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Disney Kool-Aid

Some of you have marveled how a hardcore socialist like myself has bought into Disney, the epitome of consumer-culture.  I can’t really explain it myself except that I think that saying Disney is about consumerism is about as true as saying blogging conferences are about brands.  That statement only allows for one viewpoint, where the reality is that if you give Disney or blogging conferences a panoramic treatment, you will see that some come to Disney for the magic, some come for the products, some come for the service, and some come because they need that time away with their family in order to cement them as a unit; much in the same way some people do go to blogging conferences to connect with brands and promote their own blog, but many others attend in order to catch up with friends, meet people face-to-face, learn something new, or simply infuse themselves with more energy so they can continue their blog.

The products aren’t why we go to Disney.

And the reality is that as expensive as Disney is overall, we do it fairly cheaply all things considered.  We use points for the airplanes.  We stay on-property at a value resort (much less expensive than other hotels because you also knock off transportation costs from the airport, the rental of a car, and daily parking — believe me, we’ve priced this thing out).  The tickets are expensive, but when you look at the cost vs. how many hours you’re in the parks being entertained, it looks like a good deal considering we wouldn’t think twice about seeing a two-hour movie for $8.  We saw three Broadway-quality shows and went on rides for 14 hours (yes, we’re that crazy family) for $40.  We don’t buy the kids additional toys or costumes until the last day when they’re allowed to choose one thing for under $20.  And we bring our own food, eating out only one meal per day.

So Disney doesn’t feel like consuming to me — at least not in the sense of collecting tangible products.  It feels like experiencing, and I am fine paying for experiences.

That’s how I justify it.


It’s also one of the only public places on earth that is entirely child-focused.  I know we think that the world revolves around pregnant women and mothers; the special parking spaces and the early boarding on planes and the enormous strollers.  And like the example above with blogging conferences, it is easy as an infertile woman to get tunnel vision (especially when I leave the house and start noticing all. of. those. bellies. and. babies).  But then I remove my adult glasses and my infertility glasses and take another look at the world.

The reality is that it’s an adult world and we expect children to comport themselves as close to adults as possible within it.  We expect them to use quiet voices and not knock over things and not run about.  They don’t always function well in that adult world (mostly because they’re not adults so they’ll never behave in the exact same way), and they also can pick up how much their mere presence fills people with dread.  We were out to lunch this week and a woman stopped by our table to tell us how well-behaved our children were.  And that just about says it all.  Would you ever go up to the adults at the table next to you and say slowly and carefully: “I really liked your behaviour in this restaurant.”?  It was nice to get that feedback, but what she was saying was “you did a good job blending into OUR world, the ADULT world, the one that rules public spaces.”  And when you get the snarls, what they means is that the child did a crap job blending into our world, the adult world, even if they would have been doing a fine job if they had been in their world, the child world.

Listen, I’m guilty of it too.  I’ve gritted my teeth in a movie theater while a child asks questions about the film behind me.  And I’ve wondered why a parent isn’t removing their tantruming child from a store.  I am an adult — I like spending the majority of time around people who are comporting themselves in an adult-like fashion regardless of their age.  It is more pleasant to dine with someone quietly eating rather than bouncing around on their seat.  But I’m also mindful that I drag my kids into the adult world (food stores, restaurants, bookstores… every store) daily and that affects both the twins AND every adult around them who are also trying to use those public spaces.

But Disney World is a kid-focused space, where they can make noise and no one cares.  They can have a meltdown and no one blinks an eye.  No one comments on the size of a stroller.  The menus reflect the tastes of the common child.  And adults are expected to act more kid-like there rather than the other way around.  We’re expected to get excited and use all of our senses and be in the moment.

And it’s sort of cool to allow your kids time in a completely fun, kid-focused space.  And it’s sort of cool to spend time as an adult remembering how it felt to be a kid again.  To shriek with excitement when you see something so amazingly cool that it is not to be believed.  To be scared to go on a ride.  To soar high above the park on an elephant.


And then there are the unintentional things that occur, those moments that Disney didn’t orchestrate, but that allow you hold onto their babyhoods that much longer.  The buses are crowded, so you pull your child onto your lap to give another person the opportunity to sit down.  And then you travel from the park back to the hotel with your nose buried against your child’s sweaty scalp.  And you try not to cry because it has been so long since it was a given that they’d sit in your lap and snuggle against you for a good half hour trek.

It was hard to leave Disney — and I know I say this often and it hasn’t exactly come true yet — because at some point, it’s going to look a little odd if we’re still holding our kids on our laps.  Seriously, picture a 12-year-old boy being snuzzled by his mother on public transport.  Right now, they’re still totally willing to have us pick them up or carry them or sit on our laps.  But if we look at cuddle minutes like an hourglass, our sand is running out.  Back when they were newborns, I craved the ability to put them down for five minutes (oh please oh please oh please G-d just give me five minutes without a child attached to me so I can urinate in peace… or at least with a door between me and the squalling baby).  And now they’re totally happy to give me five minutes to pee; in fact, if I want it, I can take three hours to go work and they’ll play by themselves happily.


