The Window

Open-WindowMy family and I recently took a trip to Disney World. I don’t know that it can be adequately termed a vacation as vacations are usually relaxing. It certainly couldn’t be termed “Sabbath” in the sense that it was not a rest. It might better be called a distraction from life, but it was certainly fun.

We had been planning this trip for a year. After my parents died, we kept going and going and going and going and never stopped. My wife and I realized that we needed something as a family to enjoy…..together. We knew that it would cost a lot of money (that’s an understatement) and that a lot of planning would be involved, but we were up for the challenge.

I should really say that my wife was up for the challenge, she’s the one who did the majority (if not all) of the planning. It spoke a little to my own personal growth that a control freak like me was willing to relinquish planning to my wife. I guess that I can chalk that up to 13 years of marriage and the fact that God has actually accomplished something in my life during that time.

Not sure about you, but sometimes, when there is such anticipation and planning involved in something, the expectations that are set can be so high that it might almost seem impossible to live up to them. How do you expect that 6 days can really accomplish what you think it will accomplish, even at the “happiest place on earth”?

Our kids were excited, to say the least, and we talked it up for a whole year. I pulled out the home movies from when I was a kid at Disney, showing them what my experience had been. My wife and I had both had our own personal experiences with Disney as children and had even taken one last trip there together, just the two of us, before we started our family. I think that we both realized early on that there was a possibility of trying to duplicate our own experiences at Disney as children rather than allowing for our children to create their own.

Surprisingly, my expectations of how things would be were not so impossibly high. Like I said, I think that I’ve experienced some amount of personal growth in the last few years, enough to be able to put aside certain things and try to enjoy the moment. If there is anything that can help a person do that better than children, I’m not sure what it is. As I had heard countless thousands of times over the months leading up to our trip via Disney’s own animated feature, I knew that I would need to “Let It Go” in order to really have a good time.

My youngest turns 3 next month, so we knew that she would be free. My own experience of Disney happened at that age (and younger), so I knew that it was possible to enjoy the experience at that age, but I wasn’t sure to what extent. If you’ve been to theme parks before, you’ve probably noticed those parents who want to get the most out of their money and who drag their kids around the parks, completely exhausted and melting down, with an almost Clark Griswold-esque approach, expecting that they had paid the exorbitant fees to get in, so they were going to have a good time come hell or high water.

I had vowed that I wouldn’t do that, but there’s a fine line there. Spending $100 a day to “enjoy” a theme park is a little excessive and I can totally understand a parent’s desire to get the most for their money. Thankfully, I didn’t have to face kids melting down too much. I was super proud of my children (and completely relieved) at the way that they handled the exhausting marathon with much more simplicity than I had expected. It’s a lot to expect, but we had tried very hard to make sure that our kids, at least the older ones, knew what to expect. This trip would involve a lot of physical energy, and we all needed to be up for the task.

We knew that my youngest could be oblivious to some of the things around her, but we hoped that she would connect with at least some of them. I wasn’t really worried going into it, it would be what it would be and there was no amount of worrying or stressing that would change that. After a few hiccups and stressful moments in the first days, we settled in to a groove and found that the kids setting the pace for the experience would be the way to experience it most successfully. Still, I wondered how “successful” this would be. Would they appreciate it as much as I hoped, even the little one?

My fears were never realized, and I think that I figured that out on Day 1 at our dinner experience. We ate at Chef Mickey’s, a character dining experience where we were able to meet Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto. My daughter was wearing her Minnie Mouse dress and when Minnie Mouse came over to our table, I saw my daughter’s eyes light up. It’s hard to fully describe what I saw in those beautiful blue eyes. It might only be described as “magic” as dreams and wishes of a simple few years began to be realized. She looked up at this mouse with such wonder that I realized in that moment that we had made it through “the window.”

You know “the window,” right? The window of opportunity. The one that everyone who has children going off to college tells you about. They tell you that you will blink and that same little girl will be walking towards the podium with her cap and gown to receive her high school diploma. That same little girl will be announcing her engagement. That same little girl will be telling dancing with you at her wedding. That same little girl will be calling you on the phone to tell you that you’re going to be a grandparent. Sure, I may be rushing things along, but from what everyone else keeps telling me, this window of opportunity is small, you can only capture that magic for so long before the window closes and the opportunity is gone.

Ironically, it’s never the stuff that you think that your kids will appreciate that they really hold on to. “What was your favorite part?” is answered with, “swimming in the pool” or something like that. You realize that you could have done that at home for a fraction of the cost, but you also realize that the memories created around this experience are priceless, they can’t be bough or manufactured. You realize that the more you embrace these experiences, the less painful that “blink” will be when you find that your kids are grown up and leaving.

Sure, I’ve got a long way to go before that time, but I’m going to do what I can to keep climbing through those windows of opportunity. It might be awkward sometimes, and I might not always get through the window the way that I thought that I would, but in the end, it’s the fact that the moments were captured and experienced, not how much money was spent or whether everything was perfect. Even in those simply moments, even when nothing seems to be going the way that you planned, those are the moments and experiences that your kids will remember the most. As I look back at my own experiences, the greatest memories were in the journeys, not always in the experiences themselves.

Here’s to climbing through those windows!

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