I never thought we’d be “those people”, but there we were. Our Disney themed t-shirts were packed in our suitcases and safely stowed in our overhead compartments. We never really planned on taking our kids to Disneyland, but when my husband’s company decided to have their corporate event in Anaheim it seemed like the only sensible thing to do. “Sensible” is a very relative term when you’re imagining the joy on the faces of your boys when they head down Splash Mountain for the first time.
There were some major hurdles to overcome before boarding that plane: planning, financing, packing, etc. The biggest obstacle was deciding who exactly should go. We quickly realized that our ability to actually experience Disneyland would be pretty compromised by trying to take out two youngest kids (3 years-old and 18 months) with us. They were too small to ride much of anything and still needed naps and pretty predictable schedules in order to keep some semblance of toddler sanity. We felt a lot of guilt about leaving them behind, but when they knew they would be staying with their grandparents, they were convinced they were the ones who were going to be having all the fun.
So once our little ones were happily deposited at Grandma’s house, we were ready to find our Mickey bliss. I had packed the boys’ (ages 6 and 4) backpacks with enough toys and treats so that every two hours I could keep them motivated to behave well while traveling. We ate their favorite foods and they got juice (UNDILUTED JUICE!) on the plane. Four days into our trip I realized Danny had eaten chicken nuggets for every meal that wasn’t breakfast. Our room had a view of the fireworks each night. Mickey Mouse called to wake them up in the morning. For the love, our headboard lit up and played music! It was absolutely magical.
And yet, my kids were still my kids. Like Snow White’s lovable dwarf, they still had their grumpy moments.
On our second day of the Disney theme park experience we got up bright and early, spent the day riding rides, eating kid-friendly food, and playing in the hotel pool. In the evening we went back to the California Adventure park just before closing. We had hoped to squeeze in one more ride, but the ride Josh most wanted was shutting down so people could watch the water/fire/video spectacular that is the “World of Color” show. Our boys were so exhausted by the day of fun that they literally fell asleep in our arms while we watched the show. On our way back to the hotel Josh woke up and a friendly park employee asked him, “Did you have a great time at the park?” Josh glared at her and answered, “I didn’t even get to ride one ride.”
Of all the great things we did, all he remembered was the one ride that was closed when he wanted to ride it. A month after our trip, that is still part of his narrative about it all—“. . .and then the ONE RIDE I wanted to ride was closed. . . ” We’ve talked about how he needs to make the choice to focus on all the fun things that happened instead of dwelling on what he missed, but that concept is pretty tough for a six year-old to grasp.
Even in The Happiest Place on Earth, my kids were unsatisfied. Complaints from home followed us there: this food is too hot, my toe hurts, he keeps looking at me, why can’t I have that toy, I don’t want to go to bed. Overall, the boys were well behaved on our trip and were fun to be around. The frustrations we went through were the normal learning experiences of traveling with kids. Now maybe I should have been more frustrated about the whining we heard, but mostly I found it encouraging. Now when they’re whining at home I remind myself, “Yeah, well they whined at Disneyland, too.”
. . .To finish reading this article, click on through to A Musing Maralee. . .