The Place "Where Dreams Come True"

I just returned from a family vacation that included two days at Disney World.  Our oldest daughter Carly, turned six in February, and this was our present to her.  Like most parents of six-year-olds, we are trying to teach her the value of a dollar, and appreciation for the things people do for her and give to her. This lesson often takes place in a store, with me crouched down to eye level of about four feet, trying to logically reason with a loudly whining girl that really, really wants something.  What gives kids the idea that adding “pretty” to please makes it better anyway?  I’ve never seen an ugly please, but my daughter can pretty-up a please with a cherry on top as good as anyone.

So what better place to teach your kids some old fashion values than the happiest place on earth?  I’ve taught Carly what an advertisement is.  She knows that toys are rarely as cool as they look on TV, and that a Happy Meal isn’t health food just because you choose apples instead of fries.  She should be able to see through and resist the efforts of what is possibly the greatest branding and marketing entity in the world, right?  Actually, all things considered, she did great.

Carly is in a big Princess phase right now, so seeing my daughter meet Cinderella, Ariel, Belle and Aurora was pretty big treat for me.  Hey, I get it.  I’m from Miami, and I met Larry Czonka when I was six, and I still talk about it.  Sure, the first day at Disney was really hot and humid, and for some reason the baby was not a big fan of waiting in a line for 50 minutes to go on It’s A Small World.  You have to expect and plan for these sort of days to be stressful.

Some of us parents did this better than others.  Disney is a long day, especially in March.  Each line is about an hour, so if you don’t plan things right you’re in trouble.  Unless you can afford to spend a week there, if the kids are going to see all the cool stuff they’re going to be staying up past their bed time. There is that cool Electric Light Parade at 8:00, and then a really impressive fireworks show at 9:00.  Carly is usually in bed by 8:00, but she had no problems staying up later than she ever has in her life.  Want a secret from a Disney veteran?  Go on the big rides during the Electric Light Parade.  The lines disappear.

So the second night was the really late night.  We had to get in everything we missed the day before.  We didn’t plan to stay up that late, we just looked up, and there was the parade.  So we headed to Pirates of the Caribbean.  No line.  Awesome.  The next thing you know, there were fireworks going off.  Time is a different thing on vacation.  Not for the baby, of course.  If my wife didn’t get her back to the hotel by 7, she would have definitely turned into the loudest, most unhappy pumpkin there.  We are lucky to be able to team up on things like this.

This is when I realized we never got the ears with her name stitched on the back.  Doh!  They sell the ears everywhere, but they only do the stitching at one store.  The quest begins.  It is in the front of the park, and there was a half an hour wait for the stitching.  So we walk around the store (which is like 5 stores actually) so she could pick out another souvenir.  Our rule is that souvenirs are bought at the end of things.  The reason: I don’t want to carry anything around all day.  The way I sell it:  You need to see everything people have, so you are not disappointed by getting the wrong thing.  Try it.  It works.

It’s about 10:00 PM, and that is when I notice it.  All around me, throughout the store, crying kids and angry parents.  The happiest place on earth, the place where dreams come true, has beaten them.  The kids make sense.  It’s late, they’ve been walking all day, they’re kids.  I understand the angry parents too.  You’ve been walking all day, waiting in lines, you dropped $50 on lunch alone and your ungrateful kid has the nerve to be upset that you won’t spend $75 for a princess dress or a stuffed animal?  But that’s the thing.  You went there for your kids.  You took them into the store to pick something out.  You need to set expectations and set boundaries before they have the melt down.  You don’t avoid problems in the Superbowl of toy stores without lots of practice.  Even then, you may get the melt down.  At that hour, you can’t hold your young child responsible for loosing it.  You need to keep your cool.

Grabbing your crying child by the arm and screaming, “Answer me already! Do you want the blue one or the white one?!”  isn’t how you want to end your day.  Any day.  But especially your day at the Magic Kingdom.  Carly made me proud that night.  She was told, No, and, Sorry but we just can’t afford that, and she got it.  She has heard these words before.  Our time at Disney was as special for our daughter as we had hoped it would be.  She was genuinely appreciative, and for that, I give thanks.

