in the hospital, lost my colon, spleen, was temporarily paralyzed, couldn’t eat, speak, or breathe independently—if you’re a first time reader, you may want to check out my background here. After such a traumatic event and long recovery, you can imagine that all my husband and I want to do is give our two kids the most “normal” childhood possible. What’s more normal than going to Disney World on spring break? Many of my friends have gone and posted great pics of their dream vacations on FB. I was determined that we, too, would take our kids to the happiest place on earth and soak in the sweet nectar only this location could offer. Upon our return, I posted some cute pics of our family vacation on my FB page and felt satisfied that I had fulfilled my parental obligations.
Now that we’ve been back a week, I realize that the planning and execution of our vacation mirrors a typical parenting journey. This may seem like a stretch, but allow me to explain.
Phase One: Make the Decision to Do It (Pun Intended):
There’s a lot that goes into the decision to have kids. Can we afford it? Is the timing right? What if we don’t like it?
The same can be said about deciding to go to Disney, especially when negotiating with my fiscally conservative, grouchy husband.
Once you find out you’re pregnant, the planning really begins. Where will this person stay? What books should I read to prepare? What products do I need to buy to optimize this experience? What kind of birthing plan do I want? You consult with your family and friends for guidance on all aspects of planning.
Once again, the parallels are uncanny! My husband devoured the Unofficial Guide to Disney World and spent a ridiculous amount of time selecting a hotel. We researched the best rides and asked our friends and family for advice. I got up early every morning for a week to reserve our fast passes and make dinner reservations.
Phase Three: Fantasize About How Great It’s Going to Be
Before you have your first baby, you spend loads of time imagining the incredible delight that awaits you. You envision the adorable pictures you’ll post, the cute outfits you’ll buy for your prince/princess, the darling nursery you’ll decorate, the joy you’ll glean from every moment with this precious bundle of joy. You are anxiously anticipating the boundless pride you and your partner will derive from raising the next President. Sure, you hear rumblings from your Debbie Downer friends about sleepless nights, colic, explosive diapers, teething, yada yada, yada. Come on, how bad could it be? Millions of Americans are doing this every year, and many keep repeating the experience.
This is freakishly similar to the fantasy I had about our dream vacation to Disney World. I envisioned my son (12) and daughter (8) frolicking through the parks wearing adorable Mickey Mouse ears. Visions of us screaming on roller coasters danced in my head. Sure, some people warned me that the lines for rides are insanely long, the non-stop days are exhausting and that all the walking takes its toll. Again, I thought, how bad could it be?
I was only concerned about the amount of walking this trip required. Given my handicap status, I called guest services to find out what accommodations they make for those who have difficulty walking long distances. It turns out being handicapped used to be a golden ticket at Disney World. We’re talking no waiting in lines and top notch service. This policy was severely abused and soon many guests at the parks were entering with a “limp” or rolling in with a wheel chair. I was told that if I couldn’t walk, I could rent a wheel chair. Perhaps it was my stubbornness or fear that seeing me in a wheel chair again would trigger terrible memories and re-traumatize my son, but I determined I would just grin and bear the pain (sort of like all those women who swear they won’t need an epidural).
Phase Four: It Actually Happens!
The moment you’ve been waiting for finally arrives! You are holding your beautiful baby in your arms. Let the fun begin! You are about to embark on the most thrilling journey imaginable: parenthood.
I know I’m only 12 years on in my personal parenthood journey, but I have to say it is magical! I can honestly claim I have found the greatest happiness of my life in raising my two kids. Every emotion is enhanced since I became a parent. The senses of love, pride, joy, and adoration are indescribable. There is nothing else on earth that I would rather be doing than parenting my two kids. I came terrifyingly close to dying at age 31. I nearly missed the privilege of parenting, and I appreciate the gift I’ve been given.
But, sometimes motherhood looks nothing like I thought it would.
I’m not the first mom to say this and I know I won’t be the last. The crying, teething, potty training, extreme sleep deprivation, and mortifying public temper tantrums sometimes made me want to throw in the towel before toddlerhood even ended! Then there’s the boredom. Nothing worse than being locked in the house on a rainy day with your kids as the hours stretch like caramel in a slow motion Twix Bar commercial. You do three puzzles, four art projects, build a fort, and look at your watch to discover it is only 8:30 am. Don’t forget the ungrateful attitudes, eye-rolling, whining, complaining, obnoxious behavior, carpools, homework projects, irritating jokes, fighting, and insistence on buying crap we don’t need that sometimes is enough to make me want to dive head first into a pool of my own vomit just to escape from the madness!
That said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
The same claim can be made about our recent trip to Disney World. Every emotion was heightened in this magical kingdom. There were moments of sheer joy, like witnessing my daughter learn that she actually likes roller coasters or seeing the look on her face when she saw the neon-lit floats parade before her gleaming eyes. I will always treasure the memory of belting out Frozen tunes with her during the “First Time in Forever Frozen Sing Along.”
My son loved the roller coasters and said his favorite part of the trip was the day he and I spent together, just the two of us, at Universal Studios. Drinking a Butter Beer and buying a wand in Diagon Alley was thrilling for both of us. There were moments when my grouchy husband transformed into a kid again and banged on bongos or screamed for dear life while riding the Tower of Terror. If condensed, those fabulous moments could have easily spanned seven hours. Too bad our trip lasted 144.
Here’s some things that happened that you won’t see in any guidebook:
I heard more adults screaming at their kids than I ever have in my life. I am a mom, teacher, and former camp counselor, so this says a lot! My own children were sometimes frightened when they heard parents say things like, “Shut up and quit complaining! I’m hot, too!” or, “I need to take a break or I will seriously hit him!” or, “MOVE! Let’s go! You can run faster than that!”
I did not utter any of those particular phrases (out loud), but I did find myself less tolerant than usual. My daughter’s pink sparkly mouse ears injured my son and me (those damn things can scratch!). The lines were long, the parks were crowded, and my feet swelled up so badly on the last day that I could hardly walk.
Phase Five: Saying Goodbye
I’m grateful I won’t have to send my son to college for another six years, or my daughter for nine. Just the thought makes my eyes well up and my nose sting, because I can’t imagine ending this era. I suspect I will be a hot mess when those goodbyes come.
When we got on the airplane to go home, I sunk into my seat and finally relaxed. I couldn’t wait to resume our normal life. I can’t imagine I’ll feel that way when my kids leave for college. My normal life is parenting my kids. I know I’ll always be their mom even when they’re grown, but I only get to raise them once. If I tried to condense all the minutes of pure joy I’ve felt as a parent, it would add up to… an impossible task. I cannot quantify emotions. They are glued together in a mosaic artwork entitled, “Parenthood.” It may not always be magical, but it is mystical, enchanting, and priceless.
- My children are great kids. I don’t mean to depict them in a negative light, but let’s be honest, aren’t all kids annoying sometimes?
- I want to recognize the fact that we are extremely fortunate to have the financial means to take our kids to Disney World. This is not a necessity and I don’t mean to imply that it’s every parent’s obligation to take a trip to Disney.
- For the record, we all had a great time, but my husband and I agreed we will not be planning another trip like this until we have grandkids (Phase 6).