Two weeks ago, I finished my first marathon and then headed to Orlando for a week's trip to the happiest place on Earth. I'm still not sure which was the bigger accomplishment: the 26.2 miles or surviving the week. I'm leaning towards the latter. Now that I've had a chance to catch up on some laundry, pay an ungodly amount for a disk full of pictures, and unpack, I've been able to come up with some things I wish I would have known before heading to Disney.
1. You can make fun of Disney geeks all you want until you realize they are the ones that have it all figured out.
You know the kind of people I'm talking about, right? Maybe you are even one of them. You see them driving around town with Mickey Mouse antennas and the pictures of their family members with mouse ears. In the parks, they are wearing matching shirts with Disney characters and maybe even cute sayings like "I'm his Minnie" and "I'm her Mickey" (I actually saw those, BTW). You are super cool, so you snicker under your breath at these people. Until you realize that while you are waiting in a 90 minute line to ride It's a Small World, they are walking through a line marked "Fast Pass Plus only" and getting right on the boats. They are trading Disney pins with cast members like it's their job and pointing out Hidden Mickeys while you are standing in 85 degree weather with a 30 lb 2 year old on your head hoping to catch a glimpse of Goofy's feet in the parade. So while you may be calling them nerds, they are calling you sucker.
2. Your kids will only remember what you didn't do.
My kids are in a bit of a princess phase. The Little Mermaid is playing right now as I type this. To that end, we planned most of our days around seeing princesses. We went to not one, but two, princess dinners. We saw 4 different Cinderellas. Yet, if you asked Captain Destructo if she met the princesses, she will say "we didn't see Mulan." I heard her tell her Sunday School teacher that today and my jaw hit the floor. She looked at me and said "we have to go again and meet Mulan, right?" I started to launch into an explanation of how I really didn't think Mulan should count as a princess, and then just sighed and said "right."
3. Say goodbye to things like nutrition and discipline.
On our first morning, we jaunted down to the quick service restaurant in our hotel and I saw a little boy walking out with a Mickey Mouse-shaped waffle covered in chocolate chips, whipped cream and chocolate sauce. For breakfast. In my head, I was disgusted that anyone could consider that a meal, let alone breakfast, but somehow I found myself ordering two of them. That, however, was not quite as bad as the time we had Mickey Mouse ice cream sandwiches for lunch while waiting to ride the Toy Story ride (hey, they were sandwiches). And discipline? Ha. Be honest. If you had planned a trip to Disney for months and months, planned to have dinner at Cinderella's Castle, somehow got the stars to align in such a way that you got a reservation at Cinderella's Castle, and then your kid throws a tantrum right before dinner, are you still going to take them? Of course you are. If you're me, and you've been using Disney World as the ultimate threat for months, you're pretty much stuck. I just started playing the Santa Claus card for discipline. If there are Christmas decorations out in Target, I figured it's not too early.
4.Everyone is at least a little bit sick.
Along the same vein as discipline, if you've planned and saved for this trip for months and your kid gets sick, of course you're still going to go. There was so much sneezing, coughing, and snotty nose-blowing. We attempted to wash our hands a lot, but short of carrying a can of Lysol (which I considered) or wiping every hand rail with Clorox wipes, I don't see how you can avoid them. Sure enough, 2 days after returning, New Baby and I were down for the count with fevers. One day, while leaving a dinner show, we saw one poor little girl sprint out of a restaurant and lose her dinner all over the sidewalk. So sometimes terrible nutrition + tons of germs = disaster.
5. Sometimes the pressure of "The Happiest Place on Earth" is a little too much for everyone.
To beat the crowds at the parks, you really need to be there when the gates open, which usually means 9 AM. Everywhere in Disney takes a million years to get there, so you need to leave your hotel by 8:30 at the latest. Then you spend the day riding rides, seeing shows, meeting characters, and waiting in lots of lines. At night, there are parades, dinners, more shows and fireworks. After all this, you return to your hotels between 10 and 11. What sounds like so much fun for your kids can be completely overwhelming. And lots of times, parents have saved and planned so much that they are heartbroken when their kids don't love every single second. We met one dad who told us "we're not having such a good time. He's being a brat" while pointing to his 4 year-old. I saw one poor mom with 4 kids under 7 spend 10 minutes trying to get her 3 year old son just to get off the boat from the hotel to the Magic Kingdom. On our last day, we heard 2 people saying to their kids "I just want one good family picture! We've seen this same show 4 times! Just stop watching it and come stand in this line." (one of those people may have been me. See "good family picture" below). Bottom line? It's supposed to be fun. When you're fussing at your kid to stop crying and give Cinderella a hug, no one is having fun. We wished we would have scheduled a day to stay at the hotel, sleep and go in the pool (which we never did!).
I am so thankful for our trip. We have lots of (good and not-so-good) memories, and luckily lots of lessons for the next trip.
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