Today we head out on our first family trip to Disney World! We’ll be there for almost 2 1/2 weeks [sidebar: don’t be too jealous of us – this is literally the first non-driving family trip we’ve taken that wasn’t centered on visiting extended family and definitely the longest one we’ve ever taken].

A little background

I’ve mentioned before that our daughter Maya is five years old. We had originally planned on taking the trip last December, but for a number of reasons decided to push it off to this year. I keep telling people we were lucky we did! She is on the smaller side for her age, so had we gone last year, there would have been a lot of rides she couldn’t ride, and she would have been super disappointed. Now there are maybe two she won’t be able to do.

The other thing to note is that when I tell people about our trip and how long we’ll be there, I’m usually met with one of two reactions:

First, the “oh wow!” reaction of people who are excited for us, can’t believe we’re taking her for the first time, that we are going to be going for so long.

Second, that “oh wow!” reaction of people who follow it up with some version of “that sounds like the seventh circle of hell.”

I need to clarify that both Michael and I are Disney people, so for us, this was not a “grit your teeth and bear it for the kid” trip. We are excited in and of ourselves. We’ve actually been laying the foundation for this trip for awhile. About four years ago, we began showing her the Disney full-length animated feature films beginning with the first one – Snow White, from 1938 – and made our way through the Disney canon over time. It was actually a great family activity, which worked out even better than we anticipated since we realized that the simpler stories Disney used early on were great for Maya when she was young, and as she grew up she was able to follow the increasingly complex stories in the movies over time.

image of Cinderella's Castle made of legos

Also, “Santa” had been told of our upcoming trip last year and he brought her a Lego set of Cinderella’s castle. We started in January and our goal was to put it all together by the time we left for our Disney trip. Not gonna lie, it seemed like we might not make it toward the end, but we made a real push in the last couple of weeks and managed to get it all completed.

Michael had gone to Disney World many times before both as a child and as an adult; however, his last trip was in 2001 (another story for another day, but he was actually stuck there when they grounded the flights after 9/11 and had to take a bus all the way home!).

I had gone to Disney World once with my family years ago, but at that time there were only two parks: Epcot and the Magic Kingdom. Growing up in San Diego, we often went to Disneyland, so my parents’ perspective after that trip was “why should we fly across the country when Disneyland is right in our back yard?” Can’t say I blame them.

Since Michael was last there and certainly since I was last there, Disney has added a lot to the parks, so we’ll both be getting a ton of new experiences ourselves. But I think the most exciting part will be seeing Disney through the eyes of our daughter.

That’s the real trouble with the world. Too many people grow up.

Walt Disney

Zen and the Art of Disney

Fortunately for me, Michael’s a Disney planning ninja so the itinerary is well mapped out, pretty balanced, but full. This means, as a friend mine says, “it’s time to put your patience pants on.”

Family unity can get tested all the more on a vacation, for no other reason than the sheer inability to get away from each other. Think about it: you spend most of your daily lives apart from each other. You’re off at work, they’re off at school/afterschool/activities most of the week, meaning face-to-face time is often a pretty small chunk of the day. Even worse, much of this time is functional – getting fed, ready to get out the door, getting bathed and so on. Imagine going from that relatively small amount of time to suddenly spending every waking (and sleeping) minute together for weeks? The irony is, we plan vacations to gain back the quality family time we lose on a daily basis, and it can sometimes blow up in our faces.

I write this less as an instructional “how to” and more of a talking myself through what I’m about to jump into. It’s not something I had given much thought to before writing this post, but the simple exercise of anticipating the challenges and gaming out potential coping strategies is very therapeutic.

If you think about it, this is exactly the kind of exercise or planning we do with so much of our lives – work projects, home projects, personal improvement – but we often fail to do with the things that matter most – friendships, relationships, and parenting. I’ve been trying to apply this strategy more and more to these areas with the aim of deepening the meaning and making the activities and the time more intentional. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post diving into this more)

So let me leave you with the question I’ve been asking myself:

What is your intention for your relationships, and how are you going to make it a reality?

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