Whoever said that Disney World is the happiest place in the world where dreams come true never went there with my two kids.
Let’s start at the beginning:
My kids have been begging me to visit Grammy Sixty-Seven for years. Camp was ending with three weeks of nothingness looming before them so I said, why not? I booked the flight, packed three carry-, ons, and waited for our day of travel.
I white-knuckled it about two hours into the Jet Blue flight before finally ordering a small bottle o’ calm. My $6.00 friend-in-a-bottle soothed my rattled flying-nerves enough so that when we landed in steamy Ft. Lauderdale, I felt ready for the week ahead.
Or, so I thought.
It all started off pleasant enough: we were greeted by a thrilled Sixty-Seven and her side-kick, Forty-Seven. We had some dinner, had some drinks, and settled in. The following day was spent by the pool as my skin sizzled and the kids swam with Auntie Forty-Seven.
What to do tomorrow? I thought. Surely, we can’t just swim every day. We can swim at home in NY. So, I informed Sixty-Seven that the next day, we were packin’ it up and heading out to see Mickey and friends.
The next morning I was greeted by two very unhappy looking people that resembled my children. We threw the bags in the trunk, brought a bag of snacks for the three -hour ride, buckled up, and headed out.
The ‘are-we-there yets’ started as we pulled out of Sixty-Seven’s parking lot.
Thirty-Nine: “We’re going to Disney World, damn it. It’s fun!”
Tired mumbles and Nintendo DS noises responded.
Now typically, I don’t drive anywhere that’s not just a quick jump onto the Meadowbrook or more than a half hour away, never mind driving in an unfamiliar state for three hours with two children and a mother who has no highway experience. Oh, and not a written direction in sight.
Thirty-Nine: “Do you know how to get there?”
Sixty-Seven: “Yeah, sort of.”
Just know that this came from a woman who can find anywhere in the US by taking side roads but yet, (as I found out the last day of Disney) needed to write down four words of direction on a scrap of paper just to get to the street out of the resort. “Turn right on Victory Lane.” Anyway…
The driving part turned out to be simple- straight down the Florida Turnpike- but the drama in the backseat conjured up an image of my dead father yelling at me, Forty-Two, and Forty-Seven on the way to our yearly summer visits to Montauk. My eyes were bulging and the veins in my head pulsating; all I needed was an unfiltered Camel hanging out of the corner of my mouth.
Thirty-Nine: “Shut up back there. I’m not driving three hours to Disney for you two while listening to this shit the entire ride there.
Where’s a bottle o’calm when you need one? Why aren’t they excited to go on the fucking Mad Hatter’s Tea Ride? Whose stupid idea was it to go to Disney?
When we got to our All Star Music resort, everyone was walking around, smiling brightly while handing out Mickey Mouse stickers and Disney pins. Everyone who greeted us was optimistic that we’d have a magical day. When we departed the Customer Relations area a half hour later with reassurance that my five-year old hopper passes were still usable, and with twenty five stickers and four My First Trip to Disney pins, their voices echoed behind us to have a magical day. The idea of having a magical day seemed unfathomable to me since these people hadn’t been in the car ride all the way there, but I wanted to believe I would.
When we got there, I decided that magical seemed too strong a word to associate with our day so far. As I forced Twelve to go on the Mad Hatter’s Tea Ride, all I hoped for was to have an unviolent day, or just a day that didn’t include law enforcement, hair-pulling, name-calling or medication of any type. We sat down and I immediately asked Twelve not to spin fast, since I’m old and had more potential to vomit. Twelve spun the fuck out of the tea cup anyway. I yelled. Seven got dizzy. Twelve got pissed.
I wobbled off and headed to the Haunted Mansion, telling Seven it’s fun more than scary. She seemed good with that, seemed being the operative word.
As we finally got to the black doors that we waited twenty minutes for, standing in four individual pools of sweat, Seven tore away in fear. I couldn’t help it: all of Magic Kingdom heard my rage over her cries of terror. We plunked our asses down outside, my inner, immature-self refusing to talk to an uncontrollably crying, yet apologetic, Seven. I envied the people coming off the ride, all happy with their stupid Disney dreams coming true. But when I saw little three and four-year olds coming out completely unscathed and without a hint of fear in their eyes, potentially scarring them for life, I pretty much folded my arms, stomped my feet, and pouted while I waited for my other brat to come out.
Seven: “Boo-hoo. Boo-hoooooooooooooooooooo”
Thirty-Nine, close to tears and forgetting for a moment that I was, in fact, an adult: “It’s my favorite ride! It’s NOT scary! STOP CRYING!”
