What I Learned at Magic Kingdom

Why parents have much to gain from a trip to see Mickey as their kids.

My husband and I recently reached the inevitable cliff of parenthood: We took our daughters to Disney WorldOf course, this is a parenting move that many of us will make, despite the threats of the world’s most annoying ear worms and being forced to hug sweaty, furry strangers who don’t speak only make giggling gestures. It’s all in the name of the children!

For the children it may be, but I learned a thing or two myself. And so, from a mom of two daughters who has now conquered her first Disney World trip, here are 7 things our Magic Kingdom experience taught me.

  1. The kids are willing to whistle while you…wait. I don’t really have a lot of room to complain. Between light February crowds and the blessed invention of the Fast Pass, there wasn’t much we had to wait for—except for the blasted Seven Dwarves mine roller coaster. And while our promised 70 minute wait time dripped into 80, 90, 100 minutes, I became increasingly impatient. Anxious. The other adults and I were leaning on ropes and checking our phones and huffing in angst. We are entitled to immediacy, apparently. My daughters upstaged me here. They didn’t know any different. “Oh, you have to wait at Disney? Okay.” They climbed rocks and sang songs and made friends in line, and were, for the most part, better behaved than I in the patience department.
  2. Coming face-to-face with the stars leaves everyone Frozen. If there’s one picture I will carry with me for the rest of my life, it’s the blush on the cheeks of my three-year-old when we finally made it to Elsa. She was awed, hushed. With nothing to say, they did a few twirls and smiled for photos,  and I chuckled to myself at how giddy she was to encounter fame and beauty. Of course, we bumped into Aladdin shortly after, and I found myself short of breath. I guess we all get a little starstruck.
  3. Mary Poppins knew what she was talking about. I mean, you’re on vacation anyway, why not go for that spoonful of sugar? Gummy bears are a great distraction in the face of lines. Other discomforts are easily erased to the tune of a song. Plus, it’s Disney World—everything is dusted in magic. My faith in the nanny’s advice has nothing to do with her saying my children were angels, no doubt as a result of my parenting. She’s just smart, okay?
  4. It’s a small world after all. The “It’s a Small World” ride will make a lasting impression on you, not only because of it’s consistently long line, but also because its theme  song will crawl into your brain like a parasite and nest there for the next six months. If you choose to skip this classic, all you have to do is look around: The population at Disney World is quite literally a cultural melting pot, I’d wager to say more varied than what you’d find right in Manhattan. (Plus, Epcot is one park away and you can travel the whole world over in a day there.)
  5. Moms know how to work it. You’ve probably mastered  leaving the house with everything you need for your day tucked gingerly into environmentally-friendly containers, the kids dressed and groomed and in good spirits, and you’ve even managed to put on eyeliner while you’re at home. But conquering Disney is that kind of experience on steroids. By the third day, I was rearranging our Fast Passes, navigating hidden lines, and schmoozing princesses like a pro. I even scored an extra Fast Pass (the kind written on paper are like Golden Tickets) when it seemed a staff member had moved our stroller. Talk about feeling accomplished!
  6. Life, like Disney, holds unexpected surprises. Don’t forget to look for hidden treasures. For example, Mickey’s Philharmagic. A 3D movie experience, the wait is only ever 15 minutes. We kept skipping it, because who wants to sit in a movie theater when you’re at Disney World?! But needing to kill some time, we stumbled in right before a show began. It thrilled the girls, engaging their senses (literally: sights, sounds, smells, etc.) and giving them a chance to relax. Highly recommend.
  7. I AM NOT THE CRAZIEST. A parental endeavor such as Disney World can really bring out the mom-crazy. You’re on constant overload, with sore feet, finding yourself saying no more than yes. But if you stand in the middle of the park and hold very still, if you take a deep breath and remain silent for 15 seconds, I promise you’ll very quickly find someone crazier than you. Like, for instance, let’s just say, there’s a mom yelling at you to get out of your way because her 15-year-old daughter needs to take off her oversized princess gown  and that justifies her skipping the line for the lou, even passing up your three-year-old who has been waiting patiently for 10 minutes. You know, just say that happens. Even if you verbally retaliate, for example, you are still not the crazy one. And doesn’t that feel good?

Image of onegood Modern Design Mickey Mouse Big Digit 3D Wall Clock. Buy it here!

Sarah Ann Noel

Sarah Ann Noel

Sarah Ann Noel is the wife of Trevor, the mother of Iris and Edith, and a freelance writer in Brooklyn. A prodigious over-thinker and an exhaustive over-feeler, Sarah loves to write essays about life and the things that move her—primarily lessons in love and hope and finding what’s good in the world. She is currently working on her first book, fueled by a hefty amount of caffeine. Read more at sarahannnoel.com.

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