Ian Gordon is the father of two young daughters (Carly 6, and Sydney, 15 months). He has a blog and podcast at Startup Daddy

  • Pingback: I’m Now A Dad-O-Matic Contributor | Start A Business with Startup Daddy: Home Based Business Development()

  • Pingback: I’m Now A Dad-O-Matic Contributor | Start A Business with Startup Daddy: Home Based Business Development()

  • Shaun

    Great post! Love the insight about how the stage is set by you for those toy store meltdowns. Setting expectations and boundaries in advance is a great life skill in any situation, not just the superbowl of toy stores.

  • Shaun

    Great post! Love the insight about how the stage is set by you for those toy store meltdowns. Setting expectations and boundaries in advance is a great life skill in any situation, not just the superbowl of toy stores.

  • http://www.holysoundproductions.us/blog Pedro Sanchez, Jr.

    Great Article!!

    My daughter just turned 4 years old and she has a different name daily thanks to Disney world’s movies. One day shes princess, the other Mariposa, etc, etc :-)

    The truth is that yes, we have to set boundaries and usually in the beginning its tough, but at the long run it will be a good thing we did as parents.

    Regards,
    Pedro

  • http://www.holysoundproductions.us/blog Pedro Sanchez, Jr.

    Great Article!!

    My daughter just turned 4 years old and she has a different name daily thanks to Disney world’s movies. One day shes princess, the other Mariposa, etc, etc :-)

    The truth is that yes, we have to set boundaries and usually in the beginning its tough, but at the long run it will be a good thing we did as parents.

    Regards,
    Pedro

  • Craig Moore

    As a two time Disney vet (one with and one without kids) you got it right. Go against all you instincts. The simplest motto we had was “always go left” as people naturally go right. Use the fast pass option and yes, totally go do stuff when the big events happen. Excellent point about day two. Hit your most desired ride/attraction first thing in day, go directly there when you get in the gate. And for eating times, go anywhere between an hour to 30 mins before normal eating times to beat any rush.

    We’ll go again with all three very soon and as for the impact of commercialism on the kids and communicating that well it’s Disney, one of the best brand builders out there. You can lift the veil a little but you need to buy in a little and let them enjoy it too.

    Thanks

    Craig

  • Craig Moore

    As a two time Disney vet (one with and one without kids) you got it right. Go against all you instincts. The simplest motto we had was “always go left” as people naturally go right. Use the fast pass option and yes, totally go do stuff when the big events happen. Excellent point about day two. Hit your most desired ride/attraction first thing in day, go directly there when you get in the gate. And for eating times, go anywhere between an hour to 30 mins before normal eating times to beat any rush.

    We’ll go again with all three very soon and as for the impact of commercialism on the kids and communicating that well it’s Disney, one of the best brand builders out there. You can lift the veil a little but you need to buy in a little and let them enjoy it too.

    Thanks

    Craig

  • http://www.brokensea.com David Sobkowiak

    Great post! We took our 4yr old daughter a few years ago. She did great. All the walking and late nights caused a couple meltdowns but not enough to keep us all from having a great time. We’re headed back in July with our 4yr old son as well. Gonna be magical!

  • http://www.brokensea.com David Sobkowiak

    Great post! We took our 4yr old daughter a few years ago. She did great. All the walking and late nights caused a couple meltdowns but not enough to keep us all from having a great time. We’re headed back in July with our 4yr old son as well. Gonna be magical!

  • http://twitter.com/Chatonsworld Chaton Turner

    I had a magical Diney experience as well.  You can read about it at http://www.parentsociety.com/mom/disney-the-place-where-dreams-come-true/

  • Pingback: I’m Now A Dad-O-Matic Contributor - Entrepreneur News | The Australian Society of Entrepreneurs()