The Disney dilemma

Moms of Stillwater
Moms of Stillwater

Airfare for six to Florida was just a tad out of our budget this year. Oh, and Jamaica was a touch too high as well.

I tried, in vain, to explain that at any given time throughout a flight, at least two members of our family would be stuck in a bathroom stall, contorting into the overhead compartment, or “researching” the emergency exit doors, and therefore we really only needed three, maybe four seats (and full access to the cocktail cart).

And yet, they insisted we each have our own seat belt. Like this would somehow keep us confined and protected. Clearly they have never had to unwind a child’s blue head out of a seat belt web in the third row of a minivan.

So, I tried to sell the “staycation” to my kids for the first four months of winter. We visited museums and waterparks, theaters and ski hills. All within a 40 mile radius of the kitchen sink. But, a frozen March … and April has given rise to new arguments for leaving the state.

“When are we going to Disney World?” my six year old daughter asks.

So earnest. Like, perhaps my color-coding is just off on this week’s calendar. Maybe the Disney trip IS TODAY and I just misplaced my yellow highlighter.

I’m unfazed. I have fielded this request for years now.

“We can’t go to Disney until Daddy can make it through Nickelodeon Universe without hyperventilating.”

No, he doesn’t have a respiratory condition.

No, he doesn’t have agoraphobia.

Or fear of giant talking rodents in gloves.

He’s just unable to suspend his reasoning when it comes to buying a $15 kid’s meal or a four hour wait for a magic carpet ride. Even in mouse ears, holding an insulated cup … with mouse ears.

I would need to fill his poor sippy cup with something much stronger; like a Mouse-ka-cocktail. Or a half bottle of NyQuil.

Truth be told, we’ve both got some issues with Disney; the marketing team, in particular (genius as they might be).

I’m tired of swimming in princess propaganda. Ariel smiles up at me when I brush the cookies out of my toddler’s milky molars. Cinderella tilts her coy chin on a spoon resting on a hot bowl of Sunday chili. Honestly, there are very few utensils in my house that don’t have a pastel princess staring doe-eyed off into the horizon. My kids haven’t even seen all of the movies; they recognize the majority of princesses because they reign at the kingdom of Target. In every aisle.

Oh, I can hear the teeth gnashing of you ardent mouse followers. Easy now, no need to go all Maleficent. What would Walt say?

I know, I’m a giant hypocrite. I can hardly complain about the pervasive nature of Disney culture if I’m the one buying it. But am I denying them a childhood if I don’t ship us all to the capital of consumerism and slap us full of mouse ears?

Honesty, I’m torn. I’m no Disney virgin (interpret that as you may … though I did pass on the Magical Kingdom honeymoon). As a child, I had my chance to fly through Neverland and nervously smile at the creepy automatons waving throughout the “It’s A Small World” boat ride. I did my time waiting in line for Space Mountain and respectfully walked by Cinderella’s grand castle. The complete submersion into make believe is nothing short of magical.

So when the guilt starts to gnaw at me, I try to remember a recent visit with my family to Nickelodeon Universe at the Mall of America.

A labyrinth of rides. Illusive bathrooms. A $10 basket of cheese curds and an extroverted (and a little handsy) over sized SpongeBob.

I know it is supposed to be fun, but after retrieving my swearing 9-year-old out of the (faulty) remote control boat pond and scraping the remnants of a $6 cup of Dippin’ Dots (and some hair) out of the singing bus ride, I was ready for a grown-up drink. Not from Bikini Bottom.

And this was before we lost our 6-year-old to a cheese fondue soirée at the expertly placed, American Girl store on the plaza. Before my toddler threatened potty defiance in wake of sold-out blinking headbands. Before lunch.

I cannot imagine waiting in longer lines, paying more for food and sherpaing more souvenirs back to a hotel with talking animal cartoons. Maybe there is something magic in those mouse ear hats? I would be on my knees after surviving just one day. Or purposely left behind in the Mad Hatter Lounge.

I know there would also be moments of awe: a certain pride I’d feel when they lined up for a photo with the beloved Little Mermaid (or try to unhook her seashells), a tug at my heart when my little girls waved at Cinderella’s carriage. Our world needs a little magic sometimes.

So, I decided, in light of airline restrictions and poor theme park behavior, we cannot yet go to Disney. But that doesn’t mean Disney can’t come to us …

“Your wings are crooked, dear,” my husband notes nonchalantly. “And your safety pin looks like it’s ready to explode.”

Tinkerbell may not have been the best costume choice for breakfast. My wings keep sliding into the pancake batter, and it is obscenely short, feathered skirt and all.

“Good morning, Lost Boys! Grab some grub before Hook starts clamoring,” I chirp. “And Good morning my fellow fairies! Your wings are waiting at the table for you. I was sure to sprinkle some pixie dust on those pancakes!”

So … probably not the same reaction of pancakes at the Magic Kingdom, but there is awe. I am greeted with flat out horror. And then gut-wrenching laughter. And then the POP! of a safety pin.

We can do magic right here at home. Laughter through tears, magic. The kind you won’t ever forget.