BY SUSAN ROSSER
Many might condemn me for one particular parenting choice I made. And yet my college-age son recently complimented me — calling that specific decision a stroke of parenting genius. But to tell this story, I need to go back a few years.
In 1993 I moved from New York to West Palm Beach. I had been living there for about two months when close friends of mine called. They planned to vacation at Walt Disney World, and they invited me to drive up and meet them.
I was like, “Are you out of your minds? It’s so far away.” Obviously, any Floridian reading this is asking themselves, “Is she nuts? Has she ever seen a map?”
Guilty, but let me defend myself.
I was new in town. Growing up, my parents shlepped me to Florida for every school vacation. Although they were New Yorkers through and through, they both possessed a deep disdain for cold weather and we all coveted our Florida house in the winter.
I don’t recall how old I was when I first asked my parents about visiting Disney World, but I do remember their concise answer, “oh no, it’s so far.” I would ask again, and they would answer the same way. Eventually, they wore me down, and I stopped asking.
I guess I could have pulled out a map, but we didn’t have one since, well, my parents didn’t travel anywhere else. Really, not big travel people.
Flash forward to 1993. So when I answered my friends’ request with, “it’s too far,” they clearly thought I was nuts or perhaps lost. Anyway, they convinced me. So I hopped into my brand new hunter green Jeep Cherokee, hit the turnpike and headed north. And yes, when I arrived two hours later, no one was more surprised than I.
Apparently, my parents had lied to me. You see, neither of them were really what one would call “Disney people.” My husband, a former tour guide at the Disney parks in Orlando, thinks it’s practically negligent that they took me to Florida four or five times each year, yet never made the trek to Orlando. I’m not complaining. They made up for it in many other ways.
But still, never?
A FAMILY OF MY OWN
So in 2005, I’m married to my husband Richard, and we have two small children. Hurricane Wilma blows through town, and our house loses power for 12 days. So, we hop in the car and take our kids on their first Disney vacation like a ton of other South Floridians.
My big takeaway from our four days in the park? Easy. Their favorite part of the trip was shopping. Rides? Who needs rides when there is merchandise to be bought?
I asked myself why spend $5,000 for the privilege of shopping for hundreds of dollars of toys, tee-shirts, candy and more?
After that, we would take our kids to Disney Springs where we could shop without paying admission. And if you’ve ever been there, you know that it still has a very Disney feel. So I told my young, impressionable and clearly gullible children that Disney Springs was Disney World. They bought it. For years, we would head up to Orlando to visit my husband’s family and stop by Disney Springs for a little shopping and lunch and tell the kids we were visiting Disney World. Thanks to all the savings, I can probably retire years earlier.
As we sat around the house during this time of social distancing, my grown son told me that my whole Disney Springs scheme was a stroke of parenting brilliance. He fully admitted that buying Legos and pirate swords was the bomb! I told him he comes from a long line of dysfunctional Disney parents and then poured him another cocktail.
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