It had been such a long, long time since my family went on an actual vacation together, so my husband and I talked them into going to Disney World with us. Since none of them had ever been there, we led the party planning, and wanted to show them all of the things we loved most about it. We decided to stay at the Polynesian again, so that they could experience Tonga Toast and a Hawaiian atmosphere. And then we coordinated going to the different parks and dinner experiences and shows and character breakfasts—the whole nine yards.
It was definitely a unique trip, to say the least.
While we were floating on cloud nine back in our playland, the diversity of family personalities decided to shine through. First, there was my dad, who became absolutely obsessed with Kona coffee to the point where I think he literally visited every possible bathroom in the parks as a result. That started stressing us out, having to stop all the time—he was worse than a child. It didn’t help my already strained relationship with him, though I was grateful he chose coffee over alcohol this time. My parents would be fighting constantly about his coffee obsession (nothing new, just a different topic). We finally banned him from drinking the coffee altogether and encouraged him instead to purchase some to bring home and enjoy it there. Well, at least he could be easily persuaded.
And then there were my sisters, who I guess were at that age where not many things were cool, least of all, Disney. Here we were, in this magical world with these exquisitely detailed rides, and all I could hear was my one sister complaining how there were no thrill rides. She had zero appreciation for anything
around her. She didn’t want to go on the simple rides, was bored with the shows and couldn’t even find a character to pretend to like. My mom had to calm both of us down several times because we were going at it constantly, the biggest blowout being in Epcot. If “baby rides” weren’t bad enough, the torment she clearly conveyed over walking around “stupid countries” prompted a loud argument right outside of the aquarium—a place I figured she would find some level of happiness at because she loved
everything to do with animals—but she couldn’t enjoy even that.
To this day, I remember my mother begging me to just let it go and not let it ruin my time there, or hers.
With some pouting and a little reluctance on both of our parts, we finally decided to stop fighting, for her sake.
You’d think we were 5-year-olds all over again the way we constantly bickered.
Bless my mother for being the peacekeeper during this trip. She isn’t a big fan to begin with of walking through theme parks, and then on top of that, she had to deal with fighting daughters and a pain in the ass husband. But at least I was able to experience the joy of seeing her eyes light up with wonder at everything she was experiencing. Although my sisters weren’t big fans, my mother absolutely loved walking around the little countries in Epcot. I knew secretly she was a traveler at heart, and she really enjoyed it there. She would stop and look around the little marketplaces and dance to the music. I think it was her favorite place out of all of the parks.
And even though she was such a joyful spirit as we went through all of these different places, she didn’t love everything about the trip; we were little rascals to her at times (outside of the fighting). Knowing she wasn’t a fan of scary rides, we tricked her into going on the Dinosaur ride, and to this day we still laugh over the picture we bought of her terrorized face as the dinosaurs jumped out at her. Best picture ever. Not the best way to treat your peacekeeper; but she had a really good sense of humor about it after the fact as she threatened our lives enough that we would never pull that kind of stunt on her again. Like ever.
And then there was my husband, bless him too, for finding ways to keep bringing me back to my joy there whenever something frustrated me. Ever my Peter Pan, he would whisk me away to something fun to take my mind off the stress…usually to my favorite tiki room or a show nearby. A vacation was not supposed to be stressful, and he was determined to make sure that we got to enjoy it.
I mean, there were moments we really had a blast together as a family, but I never realized how challenging a vacation like this would be, with so many different personalities and preferences.
There was my dad who just couldn’t stop drinking coffee and driving us all insane; my then-saint-of-a-husband co-peacemaking with my mom to break up family fights; my one sister who hated everything because all she wanted were thrill rides; my other sister who didn’t complain as much but also wished there were more thrill rides (thank God for a day at Universal/Islands of Adventure to restore sanity); my mom who was truly trying to enjoy everything but hated thrill rides and animals; and then there was me, who just wanted everyone to love the place as much as I did. Ah, can’t win them all.
My mom, sisters and I have been back together there since, with my kids, and the dynamics were completely different, and we all had a blast. Age (and kids) can do that for you.
But had any of us realized that this would be our last vacation together ever as a complete family, perhaps we would have not spent so much time arguing, being bossy, being ungrateful and being so intolerant of each other.
We would have treasured what would be our last memory together before the family broke apart. Luckily, we have learned from that, and now spend our vacations together with appreciation, acceptance and extra planning to ensure that everyone gets to do something they love. In fact…we are ready for our next family Disney adventure as I write this!
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