Disney Debate Brings Out the Worst in Parents

I used to think breastfeeding was the biggest debate in the Mommy Wars. Nope -- it's Disney.

Parents who take their children to Disney World are a special breed. If you're a mom who has broken breakfast bread with Snow White -- and this goes double if you actually enjoyed doing it -- you may not realize how exceptional you are, but you are pretty bloody amazing. You've agreed to hand over a chunk of your vacation time -- a precious 5 out of 14 days you get each year to use for everything from having a root canal to attending an aunt's funeral -- to a 6-year-old who wouldn't have a clue if those Mickey ears cost $3 or $300.

When it comes to Disney, there's no middle ground. You're either a parent who loves taking your children to the theme park or one who despises the idea. And, if you aren't all rah-rah Disney and are foolish enough to admit this in front of your pro-Disney friends and acquaintances, well, expect your punishment to be very severe.

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My abusive parents never took me to Disney. As a child with a pulse, naturally, I wanted to go. I shook with excitement every time I caught those commercials that showed grown male athletes celebrating their victory on the field by flying down to Orlando to get hugs from Mickey. I believed the air at Disney was filled with fairy dust and promise. The only reason I wanted to be blonde was because I desperately wanted to be Tinker Bell. So yeah, I was just your average American kid.

But my parents were immigrants who didn't get Disney. They planned really nice vacations each year, but THEY planned them, and my brother and I tagged along like two intelligent and whiny suitcases. We climbed lots of steps to nowhere in 100-degree temperatures. We visited spooky churches and amused ourselves playing with candles. We thought it was perfectly normal to silently stand in front of the tomb of a man who died 2,000 years ago. We ate at restaurants that served fish with the heads still intact. If we were good, we got ice cream on the way back to the hotel.

That was vacation.

And, looking back now, I wouldn't change it for all the rides on Space Mountain.

If you're a Disney parent -- unless you're fortunate enough to have the means to take more than one trip -- what you're doing is surrendering your leisure time to your children, putting them first. You're putting off any chance you have of seeing the Mona Lisa -- at least until the kids are either old enough to appreciate art or out of the house, whichever comes first.

I respect the choice you've made. But here's what comes to mind when I think of Disney: temper tantrums. LOTS of money thrown away at a glorified amusement park that has brilliantly marketed itself as a place as necessary for a child's development as kindergarten. Some seem to have forgotten that Disney is a business that wants your hard-earned dinero. There, I said it. Disney probably doesn't actively dislike your cute children, but it's not going to let your little ones eat with princesses for free, either.

You're right, I may be a little bitter. But, more than that, I'm perplexed by the reaction I recently received when I posted this hilarious Huffington Post article from a blogger who says she'd rather do a "shot of Windex" than take her kids to Disney. I got no fewer than 21 replies, most of which were very passionate. Someone called me a "snob" who only wants to expose my kids to Shakespeare (not true, I prefer James Joyce). Others bickered about the pros and cons of the theme park. Two acquaintances pretty much decided they hate each other because this great divide in their Disney philosophies was simply too great to overcome.

I know there are parents out there who LOVE Disney. Like, love it as an adult vacation destination AND love to see the priceless reactions on their children's faces when they run merrily through the park. They see it as the best of both worlds.

But it's totally possible to grow up healthy and happy without a Disney vacation -- I swear. And if I have $2,000 to spend on a trip, I'm going to make sure my kids are bored at a museum at least once that week.

Are you a "Disney mom" or would you rather take your children anywhere else on Earth?

 

Image via Andy Castro/Flickr

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