Lately I’ve been feeling frustrated about the parts of my life that are out of my control. I found out I was caught up with one of my clinics at work so I took Thursday and Friday off to take R to Disneyland.
It felt a little counterintuitive. Disneyland is not a recharge-your-batteries kind of place for me and doing it as a solo parent with a 3-year-old takes some stamina. Also (I’ve gotta suspicion that other parents feel this at times) I had been on my heels with River for the past couple of weeks. Sometimes it feels like he just cannot get enough of me, enough attention, physical contact, conversation, playing, snuggles, etc. I can’t get ahead of it and I end up feeling overwhelmed and in constant retreat. I don’t like showing up this way as a parent so deciding to spend two days 100% together?…a little crazy.
But, I had a vision. R is barely tall enough to ride some of the bigger rides, rides that are more fun for me. So I was planning to do some of these. I also decided to splurge on a hotel, instead of driving up and back in one day, and a character breakfast (where the characters come by and greet you as you eat). This made it feel a little more like a getaway and we were both excited! So let’s go back to Thursday morning.
Theme parks are theme parks. They stress me out. I really try to play it cool but I already find myself getting frustrated in the bathroom of the parking garage because R is opting to spend a few minutes playing in the water in the sink rather than going to Disneyland! I see the irony here. I’m trying to be present and he is actually present (in the bathroom sink albeit).
R’s favorite place is Cars Land so we go there first. We march up to the Cars ride, which he should be newly just tall enough to ride. He is less than a finger width too short. Seriously. They’re not letting him in. That means he is too short for this ride and all the others I envisioned doing. Does’t that fluffy hair count for something!?!?!
I have to pull a little yoga in here because I think this is so key. The practice of intention setting. It’s magic. It’s different from goal-setting because the intention has to do with the how or the motivation. How will I do this? How do I want to feel? What’s driving this?
I put R back in the stroller and we head to Sarge’s Surplus to find a new car to entertain him in all the line-waiting today. As I walk, I’m trying to adjust my expectations. I think I had two intentions for this trip. First, to connect with R. Second, to enjoy the experience myself. How do I want to feel? Connected and joyful.
As R is looking though the stacks of cars, I spot a pair of Lightening McQueen Crocs. I get closer to inspect and, sure enough, these babies are sporting a 3/4” sole. Could it be true? For $50 (really?!?!? seems like a lot for kid shoes) we can have access to all of the rides I want to ride?!?! #WORTHIT. I consider that Disney has likely had these specially commissioned for desperate parents of kids too short to ride the Cars ride. Genius.
I show the shoes to R and he tells me they are “ugly.” You’ve gotta be kidding me! First time this kid has said that about any clothing ever. Still, I congratulate him on his sweet new shoes. He picks out the Grand Prix Lightening McQueen car, which I believe means we now have every edition of Lightening McQueen (probably wrong about that though). Back in the stroller, back to the ride. I put the new shoes on his feet with the tags and hanger still in place and carry him to the measuring stick. Thankfully there is a new attendant there. She inspects him carefully. “There’s nothing under the shoes?” “No, ma’am.” “Okay, he’s good.” Victory!!!!
I rip off the tags and we wander down the line queue into the desert countryside of Radiator Springs. I am so excited to share this ride with him and his Cars-loving heart. I giggle and scream as we race around the scenes from the movie. And when we reach the end, I realize that he hasn’t seen hardly anything, tucked down low in the backseat of our cruiser. He doesn’t cry but he also says he didn’t like the ride. No matter! I am still riding the high of the Crocs miracle.
I suggest we do Mater’s tractor ride since it’s one he really liked last time. That’s when he comes out with this little gem, which he repeats over and over again: “My riding days are behind me.” Who is this kid?!!? Three going on 73? At age three, I can’t think of any kind of days that are completely behind you. Kid, even things like diapers and drooling have comeback potential….
So I keep pulling myself back to my intention: connection and joy. I need to ride a few rides to feel some joy, after all it’s not free to be here. I bribe him use planned, positive reinforcement with popcorn and a toy airplane to get him onto the ferris wheel and Soarin’ Round the World. He likes and dislikes all the rides for various reasons. I observe how his little brain can easily identify the things he doesn’t like but takes prompting to remember the things he does like. Me too. It takes effort.
At the gift shop across from Soarin’ Round the World, R has what he identifies as the funnest part of the trip! He sets up and performs an air show of toy airplanes. We buy two planes and return to the shop once more to visit the planes we don’t buy. Sure, I have some thoughts about the cost of admission, the rides we don’t ride while we are playing with toy airplanes in a gifts shop. But I keep pulling myself back to connection and joy, just trying to staying out of my own way. We race our airplanes while waiting in line for attractions. I settle into play more readily because there is nothing else to distract me. I enjoy watching him interact with strangers in the line who are interested in his airplanes and cars and curly, blonde hair.
He falls asleep on the ride to the hotel after the light parade, which is well past his bedtime. I transfer him to the stroller and then into bed without a peep. I am asleep quickly until I’m awakened by his voice from the other bed, “Is this the hotel?!?” It’s 5:30am. I encourage him to go back to sleep but he is excited about being in this new place. By 6am we decide to be awake and I call the desk to see what time the pool opens. “6am.” So we slip down for a predawn soak in the hot tub.
I really don’t want to misrepresent this. I am not walking around in a cloud of zen. There are tense moments. There is money wasted on treats that are demanded and then uneaten. There is a lot of walking and standing and sun. A late night and an early morning. And by the end of it, I am completely Disneyed out. But even as we drive home, I keep coming back to my intention.
I ask R about Thunder Mountain Railroad. I kinda tricked him into riding it by asking him if he wanted to ride another train after we had been on the parking garage tram and monorail. He didn’t resist and we climbed into the more-tame front car. He sat silently as we barreled through mine shafts and around mountains. When we reached the end, he burst into tears. “I didn’t like the dark,” he sobbed. I held him and comforted him and told him he was brave. In the car, I ask R, “Were there any parts of it that you liked?” “I didn’t like the dark and the fire,” he says. “So did you like the parts that were in the light?” “Yes!” And by the time we get to his dad’s house, he is bursting to tell about his brave ride on the formidable Thunder Mountain Railroad.
We did it! Connection and joy. It’s possible, even at Disneyland!