I keep a list of Things I Knew About Parenting Before I Was A Parent. Things like nap schedules. Obviously the parents whose lives revolve around the nap schedule are letting their children run (and ruin!) their lives. But then I became a parent and understood that you don't have a nap schedule because your child runs your life, you have a nap schedule because if you don't, you will die. Or things like toys. How do parents stand all those awful noisy plastic toys? Why are there so many of them? Why can't they hide them in another room? And then I became a parent and found out how much fun it is to watch your child play with and learn from and discover toys, especially noisy plastic ones. And good luck finding places for them because everyone else loves to give your kid toys too.
My list keeps me humble and warns me not to spout off too much in front of other people who know everything about parenting but have yet to become parents. Besides, two years later I'm still crossing things off. I've recently decided that the Toy Principle also applies to vacations. I think I've mentioned here before that we were thinking of road tripping to Colorado, home of my nephews, a handful of old and beloved friends and one fabulous blogger I hoped to meet in person. We told ourselves we were very excited about this trip, except whenever one of us brought it up, the other was somewhat less than excited to talk about it. The drive felt long and difficult and unknown. And the days we'd actually spend with family and friends felt... long and difficult and unknown. I mean, the schedule is hard enough to keep at home, let alone planning around other families with small children. What if we drove all that way just to sit around in other people's living rooms?
And so we decided... to drive to DISNEYLAND. Because we are insane. Clearly. But the Toy Principle applies. We are not going to Disneyland because that's where I've always wanted to dump our life savings, or because we particularly enjoy grownups in cartoon character costumes . No, we're going to Disneyland because we think our kids will have FUN.
I'm not naive enough to think my kids will fully appreciate and enjoy and remember Disneyland, but I AM hopeful that meeting the actual real live Winnie The Pooh might make a certain two-year-old's year. (Of course, there's always the chance he'll run away screaming.) We're hoping Disneyland will be a fun payoff after such a long drive. We'll have no one to answer to but ourselves. I'm choosing hotels based solely on the awesomeness of the pool. We're setting low expectations: no big rides, no long days, just a lot of walking and looking and napping and splashing. We want to vacation WITH the kids, not just drag them along.
My list mostly reminds me that my kids aren't accessories or burdens or pets to be corralled and maintained and controlled, no matter my impulses. I'm one of those people who'd enjoy going to Disneyland anyway, but I can't WAIT to go there with my kids. Even if one is sleeping in the stroller and the other has no interest in Dumbo, who cares about Mickey, where is his ice cream cone? I will get him an ice cream cone because, seriously, before you are a parent you have NO IDEA how much you will love watching your kid eat an ice cream cone. Even if it ends up on his shoes.