The Dreaded Question

“Mommy, when can we go to Disney World?”

The girls hit me with this dreaded question the other day in the car. Not can we go to Disney World. When can we go to Disney World. Like it’s a given.

Seriously, I would have rather they’d asked where babies come from. And maybe I should have tried to distract them with that. (“How about instead of answering that, I tell you about one of life’s great mysteries!!”)

Instead, I fumbled, “Well, I don’t think we’re going to go to Disney World. It costs a lot of money, and it’s very crowded, and there are a lot of other really cool places we’d like to take you that might be even more fun.” I’m thinking Machu Picchu. Paris. Hell, maybe an all-inclusive resort in Jamaica. Or even just places like Old Orchard Beach or Rye Playland — both of which we’ve gone to with the girls to in the past couple of weeks, compliments of their grandparents.

“But we want to go to Disney World, too.”

“Where did you guys hear about Disney World? Did somebody in your class go there?”

“No,” said Clio. “You did!”

Doh!!

I don’t recall telling the girls that I went to Disney World. Maybe they asked at some point. Regardless, it is true. I went to Disney World not once but twice when I was a kid. My grandparents had a condo not far from Orlando where they spent part of each winter for a few years, and we combined visits to them with visits to Disney World. The first time we went I was in Kindergarten, and my memories are a bit hazy, but I clearly remember the It’s a Small World ride, The Pirates of the Caribbean Ride (which inspired the movies – who woulda guessed it), Space Mountain, and my brother, then two and a half, having a total screaming fit (“The Tantrum in Tomorrowland” my family still calls it) and eventually falling asleep right on the pavement.

The second time, we stayed in the park, at the Contemporary Resort Hotel (the monorail went through the hotel!! Crazy!!) for one night, and at the Polynesian Resort Hotel for another. (Exotic!) This time, Epcot was open — although parts of it were still under construction — and I recall my brother and I watching the synchronized “hopping” fountain with utter awe.

So, did I have a blast? Is Disney World the site of fond childhood memories? Yeah. I guess so.

But in my defense: 1.) It was cheaper then (I think, even in adjusted 1980s dollars) and my parents had more money than we do. 2.) Disney Inc. hadn’t become the hyper-commercial mega-corporaration and merchandising empire it is now. The US hadn’t been completely chain-store and mall-ified yet. And, 3.) we had the added objective of spending time with / staying with the grandparents.

It’s not that I think Disney World or Disney, Inc. is evil incarnate or anything. We watched Ratatouille with the girls over the weekend, and I was amazed at the artistry, the creativity. We took the girls to the last two princess movies (Yes! You read right!), Tangled and The Princess and the Frog, and I thought they were both great. I respect the quality of what Disney churns out.

The thing is, I hate big mobs of people. I hate rampant consumerism. And I’m not a big fan of theme parks. Or fakeness in general. As in, replicas of things. (Castles, European villages, trees, etc.) I’d rather take the girls to Europe when they’re a little older. Let them see a real castle. Not that that’s exactly on the agenda either, money-wise.

And, yeah, yeah, I know. That’s not nearly as much fun for a five, six or seven year old as, you know, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. Because, well, it’s Sleeping Beauty’s Castle!!! Not some dead French artistocrat’s. In fact, they’d probably be bored out of their minds, and we’d end up at Euro Disney anyway. (Which somehow I think might be easier to stomach. The food would be better anyway.)

Bottom line, I totally understand why Disney World is such a thrill for kids. I lived it, after all. And I’m sure they would have a great time.

So, the question is, if the girls start putting on a harder push for Disney World over the next couple of years (the subject has not come up again since that car ride…) do I swallow my anti-American distaste for Disney World, dip into our savings, and let them experience the Magic of Disney first-hand?

Or do I (do we, because Alastair is with me on this) stand firm, stick to our guns, and tell them sorry. We promise to give you as many wonderful experiences as we can. Some of which may include trips to really fun (and preferably non-manufactured) places. But Disney World isn’t going to be one of them. I think I know the answer.

What about you? Have your kids asked to Disney? (Usage of Disney as verb inspired by this very funny recent article in the New York Times Magazine about a family’s trip to Disney World.)  What’s your answer?

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