My Kids Loved Disney — But Not As Much As I Did

I worked hard to curb my expectations and prepare for our first Walt Disney World experience as a family. I had a pretty clear vision of how the whole thing would go for my family of six, and with that, I did my due diligence to mentally and physically prepare. I covered everything from ride expectations to cool Disney ‘fits.

But guess what? Like everything else in motherhood, nothing went exactly as I envisioned. In fact, our Disney experience was widely different than I anticipated. And thank God — because the result was better than I imagined.

First, I spent a lot of time worrying about line and ride logistics, mostly because I was positive my two oldest wouldn’t want to ride the same thrill rides at the same time. I assumed every ride choice would devolve into total emotional warfare. I envisioned arguments, snide comments, broken egos, and wasted time as we made our way through the ride list at each park.

Instead, they did it all smoothly. We sat in the front row of Tron, held hands on the Tower of Terror, and rode our unanimous favorite, Guardians of the Galaxy, a total of four times. When my oldest decided to sit out Space Mountain, he was met with total understanding and support rather than boasting or competitiveness from his sibling. Meanwhile, their younger sisters were kind of just along for the ride — watching, snacking, and enjoying the whole scene. It was a true Disney miracle.

I was also worried about moody, ungrateful kids. I distinctly remember myself at my boys’ ages, sitting on a curb with my siblings in the middle of Disney as my dad stood over us giving a loud lecture on gratefulness. I had likely just complained about something for the millionth time and he stood there peppering me with empty threats of leaving while I cried into a Mickey-shaped pretzel. Not our finest hour! I have had this vivid memory for years, and it has always made perfect sense. At eight-ish I definitely was not a model citizen, but something about the overstimulation and excitement of Disney has always lended itself logically to spoiled brat, imperfect behavior in my mind. So, that is exactly what I went there expecting.

But instead, my kids — who can typically be very opinionated, impatient, and demanding — were f*cking amazing. They waited their turns and got along better than they have in years. They were excited to show one another little details on rides like the “hidden Mickey” found on the jail cell lock during the Pirates of the Caribbean or the song rotation on Guardians of the Galaxy. They walked together from ride to ride, recapping the last thrill and anticipating the next. They cheered each other on when fears were overcome and provided support in moments of nervousness. They shared snacks, gave high-fives, and enjoyed endless laughs with one another. To call it Disney magic is an understatement.

What surprised me the most, though, was how much I enjoyed this trip. Between crowds, motion sickness and managing my kids, I figured I’d be glad we went, but in no rush to return.

Instead, my anxiety vanished as I rode thrill ride after thrill ride. Swerving and dipping at incredible speeds through the darkness while loud music blared around us — we got, for the record, “Conga,” “Everybody Wants To Rule The World,” and the much-coveted “September” — I threw my hands in the air and found happiness and freedom I wasn’t sure I still had access to. I marveled at the detail and magic of the slower, imaginative rides like Avatar and Peter Pan. I watched in awe as two enormously beautiful giraffes crossed the field on the Animal Kingdom Safari. As someone who cannot access “fun” easily, this was a dream come true. Expensive and exhausting, sure. But so, so worth it.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.

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