I read something today that got under my skin. A blog post (which I will not link to) which spoke of some people’s “addiction” to Disney, and compared it to an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Okay, maybe that wasn’t the point of the blog post, but it still irked me, because it reeked of judgement. And I felt the need to defend myself. Brace yourself, it’s gonna be a long one.
I grew up in a family of five children, four very active, younger brothers and myself. We didn’t have a lot of money. We survived on one blue-collar salary while my mom went to school to become a nurse. She started when I was very young and graduated from nursing school when I was in college. It wasn’t easy. Once she started working things got better financially, of course, but I was already up and out of the house. Needless to say, we didn’t take vacations. It was a big deal if we went to McDonald’s. I can count on one hand the times we went to a local amusement park or carnival. We went to Six Flags as a family once. We packed our lunch in a cooler and ate in the parking lot to save money. It was a big deal.
Fast forward to my 20s. I worked as a secretary and was invited to help out at a convention in Anaheim, California. The convention center was walking distance from Disneyland. I spent about 3 hours there with some friends. I went on Pirates, Matterhorn Mountain, Space Mountain and, of course, Small World. And I saw Fantasmic. I was in my 20’s, yes, but felt that joy and excitement as if I was 7 years old. It was thrilling. I told myself that someday I’d go back and see more. So when we were talking honeymoon plans, I picked Florida. I wanted to see Walt Disney World. We had a blast. It was June, it was hot, it was awesome. I truly did feel like a little kid. And I figured that someday, when we had kids of our own, we’d bring them back.
I didn’t think about it much for a while after that. Three children later, after listening to some friends talk about their trips, we finally took the leap. I was nervous. You see, my middle son, who is 8 now, is on the Autism spectrum. He has big time issues with noises. Where on Earth is there a place noisier than Disney? And the plane ride? I was scared he’d lose it before we even got there, and we’d be kicked off the plane and on the 10 o’clock news. He couldn’t verbalize well back then, he was around 4 1/2 years old, and had a really hard time with language. At the time he was about a year into a full-day intensive special education program. We weren’t sure what kind of progress he was going to make with language. We were unsure about a lot of things then. But we booked the trip, and off we went.
Let’s just say, they don’t call Walt Disney World the most magical place on earth for nothing. Not only did my son enjoy himself, and every second of that trip, he exceeded my wildest expectations. He found his voice. He bravely stood in line and wanted to try as many rides as they would allow him on. He sat through shows, noisy restaurants, fireworks, you name it. And when we came home, he TALKED about it. For days. With whoever would listen. Just look at this face.
There it is. Joy.
Of course, my daughter and younger son enjoyed themselves, too. Very much. As did my husband, who after the very first day started talking about going back. I knew we made the right choice in going. And we’ve been back three times since. Four times in four years. The blogger I spoke of earlier said she knew of families from her “former life as a suburban soccer mom” (guess she’s not anymore) who went every year, and never take their kids anywhere else. So far, the only other place we’ve been outside of our state is the state next door. And for now, that’s okay. Most of my friends laugh along with me when I say that I don’t need to go to Europe, ’cause Epcot has an Eiffel Tower. I joke, of course. Someday I do hope to visit other places. But not now. Right now this is what we love. We enjoy the time we spend there as a family. We see something new each time. It’s not just the rides and the characters that define our trips. There are lots of little things. Every single meal we eat together, which is next to impossible at home. Sitting on a bench, people watching, sharing popcorn, laughing about something we saw or heard earlier. Holding my husband’s hand for more than two seconds while we walk through the parks, watching the kids bouncing ahead of us. Yes, all of these things could happen at so many other places. And someday, sometime, they likely will. But there’s something about this place that makes us all so happy, right now. All of us. Together.
We’re skipping our trip to Disney this year, for lots of different reasons. And we’re all a little sad about it, but we are looking forward to next year. The kids often talk about the things they want to see and do next time. And there will be a next time. And most likely, a time after that.
I don’t think what I have is an addiction. It is a love, for sure. Right now it’s a love that I share with my wfamily. It’s not on my mind constantly. I am always willing to talk about it, and I love when people ask me for trip planning advice. Do I have a secret dream of someday moving to Florida and becoming an annual passholder? Yes. Am I packing my bags today? Of course not. There’s real-life stuff to deal with. School and therapy and meetings and teaching my kids about life. Disney is an escape for us. It’s also a place where my son can do all of the same things that all of the “typical” kids do. They all have fun. I don’t need to hold him back. He knows exactly what to do.
Everybody has something. Some people like to follow old British pop stars around the country, they find something meaningful there. What makes your books, or music, or travel plans better or more meaningful than mine? Perhaps you’re envious. Not of my life, per se, but of the fact that I am happy with my life. I don’t need to move halfway across the country to find what I’m looking for. My idea of a happy family and quality time spent with them may be different from yours. I don’t judge. Whatever makes you happy. Leave my happy alone.
So yes, I drink the Kool-Aid. And I do it proudly from my refillable resort mug. So back off.