Disney really is magical.
I expected to return from our trip exhausted, dejected, and perhaps a bit disillusioned. Four days in Disney World with a strong-willed 4-year-old, an even stronger-willed and just-learning-the-power-of-tantrums 17-month-old, my worry-wart of a father and my always-trying-to-please-everyone Mother? I was sure Hubby and I would be kicking ourselves for even coming up with the idea.
I was wrong.
Yes, Disney is exhausting and expensive. But, to be quite honest, it really was fantastic. It was near perfect. I kept looking around, waiting for some kind of minor catastrophe to befall us. Weather? Absolutely perfect: not too hot, not too cold and no rain. Dysfunctional family issues? Dad and I managed to avoid all of them. Ben, who can hit 104 degrees with a cold, got a fever on our first night and it magically went away by morning. Aidan Kai, also known as "The Extra-Extra-Extra Light Sleeper," laid right down in his port-a-crib, newly purchased Buzz Lightyear doll in hand, barely uttering a peep all night. We saw every character the kids had hoped to meet. We rode every ride they wanted to ride (some, more than once). There were no headaches, no stomachaches, no projectile vomiting, no fighting siblings. If I didn't know better, I'd think we'd been sprinkled with a bit of pixie dust upon arrival.
And believe me, I didn't go into this with these kinds of expectations. I was...how should I put it?...preparing myself for the worst. I expected regrets (mainly mine).
We came home with bags of souvenirs, 178 pictures, a little more debt, achy backs, and a whole new sense of family.
I am not sure what happened to my boys on this trip, but they seem to have bonded, if this is possible between a one-year-old and a four-year-old who does not like to share the spotlight. One night, I asked Ben if he wanted to sleep next door with his grandparents, just for fun. "Is Aidan going to sleep next door, too? 'Cause I wanna sleep in the room with Aidan." Since our return, Ben has insisted on pulling Aidan's high chair so close to his own chair at the dinner table, that their elbows are nearly touching. They have played together, unsupervised, for hours on end, and (here's the shocking part) Aidan has managed to go unscathed.
And it wasn't just the boys who benefited from this trip. I was able to spend time with my parents away from the reality of life, away from the demands of daily childcare, of work stress, of to-do's. I saw my mother happier than I've seen her in a long time. I was able to put my petty issues with my dad aside for 4 days, and just enjoy his attention, affection, and occasional nuttiness.
And as much as I complain about parenting, it is almost a relief when I feel those moments most moms talk about...the really good ones, the ones in which you know, with absolute certainty, that it is, in fact, all worth it...that there is nothing in the world that can make you feel "that way:" the look on Ben's face when he met Stitch and Lilo, Aidan's wide eyes and pointing in "It's a Small World," my two boys all showered and soapy-smelling in their PJs playing in the hotel room together, trying to squeeze out every last opportunity for fun before bedtime.
The trip reminded me of why I chose to "do this." Although I am not a big fan of the infant stages, and most days I'd consider trading in a kid for a full night's sleep, and the lack of personal time makes me feel like I'm chained to my children (literally), I wanted a family. I wanted kids. I wanted to hear them play, to watch them grow, to be Mom and Dad, to go on adventures together. Now that Aidan is 18 months, I am starting to see that light at the end of the tunnel...things are getting easier, more fun, more rewarding.
On the first night, as I lay in bed, listening to the sounds of my three "men," all of us, for the first time in one room, on our first real vacation together, I was struck by the fact that this was my family. How had this happened? When did it happen? It used to be just "us" against the world.
Now, the "Us" had turned into a different "Us."
And then there were four...