(I know one of you out of my small reading audience is saying what a mean, horrible bitch-of-a-mother I must be. To you I say… shut the fuck up). Onward….
After what seemed like an unmagical eternity in hell later, Twelve and Sixty-Seven came back. I dragged Twelve back onto the twenty minute line, and finally got my ridiculous ride that was now tainted by my guilt. The fun had already been sucked out of it by Seven. But Sixty-Seven took her to see the parade anyway while I jumped onto the moving, little black car, and swirled through the Haunted Mansion with the hitch-hiking ghosts, simultaneously reminiscing about being on that ride with my dad, Forever Fifty-Two, thirty years ago. It made me forget what an asshole I had been to my annoying, yet pathetically cute, sobbing child, even if just for a few moments.
By the time we got off, Sixty-Seven looked drippy and irritated. Apparently, while I was trying desperately to find a second or two of enjoyment, Seven had been displaying her infuriatingly strong, and obviously heat resistant will to my mother. According to Sixty-Seven, my child glared at her through a mass of oh, I don’t know, one million people closing in around her, seemingly unaffected by the fear of getting lost or snatched up. I mean, really, I can totally understand her crazed fear of scary fake corpses in a fake haunted mansion while her mother would have held her hand. I mean, that is way, way scarier than standing in the midst of millions of weird, sweaty, smelly strangers wearing mouse ears.
After yelling at her to obey her grandma and giving my people-are-crazy-and-can-snatch-you-away-forever speech, we left the area to find some other kind of torture. My mother and I walked around grumbling how we were both shocked that my kids seemed to be the only ones on the planet that seemed to hate Disney. I replayed everything in my head from the night before to that moment, trying to see where I went wrong when I offered to take my kids to a fun place. I had prodded them into the car that morning, excited for them, and for me. I felt like a good Mama, trying to make the last of their summer break fun, happy, and enjoyable. I had been intent on overcoming my fear of driving three-plus hours on an unfamiliar highway in an unfamiliar state, which I did, and I got us all there in one piece, thank God. But almost from the moment we saw that sign welcoming us to Walt Disney World, Where Dreams Come True, I saw only misery on their faces and heard nothing but complaints.
Anyway, the day continued like that. All day. All fucking day. And after cursing and yelling at unruly children in the happiest fucking place on earth, my former tingly feelings about being a good Mama dissolved into, where did I go wrong and why are my children so ungrateful?
We flew around on Aladdin’s ridiculous carpet for all of thirty seconds, grabbed a $40 freakin’ basket of chicken fingers, but, alas, we at least all finally agreed that The Pirates of the Caribbean was acceptable to all of us. The Buzz Lightyear ride was the hands-down winner of the hateful day, which we topped off with A Small World.
As we were leaving the park, Twelve and Seven decided that they needed snacks. Succumbing to the pressure of non-stop whining, I spent $6.50 on an ice pop, an ice cream, and a small dose of just shut the hell up. Then I just watched as the ices melted down their arms anyway.
Vendor: “Can I get you something, too?”
Worn and Weary Thirty-Nine: “No, thanks.”
Vendor: “I’ll give it to you free, just because you’re a great mom.”
Now, venom is sooooo not allowed in a place where princesses and happy, yet, ginormous mice, dogs and ducks wander around inviting joyful children to join them for photo-ops, but I had been feeling venomous all day. But just because you’re a great mom sounded so nice, so welcome, so completely Disney-ish and an unexpected departure from the nasty crap I had been hearing all day. He didn’t whine when he said it, or complain about anything, nor did he sneer at me. And this, coming from a complete stranger who didn’t know that I was on the verge of cursing out my children several hours ago. This, from a guy wearing a ridiculous get-up forced on him and others like him throughout the park who normally I’d be laughing at if I had any more venom left, but strangely enough, in that moment, I didn’t. The exhaustion of defeat had just about dissipated, all because some dude in a red and white striped costume offered me a free $4.00 cup of soda and a pleasant, if totally unfounded, compliment.
Thirty-Nine, (totally allowing this stranger’s kind words to seep into whatever part of my spirit had not been crushed, which was miniscule): “Um, a Diet Coke, please?”
He handed me my drink and I walked away, ignoring my arguing children and their sour, red, melting faces. The fact that he didn’t have any alcohol handy to spike my beverage somehow didn’t even bother me, either. My lip twitched. I almost smiled.
Maybe I left Disney without having a “magical day” as I was oft told to do, and maybe my dreams didn’t come true because they were crushed to death by my children’s utter dislike and disappointment, but at least I didn’t leave there dehydrated.