Thursday, January 31, 2013

Disneyland makes me cry

If you are my friend on facebook or follow me on Instagram you probably already know I am at Disneyland this week. Today's our last day and, as all vacations with kids are, it has been the best of times and the worst of times.

I have a long history with the Land. When I was younger, my family would make an annual trip to Oceanside, California and stay in a beach house. One day of that vacation would be spent in Disneyland and I loved it. As a parent now, I don't know how my parents managed to drive 8 kids 800 miles and pay for a beach house and a day at Disneyland. But we loved it.

As a teenager, I fell in with a crowd of Disney fanatics. My friend Charlotte's family were Disney Obsessees. Her dad would work on a telethon that was filmed at Disneyland and they graciously invited me to to with them each year. We would go for a week at a time, or longer, and these were the days before California Adventure so we would spend 7 full days in the one park. We rode every ride, ate at every restaurant and cart and explored every shop, side street and back alley and soaked in all the great and amazing details. The details is what Disney does best.

I know some people (my Dad) don't really love the Land. The lines are too long. The prices are too high. The rides aren't thrilling enough. But for me, it's like a giant work of art. Every moment and detail there is choreographed to elicit the most joy and fun. The music matches the area you are in. The paint colors on the walls and the colors that would have been used when they area of America was built. Even the ground and plants are different throughout the park to enhance the theme. I love it all and my oldest is starting to point things out to me. "Look Dad! Those benches look like they are made of Popsicle sticks! Dad, it smells like cookies on main street!" A future Disney nerd is born.

So whenever I am here with my kids, I get emotional. A lot. I'm that Dad. It makes me so happy to see a things that brought me so much joy and happiness as a kid do the same thing for my kids. I cried three times the first day. (Once on Star Tours, because my boys were JUST SO HAPPY.) All week long I have seen my daughter wave to and say hello to every character we pass like they are her best friends. And yesterday I watched my middle son, who has Asperger's and anxiety issues, wave his hands to be chosen to do Jedi training. He stood patiently to get his light saber and listened to his Jedi master and followed the instructions, neither of which comes easily to him. I got to see him fight Darth Maul while his little sister (who thinks most rides are "too scawy.") dueled Darth Vader. And they both won.

Charlotte's mom, Adrienne, who was the mother of all our Disney trips as teenagers told me a story once. We were off being awesome teenagers and riding rides and she was by herself and was sitting at the Plaza Inn watching the parade. That year, it was a Lion King parade and there was a segment where the performers would hand out drums and rattles to the kids in the crowd to help them make the music. Adrienne told us how touched she was as she watched all these young moms and dads reach down and help their little ones play the drums. And in the background the characters were singing "The Circle of Life." Because of course they were (it's all in the details!!)

I think of that story a lot now that I am the dad, trying to help my kids have fun and discover all the things I loved about this place when I was their age. And yes, I balk a little bit when I have to pay $7 for a corn dog (I've got a little bit of my dad in me too.) But its worth it when I hear my boys laughing at the end of Space Mountain, or see my daughter hugging Snow White, who's always been her favorite. Or see my sons holding hands as they walk down the street. And yes, all of those things have made me tear up this week. It's just what Disney does to me.

I blogged about my favorite things to eat at Disneyland last year. Check it out!
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