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7 Parenting Lessons I Learned From Mickey Mouse, Goofy and Snow White

My son would like to marry Goofy.

He hasn’t actually told me that, but I’ve seen the way he looks at him. Minnie might do, and perhaps even Daisy Duck, but Goofy is his all-time fave (though I’m not sure Disney would pick up the wedding tab).

I discovered this on the recent Disney Cruise our family took, where Max and I went to every Goofy meet-up we could get to. Once, Max personally escorted Goofy back to the crew area. While he definitely got a kick out of meeting Goofy’s son, another Max, and he enjoyed hanging with the other characters, he had a thing for Goofy. Can you blame him? Those eyes! Those floppy ears! Those teeth!

Disney Cruises are awe-inspiring for many reasons: the gorgeous ship (we were on the newest one, The Disney Fantasy), the pools and water slide, the shows, the fantastic dining and 24/7 free room service, the friendly drop-off kids clubs (key words being “drop-off”). As it turned out, amidst all the bliss and hanging out with cartoon characters with oversize heads, I got some good parenting reality checks and reminders.

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  • Kids aren’t as jaded as you might think 1 of 7
    Kids aren't as jaded as you might think
    "What-ever!" is one of my 7-year-old's favorite words. Eye-rolling is one of her favorite things to do. "I did that already!" is one of her favorite things to say when I suggest an activity. You get the picture. It's a little worrisome having a child who is so hard to awe. Like, is she missing the "wow!" gene or something? But when she was around the characters, she got kind of wondrous. "Mommy, take my picture with Donald!" she'd beg. I thought she was way past princesses, but no, she happily posed with Belle and Cinderella. It was kind of reassuring to see there was still a kid in there.
  • Snow White cures sibling rivalry! 2 of 7
    Snow White cures sibling rivalry!
    Turns out that if you talk in a high-pitched, sing-songy Snow White voice when your kids are fighting and say things like "It is not kind to fight!" and "Tra la la, oh isn't this a lovely day!" they will think it's a laugh riot and get completely distracted. Even better if your husband does it.*

    * Word, it's impossible to conjure up bluebirds fluttering around your head.
  • Sometimes, you have to forget about getting that perfect picture 3 of 7
    Sometimes, you have to forget about getting that perfect picture
    As parents, we try so hard to document our children's lives and cuteness. Thing is, sometimes we're so determined to do it that we miss the pleasure of the moment. I know a woman who'd never, ever take her camera on trips because she wanted to just enjoy. While that's extreme, I do think there's something to be said about putting down the camera. I kept trying to capture the perfect shot of my son with Woody and Jessie, and finally I stopped and laughed along with him. Later, when I looked back at my photos, I realized that this non-posed shot was the perfect shot.
  • Worrying about what’s age-appropriate won’t do a kid any good 4 of 7
    Worrying about what's age-appropriate won't do a kid any good
    It's tempting to kiss Goofy's nose. At least that was true for Max, who'd plant one on him when given the chance. Max, who's 10 and has special needs, also loved the little-kids club better than the one for his age group. At first, I had my concerns: "What will other kids think?" And then, I decided it didn't matter. The only thing that did: My son having the time of his life.
  • Rethink the same old, same old dinner 5 of 7
    Rethink the same old, same old dinner
    One thing the kids looked forward to at dinnertime: the Mickey-shaped ketchup blobs our waiter, Ciao, would make on a plate. I've been doing this at home, and the kids are duly impressed (and more psyched to eat what's on their plates). I also tracked down Mickey-shaped pasta...and I'm even sharing it with the kids!
  • Parents should take time to play, too 6 of 7
    Parents should take time to play, too
    As family-tastic as the cruise is, my husband and I were desperate for time to ourselves. So we left the kids in the kids club one afternoon and wandered around Costa Maya together enjoying the sun, ceviche and cerveza. And we didn't feel one bit guilty about it.
  • Little things can be majorly magical 7 of 7
    Little things can be majorly magical
    The entertainment on the trip was fantastic: We saw musicals, a magic show, one very amusing hypnotist. But one of my son's favorite things was when the ship's horn played the beginning notes of "When You Wish Upon A Star." Max's face lit up every single time. At night now, when I tuck Max into bed, I kiss him good night, hum the notes and get the biggest smile.

Read more from Ellen at Love That Max

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More to read from 1000 Perplexing Things About Parenthood:

• Top 15 Most Memorable Family Moments
• 9 Things You Can Learn From My Potty-Training Saga
• 9 Ways Kids Wreck Your House: Home Eeek Home

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