Romance with Ears: A Preschooler "Date" at Disney
Trip Start Apr 19, 2010
14Trip End Sep 01, 2012
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In the interim, Elizabeth and I had exchanged a few emails and had planned for Lucas and Grace to have a "sleep over" one night while they were here. A few days before their family arrived, I got an email listing an agenda for their trip. After one look at it, my only thought was "this is a brave woman". She had a really really really full agenda, but if there was one family that could pull that off it would be theirs. Elizabeth is one of those mom's who makes the whole thing look easy. And I like her anyway.
Once they arrived in Paris, I quickly realized that they might want to spend a bit more time in our apartment than they may have originally planned. Our apartment is very "kid friendly". In short, this means that we don't own many breakable things. Our furniture is old. I still have bookshelves that my Dad made from scrap wood. In short, if something gets broken here, it is not that big a deal The only exception being the computer. The apartment that they were staying in was...well.....it was not kid friendly. Of course, I am saying this from the "Mom" perspective. Mother's with young children develop this ability to scan a room within seconds to determine all the potential threats, and annoyances, that could arise. So, when Julien and I visited the apartment that our friends' family was renting, what went through my mind was "breakable, breakable, choking hazard, breakable, untouchable, strangling hazard, what is that anyway?!?" Mind you, the apartment was beautiful, but it was for adults and not for kids. Any mother who has to constantly monitor her kids in such an environment will leave this situation either a) extraordinarily pissed off b) extraordinarily tense or c) severely medicated. I must admit that I admired both Elizabeth and John for managing that situation fairly cheerfully, but I know it can't have been easy
Setting the Stage for the Perfect Preschool Date
We chose to have Grace stay over on a Tuesday night, because Lucas only had a half day of school the next day. When Elizabeth dropped Grace off that evening, we decided that she would pick her up in the late afternoon the following day. After much running, screaming and playing (on the part of the kids), Lucas, Seb and Grace all headed off to bed in the boys room with shockingly few complaints. When I went to check on them before going to bed I noticed that, while still in their respective beds, Lucas and Grace had managed to position themselves so that they were holding hands. It was super cute, and I wish I had taken a picture... but I didn't want to wake them. Sometime in the middle of the night, Seb had a nightmare and it was Grace who called me. I could hear her telling Seb, "don't worry, your mother is coming". This gave me this momentary visceral remembrance that kids have their own world, which adults are only privy to for brief moments or in shadowy memory
The next morning, I decided, a bit on a whim and perhaps influence by the night before, to take Lucas and Grace to Disneyland. Seb had a bit of a cold, so I thought it best to leave him at home with his nanny. Plus, I thought it would be great for Lucas and Grace to share a "date" at Disney. This did take a bit of subterfuge, Mickey is second only to Mommy in Seb's world so he could NOT know we were going to Disney without him. So, during his nap, I sent Elizabeth an email to make sure she was OK with this, and then off we went. What I didn't realize, until Grace told me, that this was her first visit to Disneyland.
The Makings of a Great Preschool Date
So, I have to say at the start that taking the two of them to Disneyland was SOOOO EASY! I really didn't expect that, as I am not in the habit of putting children and easy together in the same sentence, let alone the same mental construct. I think I quite reasonably expected someone to run off, or have a tantrum, or want to buy something they couldn't have or eat something they didn't like or get offended by the color of the cutlery....you know, typical kid stuff
When we got there, there was almost no line. But I must admit that I was a little apprehensive about Grace going on this coaster.
I feel I should give you at least a bit of history on the Lucky Nugget. I wrote a fairly detailed account of everything that was wrong with this restaurant shortly after the first time we visited. You can read that account in my blog. Suffice it to say that Mickey snubbed Seb and Mom was NOT HAPPY. This time, when we went in, they had made some really positive changes....and a few negative ones. Unfortunately, the first negative one was right as I was entering. Someone, who is obviously SEVERELY organizationally challenged, had decided to institute a policy where you pay with a credit card BEFORE you can go into the restaurant
First, they have completely changed the layout. You no longer have to sit on bar stools with your kids, like you are about to order them a "cold one". (Once again see previous blog rant). Now you sit at actual tables directly in front of the stage. The buffet is now set up in the row above the "bar seats". ( I like to think this might have something to do with my blog post, but that is probably just wishful thinking.) This arrangement makes it much easier for the characters to interact with the kids. And interact they did. I don't know if it was because there were so few people and the characters were bored, but they were AMAZING. Whoever was Pluto that day should win some sort of "Person in Animal Costume" Award. He wrestled on the ground with Lucas. He pulled Grace around the dining circle in her chair
This time, on our way out, there happened to be a "show" occurring on center stage, and as a part of this we got to see "Princess Tiana" close up. Grace was mesmerized. Her eyes were wide as saucers. When we walked off, she looked like she had just seen, well, a Princess. She was asking Lucas what he knew about all the Princesses, and he once again had a chance to show off his detailed knowledge of all things Disney
I had told them that they could each by 1 thing provided that a) it was under 20 Euros and b) it was small enough to fit in my backpack so Seb wouldn't have to know we had gone to Disney without him. So we decided to go into Sleeping Beauty's castle as that allowed us to kill two birds with one stone. We did the obligatory visit to castle and we started the lengthy choose a parting gift process. It was here that I thought my son might finally succumb to the expected meltdown, when I told him that "no" he could not buy the 200 euro glass slipper for Grace. However, I was saved by the sound of roars coming from the basement. Grace and Lucas raced down the stairs to investigate. Once more, I was a bit apprehensive. The "dragon" that sleeps beneath the castle is very life like and scary. But Lucas had seen it before and Grace was not going to be outdone. So they watched for a good 3 minutes before Grace wanted to go. Grace seemed to have more questions as I heard Lucas explaining that the Dragon was actually Maleficent, and that Prince Phillip had put her in "prison" down there. Interesting how I hadn't made that connection but my 5 year old did.
By way of parting gift, Grace choose a Minnie blanket and Lucas got a Mickey umbrella. I also got Grace a Minnie pencil and Lucas a Mickey pen. After all this, we left the park quite easily. I was a bit surprised at this, as the parade was starting just as we were leaving. But I think they had had so many experiences that day that they didn't need any more. Also, Grace was afraid that Elizabeth would put me in a "time out" for being late. :) When we made it back, I discovered from a misty eyed Elizabeth that this actually was Grace's first Disney trip
In fact, it was pretty much the perfect preschool date. They had adrenaline highs. They got to play with characters who are, let's face it, "rock stars" to preschoolers. They faced fear together in Phantom Manor. They even saw a dragon. And Lucas, being the perfect date, did NOT slay the dragon for Grace. He simply held her hand until she was comfortable enough to slay it herself, at least in her mind. I felt it was a rare privilege to be able to see my son on one of his first official dates. When the date was truly over, and Grace left that night, they exchanged "I love you's". Before going to bed that night, Lucas told me that his feelings were "complicated". He said "I was happy Grace came, but I am also sad that she is leaving. So I feel happy and sad. It's confusing." Big thoughts for a 5 year old.
When the Hirai family left Paris, Lucas and Grace had spent enough memorable moments together that I am fairly sure that they will remember it. A date at Disney is magic for a 5 year old...and magic stands the test of time.
P.S. A Disney date can be magic for adults as well, and I promise that I will later write down the recipe for a perfect Disney date night for adults....but that will have to wait for summer. Explanation forthcoming.