Every child deserves a good childhood, and that’s where you come in, Dad. So you planned your family’s first trip to Disneyland because no kid can grow up without experiencing The Happiest Place on Earth. As you bought tickets online and checked out the latest park attractions, you can only wish that you will look as relaxed and jovial as the Dad of the Year pictured on the website. Perhaps it’s your inner pessimist, but you envision meltdowns and battles — figuring out how to shield your kids’ eyes while walking past every themed toy store and keep the whole brood in good spirits at all times. To survive the most fun you’ll ever have, keep in mind the following guidelines.
Negotiation Plans of Attack
When you were single and childless, you’d scoff at other families and think “control those kids.” You don’t reason or barter with children— you’re the boss. Fast forward 10 years. During desperate moments and feelings of defeatism, you resort to devices that your former self would have shamed. Prior to your day under the sun walking on concrete and surrendering to your kids, you’re going to have to expect the worst and develop mini plans of attack with quick response times. Bribes, threats and manipulation welcome and acceptable.
Tylenol + Tums
When all the screaming induces a headache, or the park food comes back to haunt you while you’re on the Haunted Mansion ride, Tylenol and Tums should do the trick— even though pills and substances of the illegal nature may sound more appealing.
Mental Happy Place(s)
At DisneyWorld, Legoland or any amusement park, your needs don’t exist, and patience must seriously rise to the occasion. Sometimes it’s not so much about making your kids happy, but preventing them from going to that dark place of tired and ornery. As you look to your little one, you’re not too concerned that he’s not smiling, but if that neutral expression turns into a pout, then trouble ensues. You’re going to need three happy places where you can mentally go to while handling “I want to ride the Matterhorn again and again, again and again…” In this happy place, you’re going to need to count to 10 with deep breaths and repeat a mantra, such as “I love my kids. I love my life.”
Turkey Legs + Beer
Food makes everyone feel better, and that turkey leg is about to skyrocket you into unimaginable bliss. With each bite, you’ll temporarily have indulgent moments to yourself. Maybe get your kids a churro or popcorn to occupy their attention while you take down this turkey leg and maybe, hopefully, sneak in a beer. But in parenthood, you know that you take what you can get. That beer is a luxury.
Since you’ll be going on every ride, both wet and dry, you’ll want to be dressed comfortably. Throw on that cotton tee, tie those sneakers and make sure your shorts are quick-drying and lightweight. Rather than wear those bulky cargo shorts, you may want to go for apparel that’s designed to withstand the harshest conditions. Think about shopping at stores such as Patagonia, Eddie Bauer, L.L. Bean, and R.E.I.
Equip yourself with this survival guide and you’ll be as happy and carefree as the Disney dad on the website. Eat a hearty breakfast and hop into the minivan with “Cars 2” playing on DVD. Keep the kids busy with a printable Kool Smiles word find or Disney coloring pages. Once you pull into the park, memories are about to be created.
Guest blogger Greg is a dad and mobile app developer who writes about the tech world from his home office in Portland, Maine.