One of my favorites was watching my 4-year-old daughter meet the Disney princesses, Real Life Princesses according to her. It shocked me how emotional I became as I watched her hug them and see her listen intently to the princesses telling her stories. She gladly waited in line for an hour, with very little complaint, to meet Princesses Anna and Elsa.
Another one of my favorites was meeting Mickey Mouse at Magic Kingdom. The Mickey we met talked with us, played magic tricks, sang songs with us, and was the epitome of what I imagine Walt Disney envisioned. When my 3-year old son, whose name just happens to be Walt, just like Walt Disney himself, first walked up to Mickey, my little guy started dancing and had the happiest smile that I have ever seen on his chubby little face. I choked up. It was truly magical.
My last favorite experience really had nothing to do with Disney princesses, characters, shows or rides. My last favorite experience has everything to do with the more realistic and less magical side of a Disney vacation. In fact, it is a very selfish favorite.
My final favorite was the fact that kids at amusement parks, although they obviously have fun, can be terrible, horrible, loud, tired, screaming, seemingly ungrateful monsters sometimes. Sounds awful, right? Why would this be one of the favorite things that happened during my trip?
Well let me tell you.
Not only did my children periodically take turns having their monster moments, but every other child, and there were thousands of children around us over the four days we spent at the parks, had their moments too. It was such a good feeling, and I surprisingly feel little guilt admitting this, to see other kids throwing tantrums and other parents struggling to keep their sanity. It validates something about parenting that we all struggle with: Kids Behave Badly (even when at the most magical place in the entire world).
My favorite meltdown was a literal one and performed quite perfectly by my 3-year-old little "Walt" Disney...
While waiting for the rest of our group to meet us so that we could all go on a ride together, my thoughtful sister bought this massive brownie-ice-cream-fudge-whip-cream heavenly creation for the kids to share. This thing was about the size of a basketball and when she set it down and handed every kid their very own spoon, every child's (even the ones just walking by) eyes widened and huge smiles ensued.
Every kid accept my 3-year-old son, that is.
He didn't want to share.
He wanted his own.
And he threw a pretty impressive tantrum. In his defense he was tired after a long day of being at the parks, but to everyone around us he looked like the most spoiled, selfish, indulged child on the planet.
I was embarrassed but stuck to my guns. Per his stubbornness he never had one single bite of the sundae. After the kids all ate it, the rest of our group arrived and we went on the ride together as a family. Throughout this time my son calmed down, but every couple of minutes reminded me that he wanted his own ice cream sundae.
About an hour after the initial tantrum, and after continued begging, my heart cracked a little for him; he really wasn't able to go on as many rides as every one else since he is so young and short, so maybe I'd sneak him away and buy him the ice cream he wanted? I hate to give into begging, but it was Disney World, right?
So I snuck him away and he and I went to the ice cream shop.
After waiting in line for a very long 15 minutes, with him asking every 30 seconds for his ice cream, he finally had his own Hot Fudge Sundae (not as big as the one my sister had bought, but still massive for just one 3-year-old to enjoy). My son was thrilled! His face was indescribably happy and I will never forget it. We found a little corner in the shade and he had a couple bites of this ice cream. He seemed to be enjoying himself. He was happy, I was happy.
Then he told me that he had to go to the bathroom.
But is wasn't like, "Hey mom, if you see a bathroom, I could probably go." Instead he started screaming, "I go pee! I go pee!" at the top of his lungs, creating quite a spectacle.
The nearest bathroom wasn't near but off we went. I ran with him in his stroller, giving his ice cream to daddy for safekeeping as we passed him, and we somehow made it before my son peed his pants. Whew, crisis averted.
Or so I thought.
When we got back to daddy to retrieve the ice cream something horrible had happened: it had completely melted. His sundae had gone from a mighty 8 inches piled high to about 2 inches of melted messiness.
My son was not happy. He refused to eat it. He wanted a new one.
Well that wasn't going to happen. I love that kid, but seriously, I was not buying him another $6 ice cream sundae; there were still a few really good bites in there and that was plenty for a 3-year-old toddler.
He did not agree with my evaluation of the situation and jumped out of his stroller and started running. And screaming. And crying. He threw a meltdown bigger than the ice cream had.
At first I was really embarrassed. I followed a few feet behind him, quietly mouthing an apology to every person that we passed. I begged my son to come back to me, I pleaded with him. But he kept running in circles and screaming that he wanted more ice cream. This lasted only for about 10 minutes, but felt more like an hour. It really was one of those humiliating parenting moments that I will never forget.
And then I realized something.
When I looked at the faces of the adults around me, and most of them were parents, I saw absolutely no judgement. I think a saw a little relief in a few faces, that it wasn't their kid freaking out this time, but no one gawked or stared or really even paid attention to my son's horrendous behavior. It was almost like he was invisible.
And that is when I realized what one of my favorite things about Disney was: ALL Kids Behave Badly (even when at the most magical place in the entire world).
Eventually I calmed my son down. Although he didn't get a new ice cream, my husband and I did
trick talk my son into eating what was left of his melted, but yummy, mess of dessert. And he ended up loving it and a few minutes after he ate it, he was in his normal happy-go-lucky mood again.
Disney truly was a magical experience, full of great memories that I will never forget. Not all memories are perfect, but neither are all children.
A wonderful lesson that my kids never let me forget.
A wonderful lesson that my kids never let me forget.