I don’t know who invented the term, “the struggle is real,” but I’m confident it was a mom. It was probably a mom who felt judged and was most likely at the end of her rope. Or maybe it was a mom who woke up and started her day with the energy of Mary Poppins, but by the time she laid her head on her pillow, Mary was gone and Maleficient had shown up. As moms, we tend to carry the burden of making sure our children are having the most magical childhood, that we often forget our kids would be happy just running through a sprinkler or building a fort out of pillows. It’s been my personal experience that going to Disney World used to add so much more stress on my shoulders because I allowed it to.
I often found myself wanting to capture these perfect moments in the parks, that I would over plan everything. I would make sure we all matched and everyone always looked camera ready as we strolled through the park. I’d spend so much time scrolling through Etsy looking for the perfect family shirts, thinking that’s what would make the trip and the memories (See picture above). As nice as that is, matching shirts won’t make or break your trip. I decided that I would stop focusing on the little things and focus more on what my kids wanted to see or do at Disney World. Not to mention, the last few trips have been so much easier and less stressful to pack for because my mind isn’t working like I’m planning runway shows at Fashion Week.
I didn’t always think this way. It wasn’t until our October 2019 trip that I changed how I was as a mom on our Disney vacations. For the second time, we were going to Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. Star Wars is huge in our house so we decided to go as characters from the movies. My boys already had a Darth Vader and Storm Trooper costume, my oldest decided I would be Rey and his dad was going to be Han Solo. The Spring and Summer before this Halloween trip, my kids insisted on wearing those costumes all day, every day in the parks. Even though it was July in Florida, they wanted to wear these long sleeved costumes. Did I fight them on it? Yes. Eventually I just picked my battles and brought a change of clothes in case they decided polyester in Florida during the Summer wasn’t the greatest idea.
Our Not So Scary weekend was here and we were ready to transform into a Star Wars family. Never in my life had I spent as much time on a costume for myself, as I had that Rey costume. I even looked up tutorials on how to re-create Rey’s hair and makeup. Up until he laid down for a nap that day, my oldest kept talking about all of us in our costumes, which in my mom brain was a green flag and we were still good to go. As I was doing my version of Rey hair, I had visions of these great family photos we would be taking that night. We would all be matching, in front of the castle, dare I even say- we could use one for our Christmas card?
The time came to get my kids ready. My youngest hopped right into his Darth Vader costume. With pride, he owned the power of the dark side. My oldest, my cute little Storm Tropper, wanted nothing to do with his costume. He looked at it like he had never seen it before. I tried to reason with him, and he would just simply say, “No thank you, mommy, it’s too hot.” Ok, now moms- this is one of those moments in our mom life where we want to be like “I know it’s too hot, that’s why I fought with you all Summer when you wanted to wear it in the park.” But I smiled and tried to bribe him a few more times. No luck. My husband assured me it would be fine, we would bring the costume just in case Jack realized how much fun he was missing out on and without a doubt he would want to put it on once we got into the park.
We made our way to the Magic Kingdom for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I would ask Jack a few times if he wanted to put his costume on and still no interest. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t making me a little upset like someone had taken the air out of my Mickey balloon. At one point we found ourselves on the hub grass near the castle, and someone offered to take a family picture of us. Before I could say, “no thank you,” my husband said “Yes!” I rolled my eyes, rounded up my two little ones and we posed in front of the castle. Of course, I wanted a family picture, but it wasn’t the one I imagined. Turns out, it’s one of my favorites of us and every time I look at it, I think about how Jack practically wore holes in that Stormtrooper costume months before but wanted nothing to do with it on that one night. It brings a smile to my face and I’m so grateful for that moment. It made me realize I had to just let it go, and I’m thankful I didn’t miss an opportunity to take a family photo. It was my lightbulb moment.
When our parents took us to Disney World in the ’80s and ’90s, there were no social media sites, there were no smart phones. The only piece of technology we took with us was that giant video camera my dad carried on his shoulder, as he tried to capture our family memories. Our parents made it through these trips with out Memory Maker and all the magical extras we have as parents in the park and our trips weren’t any less magical. If anything, our parents being present and in the moment with us is why my siblings and I still reminicse about our Disney family vacations every time we get together.
To all my fellow Disney Moms, if you haven’t already, let’s start asking ourselves- “What Would Elsa Do?” Even though we already know what our favorite Ice Queen would do, she’d let it go and not care what anyone else thought. Maybe this struggle we talk about, won’t be as real as we claim it to be, once we just let our guard down and have some fun. Fun that doesn’t require you to make plans 60 days out from the day you check in. I’m talking just real, in the moment fun. Trust me, It’s only when I learned to let go of all expectations, that I was able to truly be the Disney mom my two boys deserved.