Monday, April 18, 2011

Play: The slippery slope from intention to reality

Even before I had children, I was an expert in child rearing.  No, especially before I had children, I was an expert in child rearing. Okay, okay.  Only before I had children was I an expert in child rearing.

Back in my mid-twenties, I had such plans for my hypothetical children.  They would wear gender neutral clothing and scorn television for playing happily with decor-friendly wooden toys.  Their interests would include sitting quietly in restaurants and waiting rooms, as well as eating whatever I served them.

There were a few things for which I, as a pretend mother, would simply not stand.  My children would never kick the back of airplane seat.  Not once.  Also, they wouldn't require portable DVD players because on long trips they would be content to play "I-Spy", or just gaze at the scenery, or --worst case scenario-- bliss out on Dramamine.  Also, we would never, ever become one of those Disney families that heads to the Magic Kingdom every vacation.  My hypothetical children and I would enjoy authentic experiences, and they would understand that there was more to life than their personal entertainment.

Right.

Ten years later, I have two actual flesh and blood children, who do on occasion speak above a whisper in public.  I also have a house full of sparkly pink tutus and a playroom full of plastic.  I know where to find an episode of Spongebob at any hour of the day and I've been known to hop up from the dinner table to make a pb&j (or to demand that my husband jump up and do it).  And we've been to Walt Disney World, um, a few times.

The first time seemed innocent enough. I mean every little girl does to Disney World at least once in her life, right?  Who knew it was a gateway to a much darker habit?

After my parents heard what a great time the girls had the first time, they sprang for a Disney trip for the whole family the following summer.

Fearful of turning into one of those families, my husband and I vowed that we would not return to Walt Disney World the following summer.  We booked a trip to Southern California and then, discovering a loophole in our oath, decided to spend our a couple of days, including our tenth anniversary, at Disneyland.

Incidentally, spending your milestone anniversary at a sweaty theme park with two tired kids is not as enchanting as it sounds.  However, the couple in front of us on the line for the Tomorrowland Speedway thought it was the height of romance. They were thirteen.

And tomorrow we will pack up our portable DVD players and board a plane to Orlando. Try as I might, it's likely that seatbacks will be kicked (apparently a hazard of child-sized legs).  This time the trip is a Christmas gift from my in-laws, and, I swear, the last visit for a very, very long while.

This summer we will, instead, head out on a road trip in search of that authentic experience my hypothetical children so appreciated.  Also, we will surprise the girls with a couple of nights in Orlando at the Nickelodeon Hotel, Little E's lifelong dream.  Please don't judge as harshly as 25-year-old me would.

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