Thursday, October 4, 2012

The First Taste, Part Two: Where is the Magic?

"We're going to Disney World!!!!"  For months, I had been dreaming of saying these five words to our children.  This should have been one of the best moments of their childhoods.  We'd seen it on TV; they should have fainted, or at least shed some tears, right?  Instead, their response was only slightly more enthusiastic than the typical reaction I get from them when I make pancakes for dinner.  By the time we reached the airport, however, I had adjusted my expectations.  I had come to the realization that my children had no reference point for what to expect from Disney World, so it was unlikely that their reactions would be full of the joyous frenzy I had anticipated.  But I had also decided to cherish every moment of this vacation because I knew that this would be the only time that we would go to Disney World for the first time.  Would my kids lose all control over their bodily functions when they laid eyes on Cinderella Castle?  Probably not.  But I was confident that there would be quiet moments of innocent wonder that I would always remember.   

On the plane, I began to focus on the exciting day that lay ahead.  We would land in Orlando, the sun blazing in the sky.  We would check into our first hotel, the Wilderness Lodge (more on the "first" part in a later post--worst idea, ever, by the way), change into our bathing suits, and jump into the pool.  After a delicious dinner where we would enthusiastically discuss all of our magical plans for the next four days, we would crawl into bed at a reasonable hour so that we would all be refreshed and ready to hit the parks in the morning.  I held my breath as our plane touched down at Orlando International Airport.  I looked out the window, ready to revel in the gorgeous...rain???? A downpour, to be more accurate.  Oh well, I thought.  It's Florida.  It rains every afternoon for an hour or so.  Then it stops.  Six hours later, as I stared at the still-weeping skies from inside our hotel room, I was no longer convinced of the storm's short duration.  

"What NOW?????????" two whiny voices demanded from behind me.  I turned around and studied the grumpy faces of my children, trying hard not to be annoyed by the near-constant complaining that had dominated the last six hours.  The dinner that I had imagined would inaugurate our vacation with great fanfare was less than magical, to say the least.  The restaurant was so noisy that we could barely talk, Sadie didn't like anything on the menu, and Jack could not sit still.  Our visit to the arcade had quickly degenerated, melting down into two child-size puddles named Jack and Sadie.  What is the matter with these kids? I found myself thinking.  I had accepted that they were not going to be overwhelmed with joy at every second on our trip, but come on, we're at Disney World!!  I thought.  So what if we can't go swimming?  This is supposed to be the most magical place on earth!!!!!  Where was the magic????

"Let's go," I heard my husband announce, pulling me out of my self-pity and preventing a near imminent mental breakdown.  "We're going on an adventure."

For a moment, I thought he had completely lost his mind.  "Um, it's raining," I pointed out.  "Where could we possibly be going?"

"Somewhere quiet," he answered.

Making our own (quiet) magic
So off we went to explore the less-populated areas of our resort, discovering little treasures along the way.  Who knew that, behind our hotel, expertly-crafted topiaries dotted covered walkways?  I never imagined that Sadie would be so thrilled to have her picture taken with Mickey for the first time, at least not with a Mickey who didn't move and was made out of, well, a bush.  And who would have thought that finding all of the hidden Mickey silhouettes in the carpet and on the hallway walls would provide almost a solid hour of entertainment for Jack?

Before we knew it, bedtime was upon us, and I had learned another valuable lesson.   When you first arrive at Disney World, your children may be grumpy.  Resist the temptation to swear to yourself that you will never ever take them on another vacation again!  Try to understand that they are just kids.  This morning, they were comfortable in their own beds; tonight, they are adjusting to a brand-new place.  Heck, you are adjusting to a brand-new place.  Allow yourselves times to decompress.  Think twice before making reservations at the most boisterous, high-energy restaurant on property.  Instead, consider setting off on an adventure, exploring your surroundings and taking pleasure in the little surprises that Disney offers.  Above all, at least for a few moments, be spontaneous---even if, like me, it goes against your very nature!  Which brings me to the most memorable part of our evening.

When we got back to our hotel room, Jack looked at us with his big, brown eyes and pleaded, "Guys, do we have time for just a little swim?"  I looked out the window: it was still raining, but barely.  It was dark, but the pool was still open for another hour or so.  On the other hand, I had wanted to get the kids to bed early...

Fifteen minutes later, I was spinning my laughing daughter around in the pool and hearing my son scream with delight as he flew through the air in a cannonball, the warm rain softly falling on the inky water all around us.  My husband and I looked at each other and smiled.  And I realized that the magic had been there all along.  We just had to relax enough to let it in.

Finding magic in the little things


The Magic Minus the Mayhem

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