So, Summer 2011 marked our first family vacation to Disney World in Orlando, FL. Amanda and I spent months planning this occasion, as we tend to obsess down to the minutia of pretty much everything we do. We considered five major areas of concern: lodging, tickets, food, souvenirs, and miscellaneous spending.
Lodging was my responsibility. At first I considered staying on grounds at Disney, but our party quickly went from four persons to ten as we added both sets of Grandparents and my sister and niece. It would've been rude to tell each party to find their own accommodations so I changed our plans from a Disney room to a large, nearby 4br condo. Amanda has a business degree, so the budgetary planning fell to her. She masterfully planned limits for each day of our trip. We got our tickets through a discount site that saved us nearly $150. We purchased a nice, lightweight stroller to allow us to be more nimble as we moved from place to place. We found carabiner clips to hang bags to the stroller with ease, and even found a nice Coleman cooler bag that would carry the perfect amount of bottled water to sustain us through our long days in the sun. We read countless "insider guide to disney" type articles. We were all set. Then we walked through the front gates to the park. That's when our education began.
Lesson One: Trust me, start with the damn teacups.
We spent our first day at Animal Kingdom rather than the traditional Magic Kingdom so we could meet up with some of our cousins who were going to be at Magic Kingdom on day two. Of all of the planning and considerations we made prior to the trip, the one thing we had not planned for was the fact that our oldest son is a forty pound six year old. As soon as we got to the park, we checked out a few of the animals around the entrance and immediately moved on to our first ride. Jackson loves dinosaurs. So much so that his career plan at this point is to be a paleontologist. He is freakishly good at identifying the various species. So I thought the dinosaur ride would be a good way to appeal to his curiosity and get him fired up for what would be a long, hot day at the park.
I looked at the ride and figured it was the Jurassic equivalent of "it's a small world" filled with cheesy animatronic dinosaurs that would rigidly move from side to side. Never, in a million years, would I have imagined that this harmless looking ride was actually a VERY intense experience for a child. It was a scary combination of dark, loud, and surprising that basically sent Jackson in to a kindergarten version of PTSD. He was terrified, and I felt horrible. He tried, like a trooper, to play it off once the ride was over, but the damage was done. From then on, if any ride we went on had even a dark corner in the waiting line he would grab my hand, tear up, and beg me for assurance that I wasn't leading him to certain death. Way to go Dad.
Lesson Two: Riding a little rascal doesn't make you a nice person.
The parades at the parks are an interesting phenomenon. The parks are huge. Magic Kingdom is about 107 acres at this point. You can walk around all day long and never see the same person twice. However, during the parades that each park has everyday the park feels more like a postage stamp. Inches matter as thirty to forty thousand people try to get front row seats to a very carefully choreographed show. Also, the most interesting thing happens, everyone forgets that we are there to give our children a positive experience. Adults begin acting like spoiled brats while fighting for position.
Our final night we hit up Magic Kingdom for the second time to catch the parade and fireworks. Approximately an hour before the parade we located a nice spot in front of the castle to catch all of the excitement. We set up right next to a family that consisted of a mom, her son, and her mother, a woman in her mid-sixties riding a little rascal in order to keep up with her grandson. Aww, that's nice. As we parked our strollers, and began claiming our territory Jackson and I sprinted to the nearest toy store to purchase his final souvenir for the trip. By the time I got back, Amanda and her parents were at DefCon 1, ready for battle. People were EVERYWHERE. Our strollers were getting pushed, Amanda's parents were getting nudged, and our spacious spot had become perilously cramped. Not surprising.
Those of you that know Amanda know that she is very non-confrontational. She is gracious and kind and would never start a fight. However, she does not react well when pushed in to a corner. About ten minutes before the parade granny starts getting chippy, complaining that Amanda is standing in front of her on purpose, completely unaware that the parade is coming from her left which pretty much takes Amanda out of the equation. Then she gets brave and barks at Amanda, "hey, do you plan on standing in front of me for the whole parade?" (insert snarky voice) Amanda looks at her in shock as the woman berates her and then gives me the "I'm about to freak out" look, so I jump in. I curtly explain to the old bag that we are standing in front of our strollers and will continue to do so for the remainder of the parade. While I'm doing this her daughter is apologizing profusely and telling her mom to shut up. Then she does it, just before the parade reaches us granny instructs her grandson to "go stand in front of that blonde kid" (Jackson). Amanda's temper is now on overload. But a funny thing happened. Instead of Amanda beating her up, Jackson simply shifts to the side and finds an angle to watch the parade without encroaching on the boy. For him it wasn't about getting the upper hand, he was just content to be in on the fun. The lessons we learn from our kids.
But granny wasn't done, after the parade she defiantly refused to move her little rascal as a man was trying to move his wheelchair bound mother from the parade route. Classy.
Lesson three: It's cheaper to eat lunch at Disney World that in downtown NOLA. Fact.
Lesson Four: To some people, deodorant is merely a fad.
Please allow me to get all "we are the world" on you for a minute. There are so many things in this world that divide us as people. Some people focus on race, some on sexual orientation, some on religion. However, I choose to focus on those things that bind us together as human kind. The Beatles thought it was love. They were SO wrong. Truly, what we all share is stink. If Disney World taught me anything, it was that human beings are horribly smelly creatures.
I get it, you want to wear your culturally traditional clothing, despite the fact that it's 113 degrees outside. What I don't get is that you have chosen to do absolutely NOTHING to hide the fact that when you sweat your entire body smells like a combination of foot and butt. Look, if we are going to be stuck in the space mountain line together for fifty minutes, do me a favor and familiarize yourself with the positive aspects of Irish Spring and Old Spice High Endurance.