I’ve heard the stories and seen the pictures. Kids get woken up in the wee hours of the morning. They are shuttled into the car only to be told “SURPRISE! We are going to Disney!” The kids squeal. Their hands dance with delight. Their expressions of utter joy are absolutely priceless. If you are a parent that has orchestrated this feat, I applaud you. You have made your children very happy. My friends have told me how far in advance these Disney trips need to be planned…the meal reservations, the lodging, the fast track passes, etc. When they mention the price tag of a Disney trip, I always feel surprised. Inevitably, my friends return from Disney, rave about their experiences, and choose to save for a return trip. Clearly, they feel Disney is worth every penny and they are making memories to be cherished for a lifetime. I’ve know a few couples that have even honeymooned in Disney.
I am happy that my friends and their families have wonderful times at Disney. Truly happy for them. If I’m being honest though, I just don’t get it. I must be missing the Disney mom gene. Something must be wrong with me. I went to Disney three times as a kid, once in California and twice in Florida. While I don’t remember the California trip because I was a toddler, I remember the Florida trips vividly. I realize what I am about to say is probably sacrilegious to most, but here it goes…I just don’t think Disney is that big of a deal. There. I said it. I remember standing in ridiculously long lines in the sweltering heat for rides that were nice, but hardly worth the discomfort. Perhaps the fact I went to Disney in August and stood on scalding asphalt or I get motion sickness rather easily has colored my view of Disney. I don’t know. I do know that I’m probably not going to take my kids there.
I guess I’m supposed to feel bad about depriving my kids of the Disney childhood rite of passage, but I don’t. I’d rather take my kids abroad. I want my sons to experience the cultures of different countries…the smells, the foods, the sounds, the people, the languages, the dress, the customs, the art, the architecture…all of it. I hope this will help them understand that people everywhere have more in common than they appear to at first glance. They feel the same emotions. They often want the same things. They are different too, and I hope my children will strive to understand and appreciate these differences.
While Disney may not be my jam, understanding the social, political, economic, and historical aspects of different people of the world is. I should probably disclose that I am a social studies teacher. I am also the daughter of two immigrants (literally off the boat from Italy) and the granddaughter of a refugee, so I know the United States is an amazing and beautiful country. I fully appreciate the opportunities and privileges the United States has to offer. I’ve seen this play out first hand in my own family. For many, America is synonymous with the promise of a better life. I get it, I really do and I will work hard to ensure my children understand this too. Yet, there are other amazing countries in this world. They may be different from the United States, but they are beautiful in their own right. I want my sons to see them. I want my sons to appreciate them. I hope this will make them more tolerant and accepting individuals. Traveling abroad has helped my sons realize how fortunate they are to live the lives that they do. Since funds and time are not limitless, I have to make choices. I choose to skip Disney so my kids can explore the world. Judge me if you will. My kids have been to Italy, England, France, and Canada, but there are many more places I’d love for them to experience. Japan, Argentina, Israel, Egypt, India, Botswana..who knows where we might end up? “It’s a small world after all,” isn’t it?