Sitting in traffic on 95, we were south bound for Florida. An unusual quiet enveloped my children who were happily plugged in to every media device known to man. Eyes fixed on their screens, they were consumed in a vortex of movies and games. We were on our way to making dreams come true, eyes set on the land known as Disney, a world where stardust and fariytales would delight us, and we would finally meet Mickey in the flesh.
In the middle of the first night, I laid in bed, plotting our course for the first day of our two-day excursion to the Magic Kingdom. I had decided we would keep our theme-park visit relatively short in comparison to how most people roll. The bottom line is, I couldn’t afford more than that. We’d spend two days in just one part of the Disney metropolis, systematically dividing our time between the different lands, utilizing our fast-passes as efficiently as possible to maximize our time. We would make memories that would last a lifetime, or at least the duration of the 2-day road trip home. I’d consulted with my college roommate who is strangely still on the same wave length even 20 years later. She had bestowed on me her level-headed-mother-of-seven-who-frequents-Disney-often wisdom, so I was ready with a plan.
On the first day, our waiter at the restaurant where we’d eaten lunch handed us a fourth fast-pass to compensate for slow service, enabling us to ride a roller coaster that had a two hour wait without standing in line. We concluded the day around 6 PM, following a performance that ended with an LED lighting of the Magic Castle that impressed even the cynic in the crowd. Making our way out of the park, my son, reaching his limit, began to cry about who-knows-what. A park employee asked me how many were in our group as she fished around in her purse, handing me enough fast-passes to bring our expedited riding on our next visit to a total of 5 attractions for which we didn’t have to endure a line. Our Disney excursion turned out to be quite successful in light of our limitations.
One evening, we found ourselves in a contrived little town known as Celebration, Florida, designed to feel as though you are on a Hollywood set with its Americana-styled buildings, complete with fake snow. Absorbed by the foam-covered street, my kids ran up and down, making fast-friends with other children tromping through the soapy mixture. I spotted a wine shop with patio tables covered by umbrellas. My boyfriend who had made the trek to Florida with us graciously stood on the sidewalk, while my kids carried on. I suggested we sit down and enjoy a glass of wine while the kids were still having fun. It wasn’t hours worth of entertainment but, instead, a moment to take in and breath. Too bad it took me ten minutes of deliberating in my head about whether it was worth the time to have a glass of wine at all. After all, it would be short.
What could have been a fleeting moment turned into a brief opportunity to savor the moment at hand rather than planning for a precise time in the future when everything would be just so, and I could finally relax. How meticulous we can get when planning vacations and determining the exact combination of planned activity and free time will result in making memories as a family that will meet our idealistic expectations. All any of us really has is a million tiny moments to make the best of each situation we find ourselves in regardless of the circumstances.
These last few years of transitions from becoming a parent to a now-single parent I’ve hit rinse and repeat more than once on my expectations about everything from my life’s goals to my goals for the day at hand. What I started out seeing as limitations have now become boundary-setting-markers. Regardless of our circumstances, we all have the ability to stop and consider what is real versus what is ideal in any given situation and then adjust our expectations accordingly. Identifying those natural boundary-markers can ease the frustration we encounter when things don’t go as planned. We can view our obstacles as limitations that rob our enthusiasm, or we can plan around them, asking what’s most important in light of them.
Instead of going into my vacation with grandiose expectations of all we’d see and do, I’d had to adjust those before even arriving at the Magic Kingdom. As a result, my kids were able to be kids, with the expectation that they would be stretched in their endurance a bit but not pushed past their breaking point. There were certainly a few moments here and there where my patience ran thin and their shenanigans had me aggravated . . . . for a moment. I’m thankful that there were a million more moments of goodness that followed.