The “happiest” place on earth…
Personally, this title conjures up images of lying in a bubble filled bath, listening to my favorite musical artist and drinking a particularly nice glass of wine… without the interruptions of “Mommy, I have to use the bathroom and daddy’s in the other one!” or “Jadyn, too? Bubbles, Jadyn too?” or “Honey, where did you put the.. (Fill in the blank and usually whatever it is, I can’t remember where the heck I’ve placed it. “Look in the freezer” should just be my standby answer.)
But no, I’m actually referring to the place which owns the slogan “The Happiest Place on Earth”: Disneyland. Now this is one of my favorite weekend spots, a mini vacation from the normal and something fun to do with the kids. Admittedly, it got much more enticing once I discovered the winery in California adventure. Aside from this little gem, I think Disneyland should seriously consider adding a disclaimer to their slogan. It really should read “Disneyland: the Happiest place on Earth” and in tiny print (just so you don’t scare away your visitors): “so long as they have had their naps, haven’t had to fly or travel too many distances;so long as it’s not too warm or too cold, too rainy or too crowded. So long as the prices aren’t going to cause a heart attack of the paying individual and so long as you’ve allotted that your child is going to want everything from light up ears, and a way too expensive giant lollipop that will make you sincerely hope, despite the amount of money you shelled out for it, they can’t finish to the ridiculous sized balloons (which, by the way, do last an incredibly long time. I think we had one for 3 months before it finally “mysteriously” disappeared.) If you can meet all of these, then yes, you may it call it the happiest place on earth for maybe the next two hours.”
Now, for the number of years my husband and I have been going to Disneyland, even during peak times since I can’t take a lot of time off of work, we have devised a system which has worked, thus far for us. And no, I’m not going to tell you all what it is, otherwise the system won’t work anymore! Regardless, it’s been a long time since we have had a meltdown at the park (parent or child) and I often feel for the family who perhaps only has a limited amount of time to spend in the park. (It goes a long way to know that you do have the option of coming back another time.) Some of the most classic phrases that I’ve heard while in the park are as follows:
“I’ve paid a lot of damn money for this! We ARE going to have FUN TODAY!” (says a dad to his clearly tired and crying four year old. It’s only 10am. I don’t know who I feel more sorry for.)
Dad: You need to stop crying.
Crying child: wwwwhhhyyyy??!!
Dad: Because if you don’t stop crying, they are going to kick us out of Disneyland!
Apparently this threat works. I’ll have to try it on my child the next time we are near tears. But this is of course with the understanding that the child can comprehend what it means to be kicked out. I doubt Jadyn would stop crying because I told him this.
Mom: No, honey, the line isn’t long. (The sign reads 45 minutes.)
I wonder how many times she is going to have to say, “Look! We are almost there!”
And the probably the most poignant story I have from people watching in Disneyland happened on a rainy Super Bowl Sunday. My husband and I had thought (mistakingly) that Super Bowl Sunday would not be busy at the park… you know, because people stay home to watch the super bowl. To our delight (truthfully) the forecast even called for rain and it’s a well known fact that any time it’s raining, there will be less people. (mostly true) However, this day seemed to be an anomaly all the way around. Apparently, I had underestimated the power of football. There were many people there and what I began to notice is that there were a lot (and I mean, many many more than usual) moms with their kids. I assumed it was because the husbands perhaps wanted to watch the game without their little ones nagging about watching sponge bob on another channel.
I may have mentioned before that I like to watch people. Perhaps it’s just habit formed from writing, where you want to make your characters as believable (even the ones who work as in the Underworld) as possible. We were taking a short cut through some of the stores on Main Street and I looked over to see a young mom sitting at a table, her hand over her face and on the phone. Her three children, all between the ages of probably 18 months and 5 years, were sitting nearby at another table, looking at their mom. Perhaps it was their looks, or her posture which clued me into her and as I walked by, I overheard her conversation. It was something like “I can’t believe I let you talk me into this! I am never coming here again without your help!” The tone of her voice was nothing short than I’ve heard from my own self in a moment of hysterics as I’m trying to keep my two year old from a fatality, for the billionth time, while frantically trying to prep dinner, help with the oldest’s homework and keep myself from imploding all over the kitchen.
The children, as children frequently do just to prove their parents wrong, were actually sitting very calmly but I had no doubt in my mind that in the moments prior they probably could’ve been passed off as the spawn of the devil (at least in their mother’s eyes.)
Wishing to avoid a meltdown from my own two children who had already pulled away in anticipation of the rocket ship ride, I made a bee-line to the nearest cast member and pointed out the young mom. I said I thought she was probably near a melt down (I’ve had enough of my own to recognize the clenched hands over the phone and the slight rocking back in forth as a sign.)
What the cast member did next truly is a reflection of how Disneyland trains their employees. The woman walked quickly over to the counter, got the children some popcorn and water and beckoned them over to a table. She gave the smallest child a toy for him to keep and then went over to the mom, who had not yet noticed her children were being tended to. She placed her arm around the mom and just hugged her and said “Don’t worry, we see this all the time, you’re not alone. You take a moment, your children are occupied and I’ll help keep them that way for as long as you need.”
I don’t know why, as I turned and caught up with my own little monsters who were actually behaving quite well at the moment, this interaction made me just a little emotional. Even thinking about it sometimes I still do. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been that lady, near tears at some public outing and I suppose it goes back to the fact we never want to feel like we all battling this war of parenthood all by ourselves. It was also a good reminder to me that I will never solo it alone at Disneyland with my two children.