It’s this strange blessing; I wouldn’t want them dependent on me forever, but I certainly don’t want them to pull away.  And really, I just want more opportunities to pull them into my lap, where they can’t squirm away or tell me that we’re late to soccer or that they have homework to do.  Disney is a place where they’re mine, they’re mine, they’re ALL MINE and I don’t have to share them with teachers or their friends or their coaches.

And I’m just fucking greedy when it comes down to it.  Disney didn’t orchestrate this truth — that it is a space to steal away to with your child, where you can hold them to youth like the boys in Neverland — but it is a side effect of the space.  And that’s why I crave it, more than other trips, other vacations.  Because they cocoon too, not asking for electronic products or other distractions.  They are just there, in the moment, and you’re floating on a theoretical island, remembering what it felt like when they never left your arms.


Fine; I drank the Kool-Aid.

It’s hot down there; it happens.

I know we’ll have fun on our next holiday — a literary trip where we are reading four books from the same country and then traveling to all the spots in the stories — but it won’t be exactly the same.  They’ll be a little more grown-up, magic will be replaced by a different sliver of imagination.  And it’s not a bad thing; it’s just different.  I want them to grow, I want them to stay exactly the same, and the sadness stems from knowing that you can’t have it both ways, and you don’t even get to decide anyway.


1 serenity { 11.02.11 at 11:19 am }

It’s like you wrote what was in my head, Mel. I want to cry, because I feel the same way about O, and I see his babyhood slipping away, and as much as I welcome it and love the person he’s becoming, it’s also killing me slowly, too. And man, you hit the nail on the HEAD with Disney being kid-centric, where he doesn’t need to fit into the Adult World. It’s VERY much why I can’t wait to go there. Thank you for this post. 🙂

2 Alexicographer { 11.02.11 at 11:42 am }

This is an interesting read and I’m puzzling over the thought of child-centered spaces. Not what they are, but where they are. I have never been to anywhere Disney and am wondering where, and whether, we attain what you describe.

As for the hourglass, oh, it’s so true. I have relatively little enthusiasm for childishness even when it’s age appropriate (!), and that includes the snuggling, etc. I mean, I love it. But I love it in small doses relative to its present availability. I wish my 4 year old could spend some of his days now as the 14-year old I imagine him becoming, and vice versa; that we didn’t have to use up all of 4 (or all of 14) in a single year.

3 Chickenpig { 11.02.11 at 12:12 pm }

But you don’t have to go to Disney to find a child space! You are telling me that you don’t have children’s or science museums near you? There is a fantastic one 45 mins away from us in Providence that is just unbelievably kid fantastic amazing. I totally agree with you about the pricing. I think that the average museum around here is about half of the price of Disney ticket for an adult…and it aint Disney 🙂

Also, if you want to branch out sometime from the Disney world, Sea World and the San Diego zoo are also totally kid friendly, magical, and amazing. I went to both of those places as a child, along with Disney, and Sea World beat Disney hands down for the experience. Although we didn’t have a TV at the time, so I wasn’t crazy about meeting a giant mouse 🙂

Your post made me pretty teary eyed. I have a boy who is totally attached to me. I can see him wanting to climb into my lap when he is 12, and no, that isn’t a completely good thing. He wouldn’t fit in to a child’s world, he finds loud noises frightening, he wants things ordered and controlled. He is by far one of the best behaved 5 year olds you’ll ever meet. He would never understand why other kids want to hug a person in a mouse suit, or why being scared to go on a ride is fun, or the shrieking…please no shrieking! This post made me realize, again, what a mine field trying to be a child is for my son. At least we have the Hom.e Depo.t. Wherever you can find your magic, right?

4 Meredith { 11.02.11 at 12:33 pm }

This was such a beautiful post! Love!

5 Tiara { 11.02.11 at 1:54 pm }

I love this post. Love it! I can’t wait to drink the kool-aid

6 HereWeGoAJen { 11.02.11 at 2:28 pm }

Disney is the greatest. I love it and I love taking Elizabeth there. She still asks to go back every few mornings.

7 Emily { 11.02.11 at 3:04 pm }

What a great post! I can’t wait to take our kids there, when we are eventually blessed with them, but for now the Hubby and I can be kids again. Only 15 days till we are there!

8 N { 11.02.11 at 3:09 pm }

I love this post. Love it. And it’s why I hope to be able to take my family there some day, despite being a cynical bastard.

