This Saturday, my family is heading down to the happiest place on earth, otherwise known as Walt Disney World.
We, like many others (including just about any family with young children) love it there. But it's not because of the warm weather (you can go lots of places for that) or the rides (Six Flags is 30 minutes from here), to me, it's the way people are when they're there that makes this place so special.
As a child, I had the privilege of visiting on several occasions. My parents purchased a timeshare (that I think they still regret today) that forced us to go there every few years. I have nothing but fond memories, but having been there now a few times as a parent, I realize that it's far from a vacation when you're chasing little ones around in crowded spaces day after day.
And sitting down in the seat instantly brings back memories of sitting in those same seats with my parents and siblings (I can still picture my brother Chris reciting the "hold on to your hats and glasses" disclaimer before Big Thunder Mountain starts, over and over again).
It's nostalgia for sure, but it's something more than that -- it's consistency. We all strive to be consistent, yet few truly achieve it. Disney excels at it.
But it's not the rides that make this place special. Maybe it's the characters? Watching your child's eyes light up when Mickey Mouse is 20 feet away, or when Cinderella dances with the prince right before your eyes, or Tinkerbell flies through the sky -- it's difficult to describe. It's like watching the storybook come alive and to a young child, there might not be anything better.
But I don't think that's it either.
I strive to be a good parent, to teach my children the difference between right and wrong, how to be polite and well mannered, and to treat others as you wish to be treated. And often times, it goes in one ear and out the other. I think many other parents have the same experience. They're kids -- they listen when they want to and tune out when they don't. And we're working on this...
But, in the two previous trips that we've taken our kids down to Disney World, I can only think of one time where we had an incident. One. Over almost two weeks time. Fourteen hour days (many without naps). With two kids under the age of 5. That's fairly impressive.
And in fact, I can think of dozens of instances where they were better to and with each other, helping each other, and playing with each other. It's like they put being siblings on hold for those few days.
It's amazing what a Mouse can do.
My point is that while we enjoy the weather, the rides, and the kids being able to see the characters, what I enjoy the most is the atmosphere.
It's a world within our world, where what's happening outside the 30,080 acres of Disney-owned property simply doesn't matter. It's not that it doesn't matter, but that it doesn't impact what's happening inside the parks. The "cast members" that work there make you feel at home and welcome, you're not (really) worried about someone stealing your stuff, and generally, people are all in a great mood.
It's like it brings out the best in who we are as humans, something that I hope we all bring home with us.
I know that there are Disney-haters out there, that can't stand how commercialized it is, that are frustrated that there are full aisles of toys at Target with nothing but Disney toys and clothes, and I get that. But, within the confines of the Disney properties, I'd challenge anyone to find me a better place to show your kids what's possible in life if they believe.
I love Disney World because it shows us what we're all capable of being -- kind, generous, courteous, polite. I know that I strive to be all those things and I hope my kids pick up on that, because it's one thing to tell them to act like a princess, it's another thing for them to see it for themselves.
Seeing is believing, and I love what I see when we vacation there. We're all as humans just better people when we're there, and that's why I'll take my kids there every chance I get.
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