I am headed back to Disney World this week. All of you who have been following along for a while you know that I head back to Disney at least once a year, sometimes twice. I join my family for a few days of fun, food and no sleep.
Usually by this time I have butterflies in anticipation of the trip. I am excited about the looks on the faces on my children, I am picturing a romantic version of Walt himself, and waxing poetically about the importance of a place like Disney for children and adults alike. And while every year things happen that ultimately disappoint me, each and every time I am like a child waiting on tenterhooks until the moment we get to leave.
This year, while I am happy to go, there seems to be something missing. Could be that my bipolar is acting up and I just physically or mentally unable to get up and go for this trip. Could be that I drank for the first time in a VERY long time this weekend and I am still hung over. Could be that I am worried about the fact that I haven’t been taking care of myself lately, and my mother is going to take one look at my gray hair and unwaxed eyebrows and immediately drag my husband aside to ask about my mental health. My physical appearance is a direct indication for her and my family; not enough to be aesthetically pretty on the inside, got to have that something or other on the outside as well.
Maybe I finally recognize that while Disney is fun, it is also sometimes work. It is work to have that many people related to me trying to go in the same direction. It is work to listen to that many opinions and no resolutions. It is work to demand that my children act a certain way, when others don’t have to. It is work to make sure that my children are having the time of their life, while still obeying the edicts of my family. It is work to make sure that my husband gets his enjoyment, while counteracting the amazing stress that comes with family vacations.
Don’t get me wrong, despite the work, I like to think that I make it all happen just right. I like to think that my babies get a taste of perfection, something they so richly deserve with a mother like me. I love to see their eyes when they see a real princess walking down the street, or floating in a parade. I love to see their excitement when they get that first glimpse of the castle, or their favorite roller coaster. I even love that moment when they pass out from sheer exhaustion because I have given them a day that creates a literal fight to stay awake…just one more minute.
I have learned that I go on vacation not for myself, but for my children. Their happiness, their kindness and appreciation for what I can give them makes all the rest of the work worth it. And I know that this time, while maybe different, will in a very real sense be just that perfect.
I imagine that my mother is going to worry about my mental health the moment she takes a look at me, but I also have to keep in mind that her daughter has bipolar, so this is probably a natural state for her. I imagine that my brother-in-law is going to be his usual pain in the butt, not really enjoying himself and making his wife crazy with his own version of a vacation. I imagine that I will look at my nieces at some point during this weekend and imagine taking them out back and beating them. Part and parcel of any family vacation.
But I don’t know how to get excited. I don’t know how to find that level of anticipation that brings me such joy, despite the disappointments inherent in such a trip. And I have to ask these questions not for my own need, but for my kids. I will never honestly spoil something as perfect as that mouse in a suit, or that lady with the moving wings. I will not take away the magic of childhood and the belief in fairy tales by being anything else but the mother they love. I am not sure how I am going to pull it off this year, but I dare you to find someone as committed to finding a way as I am today.
My children live in a world that is unpredictable. They have a mother who one day wants to go to the park and play on the swings with them, and the next a mother that simply wants to hide away alone. They have a mother who laughs and plays jokes, and then shuts herself down. A mother that is patient one day, and in a short temper the next. And to them it is normal; they know nothing different. To them never being able to understand who and what their mother is happens to be perfectly normal. I work hard to mitigate a lot of this, and my husband is my partner in crime, keeping some of the worst of it from my children. But they see it. They know it.
This is why vacations, where I can show them worlds that don’t exist except in the imagination, is so important. It is why I save up money and buy that extra gift, or let them have a soda for dinner. It is where ice cream becomes a food group, and while manners are still crucial, it is the one place that my children seem to shine.
Maybe I will simply have to wait for my excitement this year for when I once again get to see two children who seem to remember all the manners they forget every other day, and get to see joy that is perfect in its simplicity. I may have to wait until the absolute incredible delight that are my children shines brightly in the face of all those other children, and use my bragging rights to find my own joy once again.
Until then, I will write when I return…