New Year, New Memories

Written By: Dawn - Jan• 15•13
Big Boy, Little Bug, Dawn Maria & The Better Half outside of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.

Big Boy, Little Bug, Dawn Maria & The Better Half outside of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry.


It’s been eighteen months since I’ve been on a family trip with The Offspring and The Better Half. We’ve traveled in all combination of pairs during that time, but have shifted away from annual family trip intentionally.

That might sound extreme to some, but I’ve learned that in order to stay steady in the face of family changes (like a child going off to college) you have to move and balance differently than you did before.

We decided to brave togetherness this year and set off on New Year’s Day for Orlando, the land of milk, honey and the Mouse. And now Harry Potter! Five days, four theme parks, three early nights (we were so exhausted) two brave souls who road the Hulk roller coaster and one wand purchased.

All that fun came with a cost however and I don’t just mean the obscene price of entry to these happiest of places. No, in order to to have a good time surrounded by 30,000 (or more) folks you’d never care to see again, you have to forgo spontaneity and be strategic. Think less control freak, micromanager and more truly intentional living.

I can’t think of a better spot for an allegory about the parenting journey than a theme park vacation, especially a Disney centered one. Parents all want the same thing for their kids- that they have opportunities, are happy, healthy and that all of this comes with the least amount of stress and expenses for us. Sounds just like Fantasyland!

What really ends up happening is that reality creates some roadblocks and detours we never expected- like yes, it really is batshit crazy busy in Orlando during school winter break, what were we thinking?

These obstacles to family harmony are a different kind of opportunity however. It takes some time before you realize that though. On our first day in the Magic Kingdom we felt paralyzed by the crowds and amount of strollers. Lines were long and fast passes were in short supply, even at 11 a.m. We could have easily submitted to defeat.

Instead we left and headed over to the Animal Kingdom. On the way in we spotted a family of three leaving. Mom, dad and a three-to-four year old boy. Just as they passed us, the mom violently  pulled herself away from the child  and declared, “No more hold Mama’s hand!” We all looked at each other for a moment and chuckled, then thought that perhaps it wasn’t funny and finally settled on- let’s try to not get to that point ourselves.

Let’s face it, being the adult all the time sucks. Always having to responsible, do the right thing, be the better person because children aren’t equipped yet to do those things themselves. Parenting can break the best of us, we’re only human after all.

The following morning while in the bag check security line we watched a young mom protest as two airplane-size bottles of Jack Daniels were removed from her diaper bag. It was nine in the morning and she had a stroller and boy was she not happy to see Jack go. I looked at The Better Half and said, “Hmm… have we been doing it wrong? Is that the trick for surviving the crowds?”

Taking the easy way out wasn’t an option for us and by this time we all knew what we needed to do to get through the Magic Kingdom literally and figuratively, so we did it.

We planned, we communicated and we executed our intentions with the precision of an MI team. The Better Half grabbed our tickets and went off to nab Fast Passes for Space Mountain. The Offspring and I ran to the Peter Pan ride (my childhood favorite) and got in line. The Better Half visited The Haunted Mansion while he waited for us, we got on Small World while waiting for him and then we all went on Pirates of the Caribbean together. In half a day we managed to do more than the previous entire day.

I’d almost forgotten what we were capable of as a family. These days schedules and varying interests and bedtimes keep us apart more than together. With Big Boy off to college our time as a four-some is rare. For three  days we let the magic of Disney and Harry Potter World conjure up the best in us.

We laughed, we shared, we rode amazing rides and we came away with some priceless memories. Sure, our feet were sore, our wallets emptied and tensions still flared a few times, but this turned out to be one of our best trips ever.

I’ve discovered that for our family, going on vacations less often is working because we have more fun while on them. I don’t know when the next trip will be, but I do know who I’d like to go on it with.

Our adventure was practically perfect in every way except for one thing- I never did find the witch who put that Expecto Frizzious spell on my hair.

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