Tuesday, June 26, 2007

IS IT THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH?

When I was a child, I never went to Disneyland. Our vacations (Mom, Dad & Me...all my siblings were grown) consisted of driving across the country to visit relatives or following my Dad around entering Bass Fishing Tournaments. Exciting...I know.

Now I can't say that all my moments were memorable, but it seemed like the minute school got out we were off and traveling. My Dad hated traveling through any city above the population of 10,000 and my Mother was (and still is) the WORST back seat driver imaginable. We would travel hundreds of miles out of the way to avoid a city. This meant that I got to witness wondrous sites like the world's largest ceramic pickle and the entire state of Nebraska at 25 mph on the highway because the deer were so thick.

Now that we are traveling with the kids on a regular basis, every year Bubby and I discuss Disneyland. Every year we turn it down.

Bubby and I went to Disneyland as adults. At the time, we just had Ice-J and Christian. Bubby had a conference and I decided to tag along for fun. Aren't we the worst parents in the world? We went to Disneyland and DIDN'T take the kids.

The first morning we went down to breakfast, I clearly remember Bubby saying, "Why does Minnie Mouse keep coming over to our table? I just want to eat my fucking pancakes."

That night when we dined at some WAY over-priced version of a New Orleans Bayou inside the park, it was so dark you could barely see your food. All you could hear were crickets and see pretend fireflies lighting up in the dark. I ordered a glass of wine and the server said, "We don't serve alcohol at the Happiest Place On Earth." How could it possibly be the Happiest Place On Earth if I couldn't get a buzz after a day full of scary Disney characters, standing in line for hours and experiencing the most hokey underwater submarine ride that someone actually imagined?

The next day, I sat near the entrance just inside the park and watched the adults with their kids. No one looked very happy. Because the area when you first get in or leave the park is lined with Disney merchandise, all I heard were whines and cries from the kids. "MOMMY, I WANT THAAAATTT!" I have never in my life seen so many childhood meltdowns in one location in one day.

Sensory overload? Merchandise overload? Disney Character overload? What was it that left a bad taste in my mouth and why was everyone so freaking unhappy?

When weighing a vacation, I really want to fill my children's heads with information and wonder. I want them to learn about the Earth, other cultures, animals, cities and that Way Down In Mayberry is a very small slice of a town in a quiet state and that life is MUCH bigger than Mayberry. Can they get it at Disneyland? I haven't ruled it out yet, but when I think about educational and fun VS an expensive carnival, it starts to weigh heavy on my mind. Next week we fly to the Ocean with a week full of kite flying, treasure hunting, aquariums and just plain digging in the sand for hours on end. Hopefully in the process, they can see that the world is so much bigger than themselves. I know the Ocean with its overwhelming vastness always put things in to perspective for me.

Will my children have hours of couch time with a therapist as adults because we never took them to Disneyland?

What was your Disneyland experience as a child or what were your children's experience at Disneyland?

7 comments:

mist1 said...

I puked on Mickey.

Jennboree said...

I went to Disneyland when I was 18. With my parents. Need I say more?

Husband went to a conference in DisneyWorld and he was amazed. We'll put off taking the girls until 1) they beg, plead and poney up some allowance or 2) husband gets another conference with free room n' bored (did I say bored? Guess I meant board).

We have bigger plans to take the girls on much more meaningful vacations...like the beach.

john said...

i've never once been to disney. my parents couldn't afford it. and honestly, i not only didn't really miss it at the time (we had soooo much to do in the summer - being outside with all the neighborhood kids), but now i'm so beyond thankful i wasn't exposed to it.

enjoy your time at the ocean. i see it almost every day here on the east coast, and you're right - there's just something remarkable about its' vastness...

mistressofchange said...

I grew up in a family that had Disney vacations every other year for many years. As a kid, I really enjoyed it; I can't really knock it because it made for some fun family time.

Since those years, I've had the great fortune to travel the world (and still going) and I couldn't agree more that there is so much more out there (in the U.S. and beyond) that can be a lot more life-shaping than the It's a Small World ride.

I would never take back those Disney vacations, but there is much more important things to be seen in this world.

Viaggiatore said...

No surprise that you can count me in the 'go see the real world, not some sanitized facsimile of it' category!!

(When I was actually IN Venice and said to myself, 'wow ... this DOES look just like the Venetian in Las Vegas,' I died just a little inside)

cloudscome said...

I went to Disney the summer after high school, with my older sister. I don't ever want to take my kids. Buster's dad's parents took him when he was about 8. Fine. Buddy is already begging to go (at four) and I am not planning on giving in. I'd rather go camping, hiking, or to state parks and historic places.

I'm Just a Girl said...

I didn't go to Disney until I was 15. My Mom and I went together. Not exactly the experience that most kids have, but still fun. But I have been debating when (or if) to take The Boy there. For a long time I thought "We NEED to take him!" But really, why? So we can spend thousands of dollars on airfare, hotel, food, overpriced park tickets and toys that The Boy will play with for ten minutes in the hotel and then forget about?

Maybe it's time to re-think that plan!