Disney World: Part One
It all started when I was determined not to be that mom.
I think that kind of arrogance is the whole pride goeth before the fall business. All the same, I would not be her. I could not be her. I didn’t have the time, organizational skills or holy devotion to my child that they all seemed to possess.
I read their blogs with fear and trembling.
Fast Pass. RSVP 180 days ahead of time. Bippity Boppity Boo Boutique. Fast Pass again. Write your phone number on your child’s SKIN for the inevitable park separation. Afternoon naps = nighttime park magic! Wait. You have to go day and night?! Fast Pass again. What the heck is this Fast Pass business and how is it fast if I “get” to fight for my spot three weeks before I go? That’s not fast. That’s the kid version of having to be first to check in on Southwest Airlines and staying awake until some ungodly hour to check yourself in exactly twenty-four hours before the flight departs so you can make it onto the boarding A team.
Princess Breakfast: the holy grail. Be at the computer ready to reserve your $150 spot as soon as the 180 day window arrives. Princess autograph lines. Five hours to meet Elsa and Anna. Re-read. Five hours?!?
Looky-look here people: I will hire two teenage girls who resemble Elsa and Anna, purchase them elaborate costumes, make my husband be Olaf, rearrange my living room furniture and cover it all in white sheets to make it look like an ice castle and then let Annie throw toilet-paper-snow into every unvacuumable crevice in this house before I wait five freaking hours with sugar-laden, sticky, hot, tired, emotional girls to meet the cast of Frozen.
I am a terrible Disney mom.
The more mom blogs I read about how to plan my Magical Disney Vacation so my daughter would have the most enchanting, memorable week of her ENTIRE LIFE, the more I felt completely overwhelmed, incapable and unprepared. The pressure was debilitating. With each new set of Disney-mom-blog-strategies I felt a greater urge to hop a plane to Mexico and sip something out of a giant coconut shell on the beach.
“What happened to the good ole days?” I lamented to my tech savvy husband on the nights before we left. “You know, when there were no cell-phones and no Disney Apps with park maps or ride-hopper passes and you just showed up happy to have a frigging caramel apple and see a big castle and ride Dumbo a time or two? I mean when I was a little girl all the Disney princesses- all four of them- would just stroll about the park and take pictures with kids. There were no two hour lines with professional photographers waiting to snap a picture of me and Cindy. Now there’s like, God only knows how many princesses?!? What was wrong with that world?”
My husband assured me, with a smile, that these feelings derived from my own guilt in not having responsibly planned our family trip to Disney. And he was right. We showed up to Disney World last week without a single reservation or plan. Just a hotel, park passes, five rain ponchos (which we used)
An autograph book (that was Grandpa’s idea)
(cue: very excited grandparents picture)
And one elated little girl, whose mom who had not properly, responsibly, prepared for a Disney Vacation of the 21st century variety.
(Yes, they can now insert an imaginary Tinker Bell into the palm of your kid's hand.)
(So. 21st. Century.)
Disney World: Part Two Turns out, a Fast Pass is painless. True, you can sign up for your Fast Pass slots three weeks before your actual trip and get all the good stuff. Like a Fast Pass to skip the Elsa and Anna line and wait only one hour instead of five. Or a Fast Pass to get a front row seat at Cinderella’s castle for the nightly fireworks. But if you don’t sign-up three weeks early and miss these hot-ticket items, guess what? Your five-year-old probably has NO idea they exist in the first place. And what they don’t know their missing, can’t hurt them.
Truth is, your five-year-old is secretly amazed that you can find toilets, Teacups and Tinker Bell lines. The fact that you know how to get on and off the monorail wows them a little more. And when you tell them you know exactly where to meet Merida and even know a short-cut to get there (all on the Disney park app) you are now entering Disney Goddess status in your young child’s mind. So even though you may feel as though (and may actually be) SUCKING at being a good Disney-World-Mom, your child probably has no clue. Mine didn’t.
If you purchase a park-hopper pass, you get three initial Fast Passes a day for free. Then you can add single passes on, one at a time, after the initial three. You don’t even have to be prepared or responsible for this aspect of your trip! Just show up each day and find a Fast Pass Kiosk, skip the kiosk, and go straight to one of the park employees who is holding a tablet and wearing Khaki shorts and a weird little vest. They are the living, breathing Fast Pass for Dummies guides. Don’t even mess with the machines or the apps. You’ll probably screw them up anyways and eventually end up with one of the Fast Past for Dummies guide. So just go ahead and cut that corner to begin with and go straight to em! Think of this as a tip from a mom who is considering writing this book:
Disney Vacation Planning for the Other Mom’s: One Over-worked, Unorganized, Completely Irresponsible Mom’s guide to having the Disney Vacation of Your Dreams!
We Fast Passed our way into It’s a Small World, Ariel’s Grotto and the Monsters Inc Comedy Show- where my dad was that guy.
And even without weeks of planning the who, what, when, where and how of meeting the princesses at the park, we still stood in reasonable lines and met Merida and Mulan and were able to get Fast Passes to meet Rapunzel, Cinderella, Minnie and Mickey!
The crazy thing is, us adults drive ourselves mad making detailed plans or heaping guilt on ourselves for not making the perfect plans, or any plans at all in my case, and yet all the planning or non-planning in the world can’t create the little moments that our kids remember.
Like meeting Tinsley while we waited to eat lunch at Belle’s castle and Annie making an instant best friend.
Or meeting the World War 2 Vet who walks Epcot four times a week and showed us exactly where to spot a four foot fish in the lake.
Or catching a squirrel red-handed and wasting twenty minutes just watching him as he rummaged through people’s strollers and ate their food!
Or Annie getting a fever on the final night and seemingly missing the fireworks- only to get on the exact right ferry, at the exact right moment and stumbling into the rare gift of watching the Magic kingdom fireworks from the boat as we glided across the water (and beat traffic out of the park!).
Some things never change. Moments of magic that can’t be bought, timed, or programmed into an app on the iPhone but spring up out of thin air and land in your lap like a fairytale ending, are one of those things. Squirrels and new friends and inconsequential time spent on fish and an old man with stories and a boat ride that just happens to line up with fireworks over a princess castle- and happily ever afters that feel a little more like the end of a perfect movie… these happen despite our best laid plans or lack thereof.
And that is the magic of Disney. It’s the magic of living.
It’s a little girl holding her breath when she is in line to see her very first princess.
And quietly practicing her curtsy next to that Princess.
And falling asleep in her daddy’s lap at the end of a day she won’t soon forget while fireworks unfurl in the distance. It’s a hundred small, unplanned, unrehearsed, un-purchased moments in between the madness of our detailed-Disney-schedules that create the memories which last a lifetime.
And I am learning- Magic happens. Whether we plan well or not.
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