9 Willow { 11.02.11 at 3:17 pm }

I think all the time about the childhood clock ticking away. Especially now with my second child, I try to really revel in each feeding, even when it’s 4am and I couldn’t be more tired, because I know how short these moments are. Soon she’ll be bopping around like my toddler and the snuggles and gazing into each other’s eyes will be much less frequent. It’s good in that I’m more aware of how short each stage will be this time, but it’s also making me freak out about not photographing every moment because I know how fast she’ll change, and that once she does, there’s no changing back. I treasured our son’s babyhood (as I do his toddlerhood), especially I think since we desperately wanted a baby for 3 years before he came home. But I want to treasure it even more this second time, if that’s possible, before our baby starts to grow up too. So yeah, this post made me cry 🙂

10 k { 11.02.11 at 3:30 pm }

I drank the Disney Kool Aid a LONG time before I had kids. We live in CA so we do Disneyland, which I know is small potatoes compared to Disney World, but let me tell you I wouldn’t trade our days at Disney for anything. They are some of the best memories I have, watching my children light up at the sights and sounds of their favorite characters.

11 loribeth { 11.02.11 at 3:52 pm }

I’m jealous. ; ) When I was a kid, there was no Disney World, just Disneyland in California, & it might have been the moon as far as we were concerned. I knew a very (very) few, very lucky kids who got to go there — whereas these days, it seems like every other pre-schooler has been to Disney World multiple times.

Dh went to Disney as part of a Florida trip with his buddies, pre-me. He’s very “meh” on going back. I say no fair, I’ve never been & I want to go & there’s no way I’m going to Florida and NOT going to Disney for at least a day. I’ll go with him to NASA at Cape Canaveral if he takes me to Disney. ; ) I know it sounds weird as a childless adult, but I know several couples who have been there on their honeymoons, & I have a similarly childless/free after IF cyberfriend who has been there several times. Maybe one of these days I can talk him into it. ; ) My parents may be going to Florida this winter & if they do, we might go visit. ; ) If so, I’ll know who to consult for Disney travel advice!

12 Ann Z { 11.02.11 at 4:20 pm }

Lovely post! We went to Disney two years ago with a family that drank the kool aid. My husband was especially expecting to just suffer through the vacation, but we had the exact same reaction. It was a space – a time and space – that really was for families. And yes, we can do short visits to the children’s museum and the zoo here and get to a similar space, but there’s something about really getting away from where you are and having the time to just enjoy the kids being kids. We haven’t been back, but we’re hoping to go again in a few years.

13 Mrs. Gamgee { 11.02.11 at 4:30 pm }

Disney speaks to a place in my soul… a place that’s still child-like. I love the magical-ness of the place and I hope that I’ll be able to share that with my Beloved, Ginny, and halfling 2.0 someday.

I agree that it can be commercial, but it’s about the attitude you take with you. It’s about what your focus is while you’re there and what you hope to take from the experience.

(I lived just outside Orlando for a year and spent time at Disney just about every weekend. I never got sick of it)

14 Melissa { 11.02.11 at 5:15 pm }

What I love about Disney is the absolute excitement and awe that my child has when we’re there. We are a part of the Disney Vacation Club so all we pay for is transportation there and we get a pretty nice room – condos etc. And I love how my child is in awe of everything.

15 Audrey { 11.02.11 at 8:18 pm }

I have always been anti Disney just because god damn those tickets are expensive and there’s just no way my family could afford such a thing. But you are right, it is one of the few child oriented places. Next year my husband’s grand father is getting the whole family together for a weekend long retreat. But not at a family place, despite the 4 great grandchildren who will be under 5. No, we are going to Greenbriar, a fancy golf resort that has dress codes and whatnot. I can only imagine what the dining experience will be like, especially since my son does not stay at the table when he’s done eating and there’s nothing for him to do. I’m sure I’ll be dreaming of Disney then. 😉

16 tbonegrl { 11.02.11 at 9:34 pm }

I could have written this myself. We took our first trip to Disney this summer and it was amazing. I love how they treat people with disabilities there. Because of Disney’s forward-thinking on special needs, our kids had a blast. My husband cannot stop talking about when we can go again.

17 a { 11.02.11 at 9:59 pm }

All right, now I have to go…

18 leah { 11.03.11 at 3:38 am }

It sounds awesome, we are unlikely to go being in Australia but id love to take my kids. I hate when people naysay about Christmas being commercial, I work to ensure my kids have a magical and meaningful Xmas period and the stuff is just one element. Life is better for these moments.

19 Mina { 11.03.11 at 4:20 am }

Wonderfully said. I can’t wait to go there.

20 It Is What It Is { 11.03.11 at 11:00 am }

Such a great, complete, and thoughtful post. We aren’t Disney-philes (even though Disneyland is a 30 minute drive for us) but I can empathize with wanting to do anything to hold on to precious moments with my son.

But, $8 movies????? Where on earth do you get to go to one of those?!

