About 14 years ago, I took my kids to Disneyland. It was a dream of mine to be able to take them. I used my tax return, money I had saved up, and credit cards to be able to do it. I researched online and found the best place I could, figured out plane schedules, arranged for transportation from the airport to the motel, got ticket packages that included both Disneyland and the California Adventure Park, and did a lot of praying. It was a trip to remember.
I was scared to death most of the travel time. I am not a seasoned traveler and had no idea what I was doing – but was determined to see it through and not show my kids how terrified I was. Just getting to the airport and finding a place to park was a big deal for me. I didn’t know how to check in and had to get help. Luckily the employees were very nice and didn’t look at us like we were hicks. This was the first time the kids were ever on an airplane. They were both excited and nervous. I was mostly nervous, but reassured them all that it would be fine and that it was fun to look down and see the land from way up high. I felt nauseous as we took off. And soon my ears hurt terribly, but I had to appear calm and encouraging to my kids. Was so glad when we made it to Seattle to make our connecting flight – but then I had to do it all over again. The kids did really well, and Jake’s only complaint was that the air on the plane dried out his eyes and made them uncomfortable.
Once we got to California, we had to find our shuttle to the motel. As I was figuring that out, my older kids were accosting a palm tree, rubbing it with their hands, asking loudly if it was real. We boarded our shuttle and as we rode along to the motel, the kids noticed there were purple garbage cans in front of all the houses we went past (must have been garbage day). Got to the motel and checked in. Our room was small since it was all I could afford, but comfortable enough for the time we would be there. There was a pool and hot tub, they offered free breakfast, and it was located close enough to Disneyland that we could walk there. We relaxed. Our first day at Disneyland would start the next morning.
In the morning, we were all so excited. Poor Jake though, felt sick to his stomach – and proceeded to vomit on our way to the free breakfast. He rested and eventually was able to eat a little and we made our way to the main gate. Caitlin was almost in tears she was so excited. Once we got in, I had the kids do the obligatory pose in front of the Disneyland flower garden and then went on our way. We had fun with the rides, but we grew hot and tired, Jake’s medication was wearing off, Caitlin’s excitement waned as there were so many people to get through, and Asa grew grouchy. We went back to the motel to rest and have a swim – and returned later in the day to see areas we hadn’t earlier.
On the second day, we went to California Adventure Park, which wasn’t nearly as crowded – but it wasn’t as fun as Disneyland. At one point, Jake’s medicine was wearing off and he was becoming a terror so I told Caitlin and Asa to stick together – I had to take Jake back to the motel. An hour or so later, Caitlin came back to the motel. Where is Asa?! Apparently they got separated and her feet hurt so she came back. So we had no idea where Asa was. He was 14 though and I knew he could find his way back to the motel because he was good at reading landmarks. We did not have cell phones then, so could not keep track of each other that way.
I was worried after it got dark and he was not back. But I knew he would probably wait until closing, so dimmed the lights and dozed. There was a sharp knock at the door. I sprang up and opened the door and there was Asa – with a cop. The cop was very angry with me – How dare I leave my 14-year-old child at Disneyland by himself! How dare I abandon my child that needed medication after curfew! Oh he read me the riot act and all I could do was stand there with wide eyes and nod my head and apologize because I didn’t want to cause any problems. After he left, I was able to find out what happened.
Asa went on too many roller-coaster rides and ended up vomiting into a garbage can. Someone noticed and took him to a medic area. Asa has a speech impediment, so when they were talking to him, they thought he was drunk, so they called a cop. The cop asked him why he was wet. He had been on a water ride. The cop smelled the water bottle that Asa had in his backpack to see if it was alcohol. He asked him if he took medication and Asa said yes (it was ADHD medication but nothing vital). He asked him what motel we were in and Asa could not answer. So the cop put him in the cop car to find it and Asa had a hard time identifying it because he was in a car on the street – not on the walkway where we had been earlier. So this cop thought I was a terrible, neglectful mother who left her “retarded” son (that was his conclusion based on Asa’s behavior and speech impediment) that needs medication at Disneyland past curfew (which I didn’t know they had). Oh we can laugh about it now, but at the time, it was a bit traumatizing.
The next day I kept a better eye out on Asa, but at one point he said he wanted to go check out this other area and I told him he HAD to meet us at a specific place and time to watch the fireworks together. He of course said no problem. But he never showed up, so I spent the night sitting near the main gate to find him as the park was closing. I never did find him so went back to the motel in hopes he was there. He wasn’t – but he did show up about 5 minutes later. He got an earful from me that night.
Our trip wasn’t all the joy and happiness that we anticipated when we first got there. It wasn’t what we envisioned. Did we have a good time? I think that there were more good times than hiccups – at least I hope so for my kids (there were quite a few hiccups in addition to the ones I mentioned). We all got souvenirs, had good food, got to swim and go in the hot tub, saw some favorite characters, went on fun rides, saw a fantastic Star Wars show, and tried new things.
I will say we were all very glad to get home – to relax in our own place, with our own things, sleep in our own bed, and eat our regular food. The trip cost a LOT of money and I was in no way, shape, or form well off to begin with. Was it the trip I had dreamed of? No, not at all. Did I regret spending all that money on a trip that could have gone a lot better? Absolutely not. The feeling of being successful at doing something that was scary to me, that I didn’t know how to do and was uncomfortable doing, made it all worth it. It gave me confidence in myself. Getting us there, and back, in one piece – and that we all had moments of joy – was a boost to my self-esteem.
And I learned a lot, so if we ever get to go again, I will be better prepared. Of course, now that they are grown, it would be an easier trip. I think it would be a LOT more fun – unless of course, Asa were to show up at the motel with a cop again. Yeah. That wouldn’t be fun. But oh the stories we could tell!