Growing up in South Florida, trips to WDW were just a fact of life for my peers and me. Because of this, discussing details of Disney family vacations was commonplace as we transitioned into our tween years. There was a very grown-up feeling to showcasing, comparing and trying to “keep up with the Joneses” in terms of Disney trip exploits, and I often found myself engaged in this activity.
On one occasion, a friend shared that her parents had simply woken her up early on a spring morning and told her they were traveling to WDW that day. I marveled at the genius of these parents. What kid wouldn’t love to be awakened and surprised with such a gift? Surely it created a memory that would last a lifetime, and I envied my friend’s right to claim that experience as her own.
I carried the hope of a surprise visit to WDW throughout my youth since the moment I heard of it; however, the reality never surfaced. Most likely because of custody restrictions that exist in broken homes, my parents always made known any plans of WDW trips. So while I enjoyed the anticipation of upcoming vacations to my favorite place on earth, I was denied the treat of immediate WDW gratification that my friend knew.
Presently, it occurs to me that my own children should be blessed with the dream of WDW spontaneity that I never had. The problem is that in my excitement of securing a trip, I have already informed of my intention to bring them to the origin of Disney nirvana. But being the brilliant NDM that I am, I now determine to find a loophole that would allow my misstep to be corrected.
In bringing the matter to DH for discussion, I have an epiphany. While my children know that a pilgrimage to our holy land is in the future, they do not know when it is in our future. This gives me the opportunity to plan and discuss our trip with the children yet keep them in the dark concerning the date of departure. “But they will see you shopping and packing for the trip. There is no way that you can hide the preparations for a trip across four states,” DH asserts. “I won’t have to,” I retort, “I will simply tell them that we are taking a trip to visit my dad and step-mom. If I do that, I won’t even be lying since we are stopping overnight at their home.” DH tosses the idea over in his mind for a bit and agrees that it should work. The only catch is that it will be extremely difficult for Grammy to remain quiet on the matter. Keeping confidences is not her strong point. Unless I petition her immediately, it is highly probable that she will begin a countdown of some sort with my little ones through mail or by phone in an attempt to elicit excitement from them.
I hastily e-mail Grammy to notify her of our secret plans. My note clearly expresses the wish to keep the timing of our trip secret so that we can surprise the children. It also explains that she can feel free to discuss all the other particulars of the trip as long as talks about arrival are avoided. I then ask her not to reply to my e-mail in any form because DD7 has developed a habit of opening my mail and eavesdropping on all forms of communication. For this reason, she would most likely discover our conspiracy should we attempt to converse. I hit the “send” button, shipping my note to Grammy’s inbox, and diligently destroy all evidence of our correspondence.
Not long after the message is sent, the phone rings. It is Grammy. Apparently, the idea of surprising the kids enthuses her. She wants to discuss it with me. “I can’t really talk about it at the moment. There are little dwarves in my vicinity with perfect hearing capabilities,” I explain. “Oh, I know,” she continues, “but I am excited because the trip is closing in on us. What time of day will you be arriving?” I hear an extension get picked up. “Hello,” DD7 greets as she regularly does when she knows someone is on the phone. “Please hang up. Mommy is on the phone,” I instruct. A definitive click is heard through the receiver, and I persist in trying to make Grammy understand why I asked her not to contact me. “We can’t talk about any of this because we will be found out. Do you see how easily DD7 can catch a smidgen of our conversation? Everything will be ruined if she catches the wrong smidgen,” I present. “I just wanted to ask you that one little question,” she insists. I respond, “I don’t really know when we will arrive. That all depends on what time I can get DH to leave, whether we hit traffic on the way and how many potty stops we need to make.” Grammy requests, “Then call me on the way down when you know what time you will be there.” I clarify, “I don’t think that is a good idea. The kids will be in the van with me, and a phone call to you will tip them off. Let’s just both arrive when we can. I don’t see a need to synchronize our watches over this.”
Grammy gets a little frustrated because of my non-compliance with her request, but I have also become slightly frustrated with her non-compliance to mine. I sense that Grammy has put on her battle gear as she often does when she is not pleased. In turn, my guard goes up because this means Grammy may pull slick maneuvers, intending to subtly irritate me. It is a mild form of vengeance that Grammy has perfected, and it enables her to fly below the radar of “blatant manipulation” which would instigate a feud but still receive the pleasure of watching me squirm.
We end our conversation in a manner that is a little tense, and I find I am uneasy. It seems likely that a surprise attack from Grammy will now be in the works. It has become my responsibility to thwart that type of surprise, to be diligent in carrying out the one I had originally planned and to preserve the integrity of my 10th anniversary trip to WDW.
*for advice on managing relationships with friends and family who feel the need to rain on your Disney parade, contact NDM#1 at email@example.com