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How Disney World, a Preschooler, and Some Waffles Can Change Your Life

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

Photo credit: Meredith Carroll

Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks famously head to Disney Parks after the big game. Celebrities often celebrate their fame with mouse ears, tiny tots, and the Jungle Cruise. Millions of families visit Disney Parks each year, too. Disney Parks are where countless people celebrate life experiences with a life-changing experience — meeting and mingling with some of the most beloved characters of all time and watching it all come to life for small children.

Sometimes, though, a trip to a Disney Park can be even more meaningful, if that’s possible. Actually, it is possible. I know, I’ve been fortunate enough to have visited Disney World a handful of times in my life — both as a kid and an adult. My husband and I took our two daughters to Disney World a year and a half ago when they were 1 and 4. We planned to go again, but we didn’t know when. Then an opportunity was presented to me to go back this past March, and there’s no reason I wouldn’t have jumped at the chance.

Except.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in January and had a bilateral mastectomy scheduled for February. The trip was less than a month after I’d be getting out of the hospital. But I knew that there was no better incentive to heal quickly than the idea of taking my daughters back to Disney World — and this time with my mom.

I wouldn’t say I was feeling sorry for myself, exactly, following my surgery. But I was in some pain and depressed about what had just transpired and what could have been. Landing in Florida, though, and driving up to Disney World — watching my kids, watching my mom watch my kids — it was like I was born again. It didn’t hurt that I have my 5-year-old on video telling me I’m the best mommy ever, and my 2-year-old called a near-truce on tantrums because she was too busy pointing out Mickey Mouse’s silhouette every time she spotted one (which was everywhere).

If catching breast cancer early and nipping it in the bud doesn’t give you some serious perspective, spend a few days at Disney World with your kids and parents. Watch your parents delight in watching your kids delighted. Realize that it’s OK to stop and smell the triple chocolate cake with the rainbow Mickey sprinkles (and, you know, eat it, too). Magic is where you find it — and it’s always found as soon as you pass through the gates into the Magic Kingdom in the morning. You’re transported to a simpler time, and even the saddest, most distracted and harried among us can’t help but get caught up in the wonder of a world created for kids — big and small. Disney is there for all ages and speeds, and it’s there to remind you to live your life and love those who are in it. It’s also there to remind you to eat waffles. There are lots of them there in case you forget.

I came back from Disney World exhausted, but it was as if my time there took me out of my life, and when I re-entered it, I was changed. You don’t need a Park-Hopper pass to be transported to a place where you look for what you do have instead of what you don’t. Look at your kids, at your parents and see the magic in your everyday life. And when you can — do it at Disney World, too.

Here’s a short video of me with my older daughter doling out some Disney Parks advice, followed by some essential tips to maximize the fun with your small kids (not to mention minimize their whining):

Photo credits: Meredith Carroll

More from Meredith on Babble:

Follow Meredith on Twitter and check out her regular column on the op-ed page of The Denver Post at MeredithCarroll.com

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