Not the Picture-Perfect Family: My Love-Hate Relationship with Disney World

4 years ago

It was a good 10 years since I had been to Disney World when my friend and her husband convinced me I should take a trip there with them. I had been laid off a month before, and spending money on a vacation six months away seemed like the stupidest thing.

So I did it, because -- in part -- I thought it would make me even more motivated to find a new, good-paying job so that I could afford the vacation.

They are huge Disney fans. I mean as in house is decorated with it, they are Disney Vacation Club members, and at that time, went to Orlando pretty frequently. Me, however, I am not.

My parents took me there as a five-year-old, and then again when I was eight we also went with my grandparents. It was fun, and surprisingly I do remember a lot from the trip. My mom is a Mickey Mouse fanatic. She used to have all things Mickey, from a ring, to a bracelet, to a necklace, to earrings and cookbooks. You name it, she loved it if it was Mickey.

I went there in high school several times for band trips and our senior trip. Then, came college. Our senior year we drove there for Spring Break. It was a blast, but I remember for some reason being at Magic Kingdom, and deciding that Disney wasn’t for me. All the kids running around, families, etc. Just not my style.

As I got older -- and more jaded -- I also decided that I didn’t like the lessons Disney was teaching young girls particularly. There is no Prince Charming, life is not a fairytale, not everyone gets rescued by some handsome man who sweeps a girl off her feet. It was just annoying. However, I did respect their marketing, customer relations and company as a business.

When I went with my friends, I have to admit it was fun. Being a grown-up at Disney is very different, especially since we went during the annual Food and Wine Festival. But, there was still something I was uneasy about the whole time we were there -- and I couldn’t place it.

For the past several years, I have been going to the Orlando area for business every spring, and almost each time, I did something Disney related. Recently, I even went on a Disney cruise.

The past several times I’ve gone to the parks, I’ve gotten upset and cried -- because my Mom, who used to love Disney and is now in a nursing home, couldn’t be there.

I felt guilt. I felt miserable. I felt dumb.

Here I am in the “Happiest Place on Earth,” and I’m crying my eyes out.


It happens to me all the time when I’m there.

Recently I was there on business and staying on Disney property, because it was the cheapest of the hotel choices for the conference. While sitting outside eating breakfast one morning, I had an epiphany of sorts.

I love observing people, not to judge them, like most people do when “people watching,” but just to watch the interactions. How people treat other people, what they say, the husband/wife dynamic, how they interact with their kids -- it all fascinates me.

As I was doing this, I realized something: I have such a love/hate relationship with Disney, because I never really had what they portray, nor will I ever have that.

Yes, my parents took me there as a kid, but, my Mom has been sick since I was five-years-old. So, I never had that fun, running around the part with her. Instead, my Dad pushed her in the wheelchair. When we went with my grandparents, my grandfather, who had Parkinson's, rented an electric wheelchair. So did my mom.

My childhood was spent in bathrooms, helping my mom. Or, listening to her tell me how to cook dinner, because she couldn’t. Vacations were fun, but there was always a sad element to them.

At Disney, I watch this family unit -- kids, their parents, their grandparents -- all having a great time together. I kind of had that, but it was always had a dark cloud over it. And let's say I was to have kids: I would never be able to do that. My Mom wouldn’t be able to come with us, we wouldn’t be that happy, smiley, cheery family you see running around the parks.

Credit: richo-fan.

It may seem like a minor thing to have figured out, but for me, it was a pretty decent breakthrough in this self-discovery that I seem to be going through.

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