If we’re being honest, we all know that family vacations tend to include more than their fair share of stress. Add a couple overtired children to that stress, and what you’ve got is a recipe for parenting disaster. My husband and I have traveled to Walt Disney World Resort enough times now to be able to do so without going through the typical pre-vacation ordeal that often launches parents into their trip already stressed out and exhausted. Once we get there, we’ve also got a routine to follow that keeps all four members of our family reasonably content and agreeable. For many families, however, a trip to the Happiest Place on Earth is a once in a lifetime experience, bringing with it all the anticipation and over-thinking that one might expect from setting a vacation bar too high.
My husband and I have found that in quiet moments in the parks, perhaps while enjoying an ice cream cone in Fantasyland or riding the monorail, we love to people watch. We’ve witnessed many sweet moments between loved ones this way, absolutely adding to the Disney magic. We’ve also learned that it’s often due to luck that more kids don’t wander away from their families during their time in the parks. While parents argue, their heads facing maps or cell phones, kids tend to find something else to do, and we’ve seen everything from a toddler who seemingly joined another family without anyone noticing to kids literally climbing flag poles.
While all of these observations are certainly amusing, they also push me to be a better parent, especially in the heights of vacation stress. This list could certainly be longer, but here are the 5 top ways that I’m pushed to be a better parent because of my time at Disney Parks.
1. I’m encouraged to actually look at my children when they speak.
One thing that I notice time and time again is that very few parents look up from what they’re doing or down and away from the crowds when they’re responding to their children. No, it’s not feasible to crouch down and get eye to eye with your children in a crowded park, but a family vacation is a great time to practice looking away from a screen and at your child’s face.
2. I’m inspired to pause before saying no.
If you listen very closely at Disney Parks, you hear a lot of parents saying the word no. A lot. Often. I understand that there are temptations everywhere in the parks from souvenirs to snacks, but it seems like the knee-jerk response for all parents, including myself, is no. It inspires me to take a long pause before saying no when my children ask me for something.
3. I’m pushed to smile while saying yes.
You know what feels even better than telling a child yes? Telling them yes with a smile.
4. I take the time to publicly love on my husband.
Even though kids get a ton of amazing family time during vacations to Disney Parks, they also get a glimpse of parents who are under the stress of travel. I’ve noticed parents spending a lot of time bickering, and it drives me to try harder to do the opposite. I love when my kids get to see their parents holding hands and stealing kisses. And yes, I do believe that loving on my husband in front of our children makes me a better parent.
5. I’m asked time and time again to remember what it feels like to be a child.
It can be so difficult to remember what it feels like to be a child, from how overwhelming it can be to move through large crowds by big buildings to feeling the incredible excitement of vacation. It seems to me that days and nights spent in Disney Parks are the perfect opportunity to practice feeling like a child again. And being able to relate to my children and understand their feeling surely provides me with an opportunity to be a better parent.