By CEAN BURGESON
I recently went to Disney World with my family of five for the first time, and something happened to me. It felt different, somehow.
The last time I went to the magic kingdom in California, I went for myself. I’ve been there several times, the first time when I was seven years old. And I always had a blast. Every ride, every show, each attraction was amazing — no matter how hoky some of them now might seem to me as an adult.
In a world without the Internet, video games, computer generated movie effects, and 100-channel cable TV, Disney really was the most magical place on earth. For a youngster in the 70s, it was truly awesome, from the pre-Jonny Depp Pirates of the Carribbean ride to the now 40 year old Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse to the recently removed 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea ride.
It’s no wonder the parks have had to update rides and add some newer, more thrilling rides to keep the kids interested. The world is a little more cynical, more technologically adept, and quite frankly expects more. Despite these increased expectations, today’s multiple Disney Parks still provide the same thrill level for kids and adults alike.
But I wasn’t a kid anymore. And the exact same level of marvel wasn’t there. This trip to Florida’s version of the Disney-themed park was for my kids this time rather than myself — and that was okay with me.
In one respect it was a little sad that I didn’t get as excited as I used to when my parents would take me to an amusement park as a kid. Despite the fact that not all of the rides held the same magic they once did, it was far more enjoyable to see how much my own kids enjoyed the experience.
My kids were wired every day of our six day vacation. The number one phrase I heard that week was “lookit, dad” as my children took turns pointing out the characters, rides, and other wonderful sights at Disney World, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, MGM, and the Disney water parks.
Don’t get me wrong, I had my favorite thrill rides too. My interest have merely shifted from the tried-but-true log ride to scarier attractions such as Twilight Zone’s Tower of Terror and Aerosmith’s Rock N Rollercoaster.
And I have to admit that I was as excited about the Star Wars Weekend at Disney’s MGM Studio theme park as my son was. Seeing storm troopers, Jawas, droids, Darth Vader, Chewbacca, and the rest of the Lucas space opera gang walking around in their full regalia for photo opportunities by park visitors made me a bit giddy.
But what made me feel that same real thrill I had at age seven — and provided a glimpse back into what it felt like to experience theme parks for the first time — was watching my eight and almost three year old kids’ reactions to everything.
Suddently, all of the $8 chicken nuggets, stifling crowds, long lines, and other hassles inherent to Disney were all worth it just to see how much fun the kids were having. And yes, my daughter had a level 10 melt-down near the end of the trip, complete with kicking, screaming, and all of the other wonderful attributes that make a terrible two tantrum such a joy to witness. (And it was witnessed by several hundred Disney goers, some who nodded with that, “been there, done that” smile, and others who were mortified at that spectacle).
The entire Disney experience made me think about life these days.
Since the newest Burgeson came into the world about two months ago, I’ve been feeling old. It was far easier to handle the lack of sleep, multiple diaper changes, and constant care and attention that a newborn requires when we had our first son at the age of 28 — which now seems like a million years ago — because now that I’m closer to forty than thirty, it isn’t as easy to keep up with the new-dad lifestyle.
At the same time, having two kids under the age of three actually keeps me feeling young.
Through their eyes I’m seeing things that I’ve forgotten about for years. And it’s a joy to rediscover all of the joys of that time when I was young, and innocent, and seeing and experiencing a so much for the very first time.
With my two-going-on-thirteen-year-old daughter, I am re-experiencing my own trials and tribulations of growing up with a little sister. The two older kids bicker, and fight, and tattle on each other just like my sister and I did when we were young.
I know the “dad, Reidar hit me” (even though he really didn’t) trick, because it was pulled on me time and time again by my own sister. I also know the ‘stick your foot out when your sister runs through the living room and watch her take a header” trick, which I myself perfected back in 1974.
With my eight-year-old son, I get to remember the joy of learning to read, enjoying the simplicity of playing catch in the backyard, and spending lazy afternoons fishing in a 16 foot aluminum boat on the lake — among many others.
And as my children each get older, I will get to re-examine life at every stage; age 10, 11, 12, 13,...
And all the while, continue to feel young through my kids.
So, while I sometimes want to pull out what is left of my hair (about 30 percent) when my daughter rather loudly and defiantly refuses to potty on the big potty, or when my son bounces hockey pucks off of the windows in the living room, or when I get home from work at midnight and fall in bed, only to have the baby wake me at 12:15 — I realize that it’s all worth it.
Because they will never be two-years-old again, or eight-years-old again, or 7-weeks-old again. And I know that I’ll miss these crazy, hectic, wondrous times.
Cean Burgeson can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org