We’re doing it: We’re going to Disney World after four kids and ten years of begging. When I informed my kids — via a Mickey Mouse ornament that I wrapped and stuck under the tree, totally confusing them about the timing of this trip — they were overcome with excitement and joy. And I was pretty excited, too. But now that the dust has settled and I have started preparing for the details of our journey, I’ve decided that a big pep talk is in order. And I don’t mean with my kids. I mean with myself. I need to get my head on straight and set some expectations. So here are a few rules I will try to live by as I take my kids to meet Mickey for the first time.
Traveling will be a nightmare.
I will repeat this mantra from the time we get into our car leaving our house until the time we arrive inside the AirBnB because the 30-minute drive to the airport, followed by the security line, a three-hour flight, and then a wait at baggage claim with my four kids will surely be something out of a Stephen King novel. My kids will be excited and tired and confined to small spaces for too long, so I must change my expectations for the day. Basically, anything other than a complete bloodbath will simply have to be counted as a win. I know some kids will happily stare at an iPad or color in an activity book for most of these travel hours — and how nice for their parents. Mine will undoubtedly fight over the best seat, the armrests, the volume of each other’s voices, snack preference, and anything else they can possibly think of. I will accept this and, in so doing, find peace.
No one will be patient in lines.
Genie+ this, Individual Lightening Lane that — I know Disney is still, ultimately, the land of lines. Even when my kids aren’t waiting for hours to hop aboard a flying animatronic cartoon character, they will definitely be waiting several minutes. And because I have the type of children who are accustomed to instant gratification (I blame society and also myself), I know I will be in for a lot of complaining in line. So rather than call them spoiled brats, I am preparing to lead them through it with little games and questions, with a backup plan of ignoring them entirely.
They will ask for more even when they have had plenty.
This applies to snacks, rounds of rides, gift shop memorabilia, and everything in between. Because while we may preach a less-is-more mantra at home (or at least try to), we (the adults) have brought them to the land of gluttony, where every single thing looks more magical than the last. Asking children to have reasonable restraint or logic while we are there is, therefore, just plain silly. Instead, I will be patient when they act greedy or ungrateful. I will not give in, but I will understand that they are kind of being set up, and I will do my best to remember that their Disney actions are not always am authentic reflection of their character.
And speaking of gratefulness, I will remember that their gratefulness will not be relative to my effort or spending. Yes, our seven day excursion is being paid for by months and months of very hard work by my husband and I. But I can’t expect my young children to understand that truly. The youngest can’t even add yet. I can’t expect them to shower me with thank yous the entire time we’re there because they do not actually understand the magnitude of the trip and the effort that was put forth to make it happen. (Not just the money, but the planning, too. Dear god, there is so much planning.) Instead, my husband and I will acknowledge with one another the hard work that went into this trip to take the pressure off the reactions of some young kids to validate the whole thing.
Late afternoons and evenings will be hard.
Traveling, theme parks, sugary food, and unfamiliar sleep settings, add it all up, and it’s a perfect recipe for very exhausted kids. So, I will schedule less in the afternoon and do my best to be patient when they whine and meltdown. And I’ll rent a stroller — maybe even a wagon — for anyone who needs to tap out.
And most importantly, I will remember that it will be worth it. The mayhem of travel, the fighting in line, the complaining when I won’t buy the second forty-five dollar set of Minnie’s ears, and the late afternoon meltdown… it will all be worth it for the memories we will make as a family in a place we have never been together. It will be messy and frustrating and downright imperfect in moments, but there will be glimmers of Disney magic that will last us a lifetime. And I’m gonna hold onto those forever.
Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.