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Meredith Leigh Knight Columnist

Published Friday, July 13, 2012

Happiest place on earth

A friend of mine is taking a week-long trip to Disney with her husband and two young daughters. She said she hopes to come back relaxed and refreshed. It’s her first time, so I said they will love it. And, they will — when it’s over.

We’ve been quite a few times, and one thing I’ve learned is there’s nothing like being at “the Happiest Place on Earth” that makes a person more miserable.

Sure, the smiling mouse and other characters are great, but the long lines full of pushy parents who surround them for autographs that your child must have or else she’ll hold her breath until she passes out ­— not so much.

Our first trip to Disney was quite some time ago, when my oldest child was 4. We decided she’d probably want some company, so we brought my niece, also 4 at the time, along. In case, like me, math isn’t your strong suit, that’s two 4 years old plus one 10-hour drive, 50 potty stops, 150 “are we there yets?” and an infinite number of “she’s looking at me!” which totals two very exhausted and frustrated parents.

Of course, all of this vanished as soon as I admitted to my husband that I had gotten east and west mixed up (How did we live without Garmin?) and managed to get us off the toll roads and into the parking lot of the hotel. It was a Doubletree, and we had chosen wisely — a little too wisely, perhaps.

The kids were greeted with fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. To our right was an arcade (How did we live without iPads), and right outside the door was a heavenly pool and waterfall. The girls were finally happy, so happy, in fact, that when it was time to head over to the park, they both planted their feet firmly into the ground, crossed their arms, stuck out their lips and said, “No! We won’t go!”

This would have been all well and good, but we had not taken out a second mortgage to buy park tickets for nothing. We were going to the Happiest Place on Earth, and we were going to have a good time or else, I told them. They responded by jumping back into the pool.

Sigh.

After much pleading and cajoling, I decided that I needed to take it to the next level — threatening.

“OK, girls, this is it! I mean it! Either you come out of that pool, and we go to Disney World, or we get back in the car and go home!” I said.

They scrambled out of the pool, got their towels, looked at me with their cute little faces and said, “OK, let’s go home now.”

Again, sigh.

We eventually made it to the park, and I don’t really remember much about the trip beyond this incident.

I do recall that instead of rushing to get there when the doors opened, we allowed them to eat a hearty breakfast, swim and play a few video games.

Of course, before we left to head home, we let them pick out a souvenir. My daughter’s was a stuffed animal — Brer Rabbit. I remember this because she wanted the one my niece picked out, but somehow they only had one of whatever critter that was, and my daughter cried and cried and cried.

And, you know what? That’s OK. Sometimes the Happiest Place on Earth just does that to you.

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