While walking through Disney World for our fifth and final day in the park, after we waited in line in one of the Magic Kingdom cafés, I glanced to the side and noticed a family of about 6 sitting side by side on a bench each holding their own homemade bologna and cheese sandwich. Some of the kids had half-eaten sandwiches, others hadn’t even pulled the sandwich out of the plastic bag. One child was obviously disappointed, slapping his sandwich across one of his hands — back and forth, back and forth.
20 plus years ago, that was my family in Disneyland. My sisters would have eaten half of their ham sandwiches, my dad would have polished his off, and I would have been slapping my ham sandwich across one of my hands — back and forth, back and forth.
I was always disappointed we had to be the family who carried their own homemade food into the Park. Why couldn’t we eat in one of those cafés? Why couldn’t we have one of those turkey legs all to ourselves? Ice cream? Forget it. My dad used to stop at a specific gas station on our trips to Salt Lake City because the gas station gave out one free ice cream cone per gas purchase. That one cone was my dad’s idea of desert on a family vacation — all six of us sitting in a full-sized van sharing a single, crappy ice cream cone. I still struggle to share an ice cream cone with anyone — too many bad memories.
Casey’s family was similar to my family, only she may have been worse off. My family at least got to eat out at a moderately priced restaurant for dinner, but her family used a traveling heating plate to make cheap dinners each night.
As much as I hated having to eat a homemade sandwich at Disneyland when I was a kid, I would like to instill the same value of frugality in my kids. I’d like them to recognize that they should conserve money when possible however, I think we’ve failed in that category. Our kids have become beggars at every opportunity to have a donut, an ice cream cone, or a hamburger at any and every nearby McDonalds.
I think that I counted at least 20 requests for ice cream on our last day in Disney World. That was just from Addie. How many from Vivi? Well, not 20. But it was at least in the double digits.
Chocolate covered pretzels? Caramel apple? Chocolate bar? Slushee? M&Ms? Dip’n Dots? Saltwater taffy? Frozen Yogurt? Cookies? Marshmallows? Sucker?
On our way out of the Park on the last night, we decided to stop in the candy shop to use up what was left on a gift card we had been given. The goal was to use the remaining amount from the card and not any of our own money. We weren’t too picky about what we were going to get. Casey grabbed two Mickey Mouse kids’ plates, and I grabbed a bag of saltwater taffy. Addie went from shelf to shelf looking for something that she could throw on the pile. As she was running out of time, she quickly grabbed a bag of chocolate covered pretzels — a food she hasn’t liked in the past — and then gave me the puppy eyes.
We didn’t get the chocolate covered pretzels because she doesn’t like them, she doesn’t need them, and throwing those on top of what we had already selected would have taken us over our gift card limit. 20 minutes later, I walked out of the restroom and found Addie sobbing in Casey’s arms. Why? Because she wanted something from the store but didn’t get anything.
Sheesh. That day the kids had an ice cream cone, a Mickey Mouse sandwich, and a trip to Disney World. Then I remembered that family sitting on the bench humbly eating their homemade bologna sandwiches. Next time I want to be that family eating their homemade ham sandwiches as we watch the crowd walk by, because being cheap parents can have value when you’re raising kids.
More on Babble Dad: