Dear, Stranger

Something happened at the end of our night at Magic Kingdom this weekend that probably shouldn’t have irked me. But it did and I’ve been thinking about it for a few days now.

While waiting for the tram to take us to the parking lot at some time close to midnight, Sleeping Penny awoke in her stroller and started to mildly cry. Understandably, she didn’t want to have to get out to board the tram. She pleaded that we could just walk to our car, which is normally what we would do with her sleeping at the end of the night. But we were in the very last lot and needed to take the tram.

Enter other parent.

“Somebody’s overtired.”

“Must have been a long day for her.”

“That’s exactly why we don’t get ours a stroller anymore. If he can’t walk the whole time, then we just have to leave early.”

“Well at least you know she’ll sleep tonight.”

One woman, several comments, all directed right at me.

First of all, lady, no one asked you. Second of all, lady, NO ONE ASKED YOU!!!

It is our choice to have our 4 year old at Magic Kingdom on a late night. We didn’t get there until almost 5pm, so it wasn’t an open to close day. She enjoys going and we all love the shorter (almost nonexistent) waits, especially at the kid-friendly rides she prefers. We go to a park every weekend as a family and she doesn’t crash in the middle of an hour-long line, she falls asleep nicely in her stroller at the end of the night.

But I shouldn’t feel the need to defend myself, which I didn’t. I feigned a smile towards the woman and got down on my kid’s level to talk her down. Corey picked her up, we boarded the tram like 2 minutes later and not another tear was shed.

So, as I rehashed the comments in my head over the next couple of days, it got me thinking about parenting at Disney World. It got me thinking about our parenting at Disney World.

Sure, we take our kid a lot. There are probably not a lot of 4 year olds that go to a Disney theme park every weekend. But we compare our Disney Passes to a zoo or museum membership, just on a much larger scale and with more places to visit. And we use those outings as teachable outings.

 

We teach Penny the days of the week.

“We’re going to Magic Kingdom Saturday.”

Then she asks every day what day it is, how many days until we go, etc. She wakes up that morning and knows today is Saturday and we’re going to Magic Kingdom.

“Where are we going next Saturday??” or “Can we go to Epcot on Sunday?” Sometimes, she even needs to go over every single day of the week multiple times until whatever agreed upon day finally arrives.

 

We use our time at the parks to teach patience and rules.

While Penny knows that standing in line has a certain set of rules (no hanging, no climbing), they are our rules and not every kid adheres to them. But, for the most part, Penny does and if she doesn’t, her behavior gets corrected. Sure, sometimes we correct her loud enough for the family in front of us with the children climbing all over the queue to hear, but our corrections are always directed at our child only.

 

We teach cause and effect.

“If you can’t follow the rules, we can always just go home.”

“If you want to ride Big Thunder, we have to wait in line and we’ll miss _______.”

“Finish your lunch and we can discuss getting a cupcake.”

Showing Penny that her actions can affect her positively or negatively help her make better choices. We give her freedom to help choose our path for the day, which parks we go to, what attractions we get to enjoy. And giving her that freedom makes her that much more enjoyable to be around.

Penny doesn’t go to school yet and so our time spent at Disney World has been valuable for socialization as well as learning good life skills. She is patient, she follows rules, she’s learned acceptable behaviors in public. Sure, we might be spoiling her a little. I can see that side, too. But I firmly believe that while we are making lifelong memories with her, we are teaching her to be a decent person with good manners.

So, stranger waiting for the tram, I’m glad you got to see my kid have a minor crying fit. Because it gave us the opportunity to show you our parenting skills and how calmly and easily we could talk her down from it. It allowed me the chance to reevaluate how I was internalizing your comments and really look at how we parent Penny while we’re having fun at the most magical place on Earth. And Instead of beating myself up and thinking, “Maybe this isn’t good for her,” I flipped that coin over and saw that the crying fits are few and far between and we have a really great kid on our hands.

Because we’re raising her that way.

 

 

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