We went to Disney World. With a two and a half year old.
Blog post done.
OK. A little more:
To prepare, we gave Nico an intro course on Disney and its enduring influence in our world. This is because the only Disney movie she’s ever seen was Frozen, and Disney hasn’t yet created a Frozen ride.
So we watched five minutes YouTube clips of Dumbo. Five minutes of Peter Pan. Five minutes of Beauty and the Beast. Etc.
Nico’s response? “Pobre Dumbo!” (Poor Dumbo!) We had accidentally showed her the scene where the circus masters take Dumbo’s mom away from him.
The next day, we all got up early and tried to be enthusiastic (to be fair Marta and her mom really were enthusiastic: they’ve never been to Disney World either). We planned to get to the park at 8 when it opened, but we were running late and got there at 8:30.
At which point we entered our first of many lines: a line of cars waiting to pay $20 to park.
The parking attendant took our $20 and handed back our receipt. “Have a Magical Day,” she said with absolutely no enthusiasm in her voice.
We parked and then waited in a line to get our tickets to enter the park, another line to get on a bus to take us to the real park, another line to get a $15 rental stroller because we’d accidentally left Nico’s at home, and then another line to get on our first ride: the carousal.
There were about 40 of us waiting for the next carousal ride. Nico was mildly excited about the horses. I was determined to get one on the outside row so that Marta could get a picture of Nico mildly excited on a horse. Apparently, other parents were thinking the same thing, because as soon as the two gates opened to let us out to find empty horses, there was mad dash, complete with pushing and shoving.
I ran toward one outside horse and another mother grabbed it out from under me. I spotted another one, but a father already had his hand on its mane. I was just about to give up and downgrade to an inner circle horse when that same father apparently found a better horse for his child and took off. I grabbed the outside mare, swung Nico into her saddle, and and scooted in behind her. Success!
And so it went.
We went on the Peter Pan ride. On the Little Mermaid ride. On the Winnie the Poo ride. All of which are basically variations of the same ride. There is some sort of vehicle on tracks, be it a honey pot or a seashell, and it moves through a recreation of the world from one movie or another. My favorite was Peter Pan because we got to “fly.” Marta and her mom were impressed by how “realistic” the Little Mermaid was. Nico most of the time looked like this:
Not that she didn’t like Disney. She seemed to really enjoy parts of it. But it also often overwhelmed her (crazy I know) and rather than smile under the weight of so much “magic,” she stared blankly into space with a look that we might call funereal. She was probably the most visibly happy when we were in the stuffed animal store and she got to hold different character dolls. Second most happy when we spotted Winnie the Poo and Tigger walking around (she called them Winnie Caca y su amigo).
We followed Winnie and Tigger, as one does, and in doing so we realized they were going somewhere for a meet and greet (apparently this is a normal thing at Disney: it’s called a “character greeting appearance.” For more about this really really odd phenomenon, read this blog post.
So we followed them and realized there was a line to get a picture with them. It was relatively short and we were taking a lunch break, so I suggested we get in line. Nico liked the idea. She almost smiled. So we all got in line. And unlike other lines at Disney (which move really quickly) this line did not budge.
I didn’t think anything off it at first. But then I looked over at Poo and Tigger and saw someone handing them a book and them both singing that book. Marta was watching also. The book owners took their signed books back and beamed. They then stood for more pictures with Poo and Tigger. They got hugs from first one animal and then the other. This happened again and again. And often it wasn’t with kids. There were adults waiting in line to get pictures, to get their books signed, to get long hugs from Poo and Tiger.
Marta joked that maybe it was some sort of therapy and I realized she was right. The adults waiting in line for their hugs went away from their “experience” with Winnie and Tigger with the biggest grins on their faces. They were genuinely happy. I was almost jealous of how it easy it was for them. Watching their odd joy was my favorite part of the day.
My second favorite moment was when Nico took a nap. Marta and her mom went to wait 45 minutes to board the Haunted Mansion ride and I volunteered to walk Nico’s stroller, with her sleeping in it, around the park. I walked the whole park, from Tomorrowland to Adventureland and back again, and I realized that it really is something. Maybe not magical, but something.
There are four-year-olds in princess dresses and gaudy makeup with tears streaming down their faces. There are families of six, all wearing the same t-shirt (“Franklin Family Christmas” or “First Time at Disney” or “We Love Belle”). There are also riverboats and trains and waterfalls and castles and turkeylegs on a stick and people talking any and every language and it was a beautiful 60 degrees out on the second day of the new year and I was alone for the first time since the Christmas holidays had begun. I wasn’t as happy as those Tigger and Poo huggers, but I was content.
The next day, we all went to a market and community garden in Orlando and Nico was visibly happy in a way she never was at Disney. She smelled everything, including the cacti, and hugged a tree.
Which is not to say that I regret our trip to Disney. It seems like a rite of passage: taking your child to Disney. And now I’ve had that rite. We can move on to other things.