One of every parent’s worst fears is that someday their child will say or do something so despicable that it will bring shame to the family name. Others in the community will look at them and say, “What kind of parents raise such children?” This happened to my wife and me on our recent trip to Walt Disney World.
We were about midway through our two-week vacation, and already planning our next trip. I’m sure you do it, too. “Next time, we’ll have to make sure to do this attraction, since it was closed this trip.” “Let’s eat at that restaurant next time.” “Would you like to try this resort next time?” I asked my daughter one of these questions, I can’t remember which one, when she responded, “Can’t we go somewhere besides Disney World next year?”
Now, my daughter is 16 and teenagers being how they are, I figured this was just another sign of her rebelling against her parents, like when she wanted to get her boyfriend’s name tattooed to her hip, or that time she wanted to drop out of school and follow a rock band around the country. I ignored her and turned to my 11-year old son, “How about you? You’re not tired of going to Disney World, are you?”
“Well, we go every year. It might be nice to go somewhere else next year.”
I could barely hear the thump as my wife hit the ground. My head was spinning, but I managed to stand upright with the help of a nearby handrail. Oh, no. Not my son, too! Not my little guy who read a biography of Walt Disney for fourth grade. Not the one who dominates at Disney Scene It. This couldn’t be happening.
Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought. “So, are you saying you’d like to try Disneyland next year?”
“No,” said my daughter. “Why not the beach? My friends go to the beach every year.”
“Well, we could take a Disney cruise.” I helpfully offered. “They have a beach at Castaway Cay.”
“No. A whole week at the beach. No parks or anything.”
The beach ?!? Really? We had a beach right at the Polynesian. “No. We’re not going to the beach. It’s boring.”
“Could we go to New York City or Washington, D.C.?”
This time, it was my wife who put her foot down. “No way. Going to a big city like that in the middle of summer wouldn’t be relaxing. That’s not a vacation for your Daddy and me.”
“We could go to France,” my son said.
“Yeah,” his sister chimed in. “One of my friends did a tour of France, Belgium and England last year.”
“Why would we do that? We can see Britain, France, Italy, and Germany in one afternoon at Epcot!”
“No, Dad! The real countries.”
I was reeling and unable to think straight. I had to play a parent card. “We’ll discuss this later.”
For the rest of the trip, my wife and I talked in hushed tones when the kids were in the pool or in a different ride vehicle. “What brought that on?” “Do you think they’re serious?” “I don’t think I can make it a year without a trip to Disney World.”
We also tried to figure out where we went wrong. We raised our kids right. They watched Disney movies, both at the theater and at home. We played Disney games for family game night. We had Disney-themed birthday parties. My daughter’s been to Disney World eight times, my son seven.
Now, I can see how some kids might not want to go to Disney World. Their parents don’t plan the trip. They stand in line for 45 minutes for a two minute ride. The restaurants they want to go to are full. Their parents complain about how much they’re paying for this trip. With no midday break, someone melts down by 5:00 p.m., usually a parent. This isn’t our family. My kids don’t stand in line more than 15 minutes for any ride (except Toy Story Midway Mania, and there’s just no getting around that). They get a break from the heat to play in the pool or enjoy the air conditioning. Sure, we get up early to make rope drop, but we always build in at least one day to just hang at the resort, sleep in, and relax.
How could they be tired of Disney World!
Did we overdo it—expose them to too much Disney? Can you really do that? Are the 6:00 a.m. wakeups to get ready for rope drop too much? We can always shift to afternoon/late night touring. Have we spoiled them too much? Should we return all the souvenirs they’d bought this trip?
Maybe it wasn’t anything we did. Other Neurotic Disney Parents have kids who love Disney World as much as they do. Lots of families visit even more than once a year. Our kids must be defective. I wondered if they were still under warranty. Maybe we could trade them in for some new kids. I figured it was too late for my daughter, but I should be able to get at least a partial refund on my son.
I’ll admit, my promise to discuss this later was a lie. I didn’t want to talk about it. For the rest of the trip, out of habit, my wife and I would still plan our next trip. I saw signs of my son cracking, like when he mentioned that the Enchanted Tiki Room would be open next year. Yes! There was hope. Divide the children and conquer. If worse came to worse, we could send our daughter to reform school for a week and just take our son. I know it’s ugly to think about, but sometimes you have to cut your losses.
For our last day at Disney World, the kids stayed at the Polynesian. My wife and I went to Magic Kingdom alone. Normally, this would be a welcome treat. But the whole time, the cloud of our kids’ betrayal hung over us. When we returned for our midday break, they had been discussing next year’s vacation options.
We hoped that this was just a phase they were going through that would pass. But after getting home, they brought it up again. They seem to be in agreement on Europe, particularly France. “Well, I have always wanted to visit Paris,” my wife said meekly. Et tu, Brutus? Et tu?
Then it hit me. We can have our cake and eat it, too. There’s Disneyland Paris! Go to France, see the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, yada, yada, yada. And then, three days at Disneyland Paris. The incredible castle with the dragon. The Jules Verne-inspired Space Mountain. The subtle European-inspired differences in Haunted Mansion. Smoking in the restaurants. Maybe, just maybe, this will satisfy the kids’ desire to say that we went somewhere besides Disney World for vacation, while not really leaving Disney’s world of entertainment.
Contributed by: Mark Jeffries (NDD#102) Mark is the DDL Finance Blogger.