Before we took our kids to Walt Disney World Resort for the first time in 2008, this is what I thought I knew about my children:
My four-year-old daughter was quiet, intelligent, timid, sweet, and loved Disney princesses.
My two-year-old son was brazen, a dare-devil, and I hoped he would someday get into college on a football scholarship, because running into walls head-first seemed to be his greatest talent.
A week at Walt Disney World taught me that I was missing the boat on getting to know my own children.
To my surprise, it was my daughter, not my feisty-two-and-a half-year -old, who loved riding the thrilling Goofy’s Barnstormer. In fact, my son rode once then swore it off for years, not getting back on until after the opening of New Fantasyland a year ago. My daughter, however, graduated immediately from Barnstormer to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, making me that mom in line getting the evil glares for taking her sweet little four-year-old on a big bad roller-coaster…over, and over, and over again.
My son emerged as the quiet contemplative child, watching characters from afar before deciding if he would allow them to approach, but loving the attention from the princesses. He loved the live shows like Finding Nemo, but didn’t seem interested in any of the daring attractions.
Since then I’ve returned to the parks several times, even venturing out to Disneyland with just my daughter, and every trip brings me closer to my kids and teaches me more about them that I seem to miss when we’re at home. While my daughter remains laid back during the day-to-day, content to live and let live, she pushes through the parks like a woman on a mission and is the last one among us to give up and head back to the room for much needed rest. And my son, who doesn’t seem to want to stop when we’re at home, finds more enjoyment in the Innoventions buildings at Epcot than on some of the park’s thrilling attractions like Soarin’ and Test Track.
Above all, however, what Disney parks taught me about my children that I love most is that I like them as people. I enjoy their company. I have fun with them, walking through the parks, talking, planning our days, eating, watching fireworks, swimming. My kids are kind and outgoing; they’re playful and thoughtful; they’re enjoyable. Realizing that I enjoy the company of my children is far and away the best souvenir I’ve ever brought home from my visit to Disney parks and is likely the top reason I continue to return time and time again.