Among friends and family, I have a reputation. Somehow I’ve been labeled an anti-Disneyite. And, let’s face it, among young moms (as in moms with young kids, not moms who should be carded), it’s not a very flattering label.
But quite honestly, I think it’s all a big misunderstanding.
You see, there are some things I know I’m not very good at. Crowds. Sensory overload. Being patient with my kids who aren’t very good with crowds or sensory overload. Being patient with adults in animal costumes who scare my kids who aren’t very good with adults in animal costumes. Admitting that my kids have grown up a lot—especially Big, who’s my Mr. Sensitive (aka me in a little boy’s body).
So for almost six years, I’ve avoided going to Disneyland. And just to be clear, Big has said all along that he didn’t want to go anyway, so I don’t feel like I was holding him back. I was just waiting for him—for us—to be ready, so that we’d actually consider it the happiest—not most frustrating—place on earth.
About a month or so ago, when my dear friend invited Big and me to join her and her son at Disneyland for the day in honor of her son’s 7th birthday, I realized that maybe the time had come to give it a go. Just the moms and big kids would be going, Big would be with his closest friends—who all happen to be huge Disneyland fanatics (in fact the birthday boy’s dad—who loves to give me a hard time, of course—works for Disney, so their family is all about making magic happen), and I’d be able to create special memories with my not-so-little boy and close friends.
We booked our flights—taking off first thing in the morning and returning last thing in the evening—and a week or so before the trip, our friends surprised the kids with the news. They were ecstatic. They immediately started mapping out rides (making sure to acknowledge and avoid Big’s concerns), sat on the school bus together discussing the adventure, and counted down to the big day. (Though, come that day, one of the friends was so sick, she and her mom couldn’t go after all—which was totally heartbreaking.)
It was time. Big was ready. I was ready. And it was magical.
Seeing Big’s eyes light up as he put on his “1st Visit” pin, hearing him exclaim, “That was awesome!” as he got off Peter Pan—one of his very first rides, watching him walk through Toon Town hand-in-hand with his good buddy, and even realizing he knew when to say when and skipping Thunder Mountain without so much as a pout…This was what I had been waiting for.
As we walked through Disneyland, California Adventure and Downtown Disney—no stroller, no crying, no getting accosted by adults in animal costumes—I was so grateful. Grateful to our friends who invited us on this adventure despite my Scrooge-y reputation. Grateful to Lenny for encouraging me to go for it without looking back. Grateful that the birthday boy held Big’s hand—figuratively and literally—so that he could explore all things Disney with confidence. Grateful for the (almost) six years of maturity and self-realization that made our first Disneyland visit such a big success. (And, yes, grateful that I didn’t have a little girl begging me for a horrific, bank-breaking hairdo. Ok, so maybe I’ve earned my Scrooge-y rep.)
Since the trip, people keep asking if I’ve been converted. My answer? No. I didn’t need to be. I’ve always believed. Believed that Disneyland can be pure magic—for kids and adults alike. But like any potion, you have to get the ingredients just right. And, in our case, the perfect brew took a bit longer to cook than most people we know. But it was well worth the wait.
Author’s Note: Mouse ears and princesses—ok, mostly just princesses—still make me a bit batty. (But that’s another post.) And Phineas and Ferb—who rocked our world at California Adventure—are still my favorite Disney characters (so you can imagine my pride when Big’s prized souvenir was a stuffed platypus…have I mentioned how alike we are?).