Disney-driven Observations on Parenting

I get to come to HR Florida this year, which will be awesome. We’re using the chance for some Orlando time to do a couple of Disney days. Fun! And, of course, I can never turn off my Human Development brain. Particularly as it relates to parenting.

Disney, and theme parks in general, are some rocky shoals in family dynamics. I’m not saying everyone I saw was like the below, but a lot of crap was going down in a lot of families at the House that the Mouse built.

It appeared that often a parent or both parents had some very specific agenda in mind, mostly around something they didn’t get to do when they were a kid, something they loved doing when they were a kid, or something a coworker or friend said was cool. They approached the day in full task mode, doing whatever it takes to make sure they get to check every box, ride every ride, MAXIMIZE their experience. After all, a day at Disney doesn’t come cheap.

And the kids? The kids just hung on. I saw less joy at Disney yesterday than I see at your average playground. Or your average shopping mall. Or hell, your average schoolyard. The parents were oblivious until a shortie started whining, unable to keep up, resist temptation for some shiny object they’d passed for the 10th time, or just walk much further. The kids who were ignored in the whining round escalate to full-contact meltdowns with real flair. From afar, it was truly great performance art.

Then the scolding began. I heard people talk to their kids yesterday in tones and words I wouldn’t use on my dog. Lots of little hands being jerked along by a rushing parent, lots of cajoling a tired and scared child to create the perfect photo op with some character or another, lots of adult whining about why the Little wants to ride a ride that’s “too baby” and has a long line.

This is supposed to be the happiest place on earth. And these parents love their kids no less than I love my own. I’m sure they’re mature adults who pay their bills, work hard, and take care of their communities, back home. But anticipation and advertising got the best of them. They got caught up in their own anxieties and desires, and forgot that it’s not supposed to be the happiest place on earth for them, but for their children.

You know what the the happiest place on earth is, in my mind? The space between my child and I when we are looking right into each other’s eyes. So today: we’re going slow. We’ll see what we see, do what we do, but we won’t rush it. And we won’t stay one minute past her over-stimulation point, even if it means we miss the fireworks or the Electric Parade. Because Disney will always be there, but her childhood won’t.

Not my kid, but she's a cutie, huh?

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