Last week, we returned from Sprout’s first trip to Walt Disney World. Normally, I wouldn’t bring a kid that young, but my in-laws are hard-core into it and volunteered to pay for the entire trip. So off we went to see the Mouse.
Now, I’ve been to Disney World as an adult, but nothing could prepare me for visiting with a small child. It becomes an entirely different experience, rife with its own set of joys and frustrations.
Here are a few of the things I learned about my own family along the way:
1) How little sleep my son can survive on.
One of my main areas of concern was getting Sprout back to the hotel for a daily nap and his normal bedtime. Due to extenuating circumstances, that plan went out the window almost immediately. While we managed some lengthy stroller naps – one was a full two hours – most days had very short naps and a bedtime at least an hour past the norm. But despite this shift, Sprout was mostly good-tempered. As long as he had something to look at (which there almost always was, being Disney World), and had enough time to walk around, he was pretty chipper.
2) The difference between listening to someone complain about the challenges of bedtime and experiencing them firsthand.
Sprout is not a good sleeper. He hates going to sleep and bedtime can end up being 45 minutes of him yelling at me in Baby. I’ve explained this to my in-laws, but I don’t think it set in until the night they put him to bed. While they had put him to bed at our house before, vacation radically upped the excitement level. From patting on the back to classical music, they tried every trick they knew of, only to be foiled by a loud whine the second they closed the door. They finally got him to sleep after nearly an hour. While I felt bad for them, it was a relief to see that it’s not just us he’s pain about when it comes to bedtime.
3) Sometimes folks need more comprehensive instructions than you would expect.
My father-in-law volunteered to put Sprout to bed one night so the rest of the adults could go out to dinner at a restaurant he didn’t like. As Chris and his sister came out pretty great, I figured he had the basic baby wrangling skills covered. Unfortunately, it had been far too long since he had changed a diaper. As such, he didn’t recall Cardinal Rule #1 of diaper changing – have everything ready before taking the diaper off. Even though he strongly suspected there were poops present, he failed to get the wipes out beforehand, leaving him without the needed resources. Instead, he said something hand wavy about “rinsing him off in the tub” and left it at that. Ewwww.
4) Don’t read the news while you’re on vacation.
While we were relaxing in the room, I happened to read a post on local news blog Greater Greater Washington. Unfortunately, this particular post mentioned that there had been torrential rain at Baltimore National Airport. In fact, a number of vehicles swamped and became totalled – in the parking lot we parked in. So I spent the whole week worrying that we might not be able to start our car when we got home. As it turned out, nothing was wrong. I wouldn’t have even known there was a problem if I hadn’t read the news post.
5) How rewarding it is for your kid to enjoy something you remember fondly from your own childhood.
Being a giant nerd, EPCOT was one of my favorite parks as a kid. I really loved the Journey into Imagination ride and its mascot, the purple dragon, Figment. I had a little stuffed version of him that was worn out from hugging. So I was thrilled when Sprout enjoyed the Journey into Imagination ride, looking around at the bright colors and funny sounds. He was also really engaged by the activities afterwards, from the squares that played instrument noises when you jumped on them to the machine that changes tone when you wave your arms. And perhaps most importantly, his face totally lit up when I bought him his very own Figment.
6) Respecting your kid means sometimes giving them something they want even when you know they won’t like it.
I’ve believed in this as part of my overall philosophy of respecting my kid as a person, but never had the chance to put it into practice. So when Sprout pointed to my curry noodle soup, I hesitated over giving it to him. It was a little too spicy for me, so he certainly wouldn’t like it. And he didn’t – he spit it out and batted at his tongue with his hand. But you know what? Maybe he would have loved it!
7) How much a kid can grow up in 10 days.
I’ve believed for a long time that travel can help lead to incredible personal growth. It exposes you to new cultures, natural and crafted beauty, and challenging situations. However, I would have never guessed that it would be true for a kid as little as Sprout. But it certainly seems like our trip sparked that growth in him.
The first full day at Disney, he decided he no longer wanted to hold my hand when he walked, motivating me to buy a “toddler tether.” The rest of the trip, he wandered around with Chris or me in tow.
In addition to mobility, he also wanted to do things that mommy and daddy do. Suddenly, he decided he wanted to push his own stroller instead of ride in it. A few days later, he kept whining and pushing his plate away, so we thought he was done eating. We finally figured out he was still hungry – he just wanted to eat the whole tacos, not the cut-up ones. Now, whenever he’s complaining and I can’t figure out why, I just start to think, “Is this something ‘grown-up’ that he wants?”
But perhaps his social growth has been the greatest. Sprout has been charming folks at restaurants now for a while, but we hadn’t seen the extent of his ongoing nature until this trip. He waved and said hi to almost everyone around us in line, on the bus, and at restaurants. He even walked up to people in the airport in the middle of conversations and would start jabbering away at them as if he was a natural participant – even though he isn’t speaking many recognizable words yet!