The Disney Difference

I have been to Disney World five times in the past eleven years.

During each of these trips, I have either been pregnant, nursing, changing diapers, or up all night with a child who can’t sleep in a hotel– and every possible combination of the above.

Last week, while at both Disney World and Universal Studios, I was trying to figure out why– despite twelve-hour days of walking and waiting in lines with not only my three kids, but their two cousins– I felt so rested. So relaxed. Like I was actually on a real vacation.

But then I remembered– I didn’t have a baby or toddler anymore. Sure, I was still pushing my four year old in a rented stroller, but this same child was also riding next to me on Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster with her arms reaching for the sky for the entire duration.

Times, it seems, have changed.

During our three days visiting parks, I carried water bottles, not sippy cups. I wasn’t concerned about naps or a lack thereof. We were out so late we watched the fireworks every night. I wiped only one kid’s bottom. And I didn’t have to wash anyone’s hands — they could all reach the faucets themselves.

My oldest daughter turned 11 as we twisted, turned, and looped upside down on Aerosmith’s Rock ‘n Roller Coaster at breakneck speed. The ride was the perfect way to celebrate her birthday, but also, the perfect metaphor for how to describe my personal transition from parenting in the early years to parenting older children.

Though those precious baby years happen in a flash, thankfully, there’s always something more thrilling around the next bend.

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