We recently made our first family trip to Disneyland. It was, in the words of our five-year-old, "totally epic." I had a lot of time to mull things over while standing in line for tickets, standing in line for rides, standing in line to meet characters, standing in line to avoid standing in later lines, standing in line to eat, standing in line to pee, standing in lines for a bus to another line, etc. Here is a summary of my musings, and I won't even make you stand in line to read them.
1) Don't force your kids to do things they aren't ready for.
This applies to many areas of life, but Disneyland makes it uncomfortably obvious in the weeping, screaming faces of children mid-meltdown. There is no point in bringing a kid younger than five to Disneyland. You will pay a lot of money, and everyone will suffer. Between the skeletons freaking everywhere and the overpriced toys around every corner, you are well and truly screwed if your kid is not old enough to have some degree of control over his feelings.
This lesson applies to many areas of life. Perhaps a 3-year-old doesn't need tutoring or to be playing three sports, for example. Perhaps it's okay that my kid needs a nightlight, hasn't yet read War and Peace, and still wakes up with a wet pull-up in the morning. I'm pretty sure that by the time he leaves for college, he will possess both literacy and bladder control.
2) Churros are yummy.
3) A place that is fun can still be casually racist.
Tiana. Iridessa. The Black baby dolls singing "It's a Small World." There, I've listed all the Black characters I saw at Disneyland who aren't shooting poison arrows or wearing hats made of bananas -- and only the singing babies had curly hair.
Does this statement mean that I think everyone who works at Disney is a racist, and you can't go there ever again, and if you have fun there you're a terrible human being, and I don't want to be your friend anymore, and we should feel guilty for being born white? No.
Does this mean that I think white supremacy and white privilege are pervasive in our culture and I saw that in stark relief at Disneyland? Yes. Does it mean that it makes me sad that my Black/Indian kid sees very few people there who look like him? Yes. Do I think white people need to be more aware of and self-aware about these kinds of issues and be a part of fighting the good fight? Yes.
4) Personal interaction makes a bigger impression than dazzling technology.
You know what my kid loved best at Disneyland? It wasn't the amazing rides, though Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters was a big hit. It was meeting and conversing with Captain America and getting to fight Darth Vader in the Jedi Training Academy. He loved interacting with the characters and staff and playing pretend with the other kids on Pirate Island and in Toon Town. He loved telling his tales of adventure to anyone in earshot back at the hotel. He loved spending time with his parents and his birthmother and sharing his excitement with us. The joy was in the interaction and the relationships.
Kids don't need an expensive trip or pricey gadgets to make happy memories. They just need us and an adventure of their own making.
5) Good things come to those who wait.
We did a lot of waiting in line, as I may have mentioned earlier. My kiddo was a trooper. After every ride, I asked him if the wait was worth it. Every time, he said that it was. We never knew for sure while we were doing the waiting of course. We had our moments of doubt. Maybe Nemo will stay lost, we thought. Maybe all the animatronic children singing "It's a Small World" will come to life and kill us all in their first step to world domination. Maybe I'll barf on Star Tours. Okay, that last one is a bad example since it almost actually happened. The point is that in the end, generally, our perseverance was rewarded.
Good things come after a time of waiting. Good things can even come during a time of waiting.
This is a lesson we hear often in the church: look at Advent and Lent. But sometimes in our daily lives, we want everything to come so quickly.
This is a lesson I often struggle to remember as we wait (over 2 years so far this time around) to see if anyone out there will choose us to raise her child. It is a lesson I have to repeat to myself as I struggle to make progress writing my stories and getting them published in my very limited free time. It is a lesson I often forget when I get impatient with my health, when Lupus seems to be winning and my treatments seem to struggle to make any headway.
When I get impatient, I need to remember that when I look back at periods of my life spent waiting, those aren't bad memories. The journey still contained joy and growth and fun. I also need to remember that every time I've been seemingly stuck in an endless line, that every time the days have crawled by with little to show for them, when I got to the front of the line, the ride was still worth it: better, even, than Astro Blasters.