This was our FOURTH (don’t’ ask) Disney family vacation. And this time, because of my sobriety, there were no more early happy hours to help me numb my way through the particularly unique experience of spending twelve hours with three children locked in a theme park. We dodged thousands of people with no sense of personal space while crisscrossing hundreds of yards back and forth in 90 degree heat to wait in one endless line after another. We ate sugary foods that elicited headaches I haven’t experienced since my last hangover (and it’s been well over a year). I’m not really a fan of amusement parks. I do like roller coasters, but I don’t like giant turkey legs, wife beater t-shirts and mullets. Blank face emoji.
Disneyland is the bastion of American consumerism where people buy really cheap souvenirs at really expensive prices to make up for the really mediocre rides. It’s the land of giant mouse ears, dry churros, lackluster roller coasters and fake princesses wearing ill-fitting costumes and questionable wigs. I swear Walt Disney came up with the concept of most of those rides while tripping on acid (and no, I haven’t done acid). My least favorite ride is It’s a Small World: you float through a dark cavern on a small boat while children’s voices scream through loud speakers, “It’s a small world after all! It’s a small small world!” (I think those are THE ONLY LYRICS). Giant dolls dance around while strobes blast colored lights. ACID TRIP. Crazy face emoji.
When the possibility of a fourth Disneyland vacation came up my husband worked hard to convince me, “We have to do it for the kids! Don’t you think it’ll be so much fun for us to watch how excited and happy they’ll be?” If I’m being honest, “NOT REALLY!” Eye roll emoji. I have all sorts of experiences with our children everyday while he’s at work and I don’t need to travel to Disneyland to have another one. He uses the same guilt trip every time he wants to get me excited about the prospect of doing anything too taxing (yes I’d rather sleep in instead of dragging three cranky kids out of bed at 7am to ski in sub-zero temps, and yes I’d rather read a book on the couch instead of bike riding with three kids who will undoubtedly argue the entire time about who gets to ride in front). By the way, no one mentioned that parenting is still exhausting even after the children aren’t babies anymore. Sigh Emoji. As usual I digress.
During our last trip to Disneyland; two years ago, Nina (our youngest daughter) was too small to ride any of the roller coasters and since then she’s been harassing us about going again. So we checked her height against Disney’s regulations and discovered she was indeed tall enough now. Blank face emoji. Plane tickets were purchased, hotel reservations made and we trekked three kids under the age of ten from Denver to Los Angeles, arriving around 10pm. Unfortunately cultural mores dictate that people arrive at the park as soon as it opens, first thing in the damn morning. So fewer than twelve hours after landing in LA we got to Disney and squeezed through the front gates with about five thousand other people. Screaming emoji.
We hightailed it over to Space Mountain making that our inaugural ride of the morning, which was a YUUUGE mistake. Space Mountain is a rollercoaster that careens through dark tunnels with flashing lights and screaming space monsters. Let’s just say Nina wasn’t a fan. “I HATED THAT AND I WILL NEVER DO IT AGAIN!” WTF?? My husband and I looked at each other in a panic because SHE was the whole reason we came back to this insipid theme park in the first place! SHE was the one who wanted to ride these rides in the first place! And the thought of spending the rest of the day on the merry-go-round was less than appealing for the rest of the family. So we thought we’d beat a dead horse and try getting Nina on another roller coaster. Next stop, the Matterhorn. We did everything we could to convince her to go. We bribed her, “We’ll get you a really nice souvenir, maybe a giant lollipop! A turkey leg?” She shook her head. We begged her, “Please! Do this for mommy and Daddy!” She rolled her eyes. We lied to her, “This ride isn’t really that fast. You’ll love it!” She flashed us a “f’ck you” look before turning around and walking away. Ultimately, we decided for her and took her with us on the ride anyway. No, we shouldn’t have and yes, she was pissed. But we are selfish parents who didn’t want to resort to spending the rest of the day spinning around on the damn teacups (even though we ended up promising her a ride on the tea cups as one small concession to make up for putting her through hell).
After three hours at the park I thought we settled into a nice rhythm; scary ride for dad and our other two children, teacups and merry-go-round for mom and Nina, snack of dry sugary churro, another bottle of water, three minute rest; then do it all over again when “When are we going back to the hotel?” popped out of Nina’s mouth. Me, “We’re not going back to our hotel for at least another nine hours because we’ve only been here for three.” She clenched for another emotional public breakdown until we threatened to put her on Space Mountain again, so she stopped. Creepy clown face emoji. But I fully understood her pain. We got to Southern California on the heels of a record breaking heat wave where the high got to 107 degrees. At one point we waited forty minutes in 93 degrees for what was at best an unexceptional haunted house experience. Ugh emoji. The happiest place in the world also seemed to be the hottest place in the world.
Twelve hours after we got there it was finally time to leave. My hips were sore. My feet were swollen and I was severely dehydrated. I don’t think I’ve been that tired since giving birth to twins. Wide eyed emoji. So I tried to hold back my own public breakdown; I really wanted to curse all the people, the heat, the rides, the horrible food and cheap souvenir shops. That evening during dinner at The Rainforest Café (don’t even get me started) our son fell asleep at the dinner table before the food even got there. He just put his head down and was twitching within two minutes.
And I did it all sober. But If I’m being honest I envied some of the parents I saw sipping cocktails at 3pm while their kids ran around in that end of the day at Disney circle, screaming. I envied them because they could just check out. I can’t check out like that anymore. But it’s okay. I think I like the fact that my kids for once didn’t see me putting somethign in my body to make myself feel better, they saw me dealing directly with stress, and if that’s the type of example I can offer them, I’ll take it.