21 Eve { 11.03.11 at 12:04 pm }

Disney-addict here…long before I was a mom. Your post makes me think about the special circumstance of having twins who are growing up simultaneously. My kids are 3.5 years apart…and I think it is a bit of a luxury to have my feet in the the school years and also the toddler years at the same time. When I get frustrated plucking toys out of the toilet by my 18 month old, I remember that she will soon be fascinated with letters and numbers and imagination. But I intend to keep the kids snuggling and hugging as long as I can. I was a very ‘huggy’ child even as a teen…I hope that I can make a soft place to fall for my kiddos that they always will want their mama’s touch.

22 slowmamma { 11.03.11 at 12:58 pm }

I have to admit that, when I first saw your Disney posts, I was one of the skeptics. But then I read them and it was so clear that your love of the place had absolutely nothing to do with the commercialism. I couldn’t agree with you more about the lack of child-centered places. I actually realized a long time ago that my very favorite spaces are those that include everyone. For example, I believe that I had the most fun this Halloween that I’ve ever had in my life because it was the first time that I was in a space that included both adults and children. We closed off the street and had a pot-luck, open bar for parents in the center and trick-or-treating for the kids up and down the street. It was amazing! I had gone trick-or-treating as a kid and I had gone to parties as an adult but never had I experienced the two combined.
I’ve never been to Disney but, thanks to you, I will be open to the possibility in the future!

23 Lori Lavender Luz { 11.03.11 at 5:40 pm }

Disney, perhaps, does capitalism the way it’s meant to be done. Create a fantastic experience that people will save for, pay for, relish and remember forever. Fulfill your purpose to the smallest detail (child-sized drinking fountains, for instance). Infuse all your employees with this service-vision and treat them well, and voila, you create a legion of evangelist customers.

Your literary vacation sounds divine for its time, just as your Disney vacation was divine for its time. My guess is that you have a LOT of laptime left. Maybe not enough, but a lot.

24 Mali { 11.03.11 at 5:50 pm }

Living in NZ, I’ve only had the chance to go to Disneyland once, as an adult with my husband. I was captivated, and spent the day wishing I was a kid so I could fully enjoy the magic. If I had had children, I would definitely have taken them there. I’m a great believer in adults only spaces too, but spaces like Disney, for the kids (or the kid in all of us), are wonderful.

As a keen traveller too, I can say your children will still find magic on your next trip, just a different type of magic. For me, walking into some old medieval towns in Europe is always like being transported directly into Fantasyland.

25 theportofindecision { 11.03.11 at 9:57 pm }

You know how I *really* don’t get, and it seems just really off to me, are the people obsessed with Disney, who go on vacations to Disney world, *before* they have kids – just as themselves, as adults. It’s just weird to me.

26 sunflowerchilde (Stacey) { 11.04.11 at 12:05 am }

I really loved this post. And sort of hated it, too, because you put into words what’s been breaking my heart recently. I am so sad about my babies growing up, so stressed out, finding it so hard to take the time to just enjoy them, and then getting angry that I’m not able to do that. I wrote about this in a blog post recently, actually, and wanted to share it with you:

It is sometimes surreal to me that I got what I wanted and that I will most likely never get it again. That what I craved for so long is already passing me by, in a way. It makes me want to stop and savor every moment, even the bad ones (the tantrums, the horrible diapers, the food on the floor and in the hair and everywhere). I’m trying to live in the present without mourning not only the past but the future-that-will-one-day-be-past, which it turns out is much harder than I expected.

27 Bea { 11.06.11 at 2:16 am }

A great post. Largely because we are considering Disney for our next holiday and you do make it sound inviting. Also of course because you are right about kid-centred spaces and the adult world and the bittersweet of hanging on to childhood and all that stuff. Also because I am dying to hear about this trip to a new country with books and such.


28 meghan { 11.06.11 at 7:16 am }

This is such a great post. All of it rings so true with me. How we expect a pre-schooler to fit into the adult world and how their growing up means constantly moving away from us. I’m ridiculous because I’m secretly loving the snuggles from S, when it’s only because she’s not feeling well. Obviously I don’t want her to be sick but I sure do love her snuggled up next to me reading a book. And that hardly ever happens anymore.

I can’t wait to take them to disney. I’m thinking next year. That gives me time to sell all of our crap on craigslist to afford it!

29 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 11.07.11 at 12:51 am }

We are the family that gets eyebrows raised at us in kid-focused places! Somehow this week in a place designed only for 1-2 year olds, my Burrito managed to out-toddler everyone else.

30 Barb { 11.08.11 at 12:42 pm }

Very very well said and you made my eyes prick with tears just reading it (unexpectedly!) My 60 something MIL said it with wonder one of the first times they visited MK…. “I never expected to feel so much like a kid again!”

Make Bea email me if she wants/needs help or discounts. I’ve lost her email. 🙁

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