Mrs. 1500’s question on Monday was about cheap family fun. Justin from Root of Good followed up with a nice post on what he does for family fun. All of this got me thinking to my own childhood and what my best and worst memories are. One of my worst was the day my dad lost his mind at Disney’s Epcot Center.
My parents decided to take us to Epcot the first year it opened, way back around 1982. The park was still working out the kinks and it showed. It was hot and very crowded, but the worst part was that the rides kept breaking down. It’s bad to have to wait hours to get on a ride. It was just as bad to sit on one for an hour until it got moving again. My dad, who didn’t want to be there in the first place, was in a horrible mood.
The final straw came during the Universe of Energy dinosaur ride. The ride starts out as a movie. When the movie ends, the seats start moving through a land of dinosaurs. Think Jurassic Park, but with plastic sauropods.
We got as far as the Tyrannosaurus rex when the ride crapped out. The moving seats stopped and the plastic dinosaurs all took a rest; except for the T-Rex that happened to be right next to us. Every 30 seconds or so, it would let out an eardrum-piercing roar.
It didn’t take long for my dad to start uttering profanities under his breath. My sister and I could sense the tension and looked at each other nervously. With each roar, we could see dad getting angrier and angrier. After about 10 minutes of this, he lost it. It was right after a roar that dad launched into a screaming tirade:
Anyone know where the main office is at this sh*thole! I’m going to find it and when I do, I’m going to pitch a big bitch!! How much did I pay to get into this *&^%ing place!!!???
Fellow riders turned around to look. My mom tried to calm him down. My sister and I cowered. I was certain security would show up at any second to remove us from the park. Miraculously though, the ride started moving and a bigger incident was narrowly averted.
Thinking back now, I laugh. I wonder if a screenwriter was on the same ride and got the idea for Clark Griswold’s Wally World rant (go to 1:50; caution NSFW):
All they want is you
Right before my first child was born, my boss gave me the best advice ever regarding raising children:
All children really want is your time. They want you.
With that in mind, I started thinking about my best childhood memories and all of them were simple:
- camping with the family
- gatherings with long distance relatives
- family game nights where we would play Sorry! and Scrabble
Many people get it all wrong. They think that they have to take their kids on a wallet draining Disney adventure, to a fancy water park or to a fancy camp. Spending lots of money will somehow lead to a better experience.
We are guilty of this mentality too. We took our children on a Disney cruise a year ago. All they wanted to do was swim in the pool and take walks around the boat with us. While they enjoyed the hotel room experience, we could have stayed at the Motel 6 and gave them the same thing.
The greatest gift you can give your children is your time. Turn off the TV. Stop buying disposable toys. Instead, take a hike with them. Play a game. Build LEGO* or a puzzle. Talk about their day. Enjoy the free amenities that your town provides. Engage them. Your children will tell you they want all kinds of stuff, but that is just what they think they want. Deep down, they just want you.
Also, stay away from that dinosaur ride. You never know what will happen or who will be sitting around you.
*It sounds strange saying it like this, but that is the plural form.
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