I’ve just returned from Disneyworld. It was a lovely, idyllic trip. We brought our two sons, and we left the tween/teen girls behind.
People gave us a look when we first announced this plan. One of those “Are you really sure you know what you are doing with this whole parenting thing?” looks. How could we be so cruel? How could we leave our 12 and 15 year old daughters with family while off on this adventure with our 4 and 7 year old sons?
“I don’t want the girls to miss school,” I said. I said this mostly to get rid of that judge-y look. Good parents don’t pull their teens/tweens out of school. (Side note: I’d totally pull my girls out of school for a meaningful trip even though I’d suffer more for the paperwork involved much more than they’d suffer for missing a couple of days of instruction.)
Then the real reasoning… “The boys are the perfect age,” I explained, “The girls had their time. When they were little, they went on the Disney cruise.”
“You mean the one where you lost your luggage?” they asked.
“Yeah, that one.”
We didn’t have the means to travel much when my daughters were young. But one spring, ten years ago, we took an epic trip to the east coast. The trip was a twofer. We’d committed to a family event in Virginia but as long as we were flying cross country, we decided to take some time for ourselves, for a “real family vacation” and we booked a Disney Cruise. The girls were, we figured, the perfect age.
Our girls were already Disney veterans at that time. From the time my oldest was 2 we’d had season passes to Disneyland. Both girls had autograph albums full of photos and signatures. They attended Sunday story hour so often that some of the princesses would wave and call out their names on Main street as the teetered along in full on costume and trippy trappy plastic heels. We didn’t actually have to fly cross country to do anything Disney. But we did for the cruise. We were pretty certain we’d have a good time because we were certain the girls would have a good time.
Their pure pleasure (along with the promise of some time in a deck chair with a good novel) was a compelling sales schpiel.
On the morning of the ship’s departure, we were told to leave our specially labeled luggage at the hotel and it would be transferred directly to our room on the ship. My younger daughter, still a toddler at the time, was going through a clingy phase that had us almost questioning that whole “perfect age” thing. At 2, she wasn’t quite there yet. Not quite potty trained and wanting to be carried near constantly… Another year and she’d be all in. We thought we were being practical when we took advantage of the opportunity to unburden ourselves on our way to the ship. We crammed everything except a couple of spare diapers and our wallets, passports and boarding passes into our luggage. Clever!
Until we got to our stateroom and our luggage wasn’t there. We were assured it would arrive by nightfall. The ship left port. The sun set. The luggage never came and by the next morning the crew confirmed it had not made it aboard the ship. Initially I panicked. Five days without all the essentials, matching themed outfits and hairbows, activity kits and accessories I had so carefully packed? No diapers, wipes, meds, toys, toiletries, clothes? No cameras?! How would we manage?
The Disney cast members and crew were good to us. They brought us diapers, sunscreen and a few toys. We’d wisely purchased travel insurance and used our funds to purchase clothes and toiletries for ourselves. I got a couple of sundresses and my husband cobbled together a Tommy Bahama wardrobe the likes of which his closet has never known. For the girls, we purchased bathing suits and matching princess costumes. Really, what more did they need? They were delighted with their haul. Ecstatic, actually.
I was shocked how unconcerned the girls were about the missing luggage – luggage that held their favorite stuffed animals and security blankets. They just didn’t care. They had tiaras, the Disney ship as their playground, and they had us. They were the perfect age. It wasn’t an ideal trip but all these years later, what I regret most is not having had the camera for most of it. Because despite all that went wrong, so much went right.
I got nostalgic about the cruise when the opportunity presented itself to bring my family to Disneyworld for the Social Media Moms celebration. What if we all went?
Oh the freak out session my girls would have about lost luggage, today. OMG!!! The griping they’d do about lack of cell service or wifi. They’d demand to go on roller coasters first and then ask to be cut loose when their little brothers were deemed “annoying” or “embarrassing” on the rides and skipping down main street. My daughters are normal for their age. Still perfect, but they are no longer that perfect Disney age. Not in that same way. I appreciate their wit, and even their snark. But not on this trip. Call me selfish, but the magic of the perfect age is something I’d hate to miss out on.
It’s different for every kid but here is how I define those perfect Disney Age years, somewhere between 3 and 10:
- They still believe in magic and strangely believe you possess it.
- Family is still first, friends second.
- They can walk around on their own two feet (but you might still want a stroller) and use a potty.
- They can go all day but will pass out hard come day’s end… butts in the air & legs tucked under them. Once there they will dream sweet dreams with glitter on their lashes, smeared face paint on their faces and a smile on their still baby-like lips.
Some would argue that any age is the perfect Disney age. Disneyland is still one of the things that we can do as a family. We all have passes and go frequently. It’s certainly fun for my teenagers (who bring or meet friends), fun for my 4 year old and fun for me as well. But it’s a different dynamic entirely. Together but separate. Autograph books and text messages. I’m so glad we can all still do fun things together, but having older kids makes me appreciate the fleeting magic of the “perfect age”.
I’m grateful for the chance to have experienced it, and to continue to experience it, with each of my kids. My husband is grateful for this too, as well as the opportunity to wear his Tommy Bahama wardrobe again.
Disclosure: I was invited to take part in the 2012 Disney Social Media Moms Celebration conference. Various tickets/passes, accommodations and other associated perks were supplied to me for the duration of my stay. I was not specifically asked to share anything with my readers about the conference or anything related to Disney. All opinions are my own.