Taking a grandchild to Disney World is a wonderful experience

Published 8:28 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Every grandparent secretly waits for the time when they can take one of their grandchildren to Disney World for the very first time. I say secretly because I honestly have not been a fan of the big theme parks over my lifetime.

The first time we took our own children, Disney World had not perfected the moving lines and distractions that make a long wait seem shorter. It was hot; like pulling weeds in a peanut field hot.

I made the huge mistake of waiting to get lunch until everyone was starving. Nearly an hour and a half later I brought the food back to a table with two crying children and one crying mother. They were the most expensive hamburgers I had ever purchased up until that time.

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The next morning the children begged not to go back, preferring to swim in their Aunt Charlotte’s pool all day. It seemed like a perfect tradeoff to me.

I didn’t go back until my daughter’s senior year in high school, when she and I took Dafina, the exchange student from Kosovo that lived with us that year. It was fun seeing Dafina take in the excesses of the park with her eyes wide like a small child.

My nephew’s wedding this past weekend took our family back to Orlando. The wedding was a wonderful time and spared me the pain of being in Athens while the Dawgs were tearing apart my Tigers.

We stayed an extra day and tagged along while Laura and her parents visited the Magic Kingdom after spending the previous day at the Animal Kingdom.

What a magical day it was. After paying $60 for a cab ride, $14 for parking (even though the cab would not be parking), and $85 for a one day pass for each of us, we were ready to have fun.

Laura’s eyes were as wide as saucers as we met in the candy store on Main Street. Additional sugar was all she needed to put her into high gear for the rest of the day.

Our first adventure was the Jungle Boat Ride. She sat in my lap at the front of the boat as we saw lions and tigers and bears. Oh my. We also saw elephants and alligators and her personal favorite; ducks.

Changes evident to me since my last visit years ago included the army of strollers pushing one, two and even three babies at a time. There was every type of stroller imaginable and they were parked in big impromptu parking spots at each and every ride.

“How will you know which one is yours?” I asked my daughter. “Do you have to lock it?” “It’s the honor system”, she replied. Everyone just seemed to know which one was theirs.

We meandered through the park until we decided to have lunch. Just over $50 for four hamburgers made me feel less guilty about the last price increase we had at our restaurants.

We strolled through each part of the park: Main Street, Adventureland, Frontierland, Liberty Square and Fantasyland. In the distance you could see a whole new section under construction.

Everything was in a theme in keeping with a park. The ice cream cones have little pieces of chocolate to make it resemble Mickey Mouse. Every Disney character going back to my own childhood is singing and dancing and making you feel good.

No matter where you are standing, there is a store in every direction making sure you can take home some over-priced trinkets, stuffed animals and t-shirts to remind you of your visit. Who can resist the child or grandchild excitedly screaming “I want that! I want that!”

We finally sat down on the curb to await the big parade. I secretly wondered if I would be able to get up as feet and joints were aching at this point. That all ended when the music and floats approached with young and old alike having the look of a child at a parade on their face.

I took pictures of Laura as she watched. She screamed to Snow White and Goofy and some characters I didn’t even know. The park was fun but it was Laura’s face that was truly magical.

That evening at dinner she was still totally wound up, having not seen the necessity of a nap after a long day at the park. Her parents were another story, having the look almost every parent has at that point in the day after a theme park with kids. They were worn out!

Therein is the beauty of being a grandparent. Mary Lou and I enjoyed beyond measure her first day at the Magic Kingdom. Then we said good night and slipped away to our own quiet room, the sound of her tired sugar fueled cries fading in the distance.

Dan Ponder can be reached at dan@donalsonvillenews.com.