We just got back from an amazing trip to Disney World. I still can't believe how much we accomplished in one week. We managed to tour all four theme parks, spend approximately three days by the pool and even attend the Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party in seven extremely busy but downright thrilling days. We actually made it home in one piece, but I'm not sure we will ever be the same again.
Never been to Disney? It's stimulation overload to the nth degree. The sheer magnitude of sensory experiences is overwhelming for an adult let alone a 4 and 6-year-old. The music, the lights, the rides, the characters, the food, the...everything. We were pumped up on endorphins from morning until night because we were having so much fun. I don't know of another place on the planet that provides as many opportunities for entertainment for every person.
Nicholas loved Test Track, the automotive-testing ride that simulates the safety and quality tests that General Motors performs on every prototype it manufactures. Christopher enjoyed Soarin', the multi-passenger glider that lifts you 40 feet into the air as you swoop up and soar towards the clouds and spectacular California panoramas. Mark was in full competition mode on Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin video-game inspired ride as he blasted away Evil Emperor Zurg's robot minions with laser cannons. And, I couldn't get enough of Expedition Everest, the high-altitude, high-speed, train ride that combines coaster-like thrills with the excitement of a close encounter with the Abominable Snowman.
As your brain is processing all of the fun and excitement, it's hard not to succumb to every single monetary temptation that is dangled in front of your nose every 2.5 seconds. Be it a $4.00 box of popcorn served in a cool, collectible Disney box, a $3.00 chocolate-covered Mickey Mouse shaped ice cream bar or the ridiculously high-priced, character-inspired t-shirts, pens, mouse pads, toys, etc. that are offered along the way, your dollars are subliminally called forth at every opportunity. Whenever you exit a ride or a show you are plopped smack-dab into the middle of a merchandise mecca designed to insist that you part with your hard-earned dollars. Your children are begging, the merchandise is so darn cute and your normal hard-as-nails resolve has dwindled to microscopic size. How can you not buy that cute, little (made-in-china) Mickey Mouse shaped pancake mold for $10.95?
Nicholas and Christopher each received $10 from their grandparents to spend as they wished at Disney World. Because Nicholas was presented with so many mind-boggling options he was basically tortured with indecision. Not to mention the fact that $10 ain't gonna get you much in the most magical place on Earth. Every item available for sale has been marked up by at least 300%. I'm not joking. The fact that some people actually buy some of the merchandise for the indicated price is preposterous. Mark and I had to make a united front, and quick, to make sure we didn't buckle under the cute-kids-acting-all-sweet-and-nice syndrome and buy things we really don't need or want. We even ate breakfast in our condo each morning and packed a lunch, with snacks, every day. We strategized ways to spend as little as possible inside the parks since we already knew the temptation (and price) was way too high.
So, Nicholas and Christopher learned a very hard, but valuable, lesson on their trip to Disney World. They learned they couldn't purchase the $15.95 item because they only had $10 to spend. They learned that mom and dad were not going to give in to each, "but I really, really, really want this" outburst. They had to learn that most items were outrageously overpriced and not worth even one-quarter of its suggested cost. They had to learn to buy something that they would enjoy and get some use out of and not just buy something to buy something. It's such a hard lesson and I felt small twinges of regret as I said "no" time and time again, but I know how important it is to learn the value of a dollar. They are not too young for this lesson. In fact, it's a great time to start teaching them that they will not always get everything they want.
Nicholas and Christopher finally decided on an autograph book (with coordinating pen) that each of the characters could sign. What a great idea! The boys could have wonderful memories for years to come with their autograph books instead of throwing out a toy that ran its course too soon because it was poorly made. Lesson learned.
The boys also learned another valuable lesson on this trip. Memories are created from spending quality time together as a family not spending money on material possessions. No Indiana Jones sword or Buzz Lightyear stun gun can replace the memories of us skipping hand-in-hand through the parks, floating down the lazy river together in the pool or enjoying S'mores by the campfire on the beach.
Those memories are priceless.