You’d think that in all of my 4+ years of being a mom, I’d have some of the basics figured out. You’d think that, but you’d be wrong.
We just returned from a magical week at Walt Disney World. Before you ask, I’ll tell you… we are those people. Yep, this was Elizabeth’s 3rd trip. And, yep, she’s only 4. We took her for the first time when she had recently turned 2. And, before you say it… no, I don’t think she was too young to go. She doesn’t remember everything from that trip- but we do. And she does remember some things. Which is super cool.
We went again last year, when she was just older than 3. Last year was also super cool, except to be totally honest, I think that our trip was a little too long. And, yes, I realize what a brat that makes me that I think that my vacation was too long. Poor me.
But this year was perfect…. perfect weather, perfect travel, perfect amount of time… and almost perfect behavior from my child. Almost perfect because, well, she is a CHILD and I was making her operate on a not-so-child-friendly schedule.
Yep, folks… rocket science.
Day one- she was excited, and fairly well behaved.
Day two- she was still excited, and her behavior was also still decent.
Day three- she was used to being the center of all Disney activity, and was starting to behave a little like a princess… and not in the good way.
Day four- we were starting to see signs of the pouty/fussy/whiney E… oh, wait… she is FOUR. That’s kind of her MO right now. So why was I so desperate to make her “behave” when she was going on way less sleep than normal and way more amped up activity?
Because in my world, that’s what you do. And her world was greatly being ignored… all in the name of “FUN”.
The evening of day four, we put E in Kid Care so Dan and I could have a date (read: ride the scary rides together instead of taking turns riding them alone). After a fun date night, we picked her up (again, waaay past her bedtime) and she was back to normal. Disney Magic you might ask? Yes… but this time, the Disney Magic was PLAY. For nearly four hours, E had “normal” four year old activity. She colored. She watched movies. She ate dinner. She played with toys. She played “house”. And she did it on her schedule.
She wasn’t forced to wait in lines, or even meet characters. (Both of those things she does well, btw, but still, they can wear down a little one.)
She was able to be… FOUR.
In the land of magical children’s dreams… she needed to just… PLAY.
When she got in the car and listed for us all of the fun she’d had, we realized maybe we’d gotten it right. We weren’t the only ones who needed a night to regroup- she came back to us a “new” little girl… actually, the old one… the one we’d almost let get away.
Fortunately, we’re quick studies. When her behavior took a nose-dive after another super long day, we quickly rebounded by taking the next morning off. We walked around our resort, took a boat ride to Downtown Disney, shopped, swam, took a rest… then headed back to Epcot to have one of our best nights in the park.
It might take us a while to get trained, but once we figure it out, it sticks. And what I learned from my Disney Vacation is this: kids don’t only need a storybook land with characters to meet… they need to be kids and play.