I waited until my children were six and nine to take a trip to Disney. The older one had been able to go to Magic Kingdom on a school trip, but the youngest had never been. If I'm perfectly honest, thinking of going to a Disney park was both terrifying and exciting. I found it terrifying because I imagined seeing all sorts of parenting practices that would upset my trip; exciting because for school age children the Disney parks are absolutely magical. Both of these reasons kept me away and pushed me toward the parks simultaneously. However, the time had come, so as we often have to do in parenting, I put my little people first and went on the adventure that is Walt Disney World.
The joy began the moment the first correspondence arrived in the mail. Disney's personalized invitation was a brilliant touch, and it was so much fun and fulfilling to experience my children's excitement. This picture solidified for me that we had made the right decision. Our children at six and nine could now truly understand and hold in mind the excitement and the gratitude of being able to go to this magical place. I was happy that they were truly having the experience I imagine Walt Disney conceived when he opened his parks.
After dressing in the dark and three hours on the turnpike, we arrived. All of a sudden the child within me was full of excitement. My children laughed and screamed and my joy was equal to theirs. Here is where this trip is one of those rites of passage in our American culture; in that very moment I was sharing one of the happiest moments from my childhood, watching my own children's version unfold.
As the days progressed I began to feel the power and the energy of the parks. I was caught up in a whirlwind of images, memories and feelings. One moment I remembered was my father holding my hand tightly as we ran towards Tomorrowland so that we could both ride Space Mountain together and the next moment I felt a knot in my throat as I saw my daughter sing along to the theme from"It's a Small World." The park holds countless moments like these for all who visit. Walking around the park, my primary experience of the parents around me was a common goal to share the magic and the joy that is going to Disney for the first time(or 3rd, 4th, 10th). All of us parents at the park were passing on a tradition of joy, connection, and legacy. So my fear of seeing "questionable" parenting disappeared the minute I could look at another parent at the park giggling and smiling, and in my mind being able to say to them "me too, I'm so happy to share this amazing experience with my little people, too. Don't get me wrong, I saw exacerbated parents and children too young to truly know what they were doing and how to handle it all. However, it was all okay. The parks have a great quality and that is the ability to stop time and make you, if you allow it, exist in the moment.