A few weeks ago, we took Ryan to the happiest place on Earth. It was our first family visit to Disneyland. We had promised Ryan a trip to Mickey and Minnie’s home to celebrate the fact that he was four years old, potty trained, and would soon be starting preschool. A trip to Disneyland is not something I take lightly. It’s a big deal. And I felt that Ryan should be old enough to understand what he was seeing, to hopefully have some memory of it, and recognize that it was a special occasion.
He had a great time. Lots of smiles, lots of “What’s that?”, and promptly fell asleep in the car on the way home.
I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the whole misnomer of Disneyland being the “happiest place on Earth.” I don’t know who first coined that phrase, but I think they lied.
Here are four reasons why Disneyland isn’t the happiest place on Earth.
- Expensive. $255 for tickets. $15 for parking. We were lucky; we brought food from home and spent minimally (or as minimally as you can at an amusement park) for hot dogs. Ryan also didn’t want any souvenirs, so our out-of-pocket expenses weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been.
- Crowds. There are people. Everywhere. Waiting for rides, in the restrooms, taking pictures where you want to take pictures, getting in and out of the parking structure. Sometimes it feels like there’s no space to stop and breathe.
- Lines. Children are not always the most patient representatives of our species. Especially when it comes to something they deem to be fun. They want it now. Ryan did a great job waiting, but he didn’t understand why every ride we went on (except the carousel) had other people wanting to go on before us.
- Exhausting. Disneyland is big. There’s a lot to see, a lot of walking, a lot of not letting your guard down. We did an abbreviated visit (it’s all my legs could do), but between walking, going on rides, and driving home, our family was exhausted afterwards.
Disneyland is great at creating illusions. Illusions of merriment and wonder and happiness. That’s not the happiness our family knows. For us, happiness is looking in the rearview mirror, seeing Ryan wearing his red sunglasses, arms tucked behind his head, as he sings along to “Eternal Flame.” Happiness is sitting on the patio, reading Wacky Wednesday (again).
Will we return to Disneyland? Yes. Sometime in the future. Most likely to celebrate another of Ryan’s milestones. Next summer, we’ll pick a different adventure. And, because we treasure the little things, wherever our adventure takes us will be a happy place on Earth.