For spring break, I took my 7-year-old son to Disney World. As far as I am concerned, it's a right of passage for any child. I always loved Disney World as a kid, and I knew he would too.
I was surprised at how many parents would "tsk" at me, as though Disney were the devil.
"Ugh. I'd never do Disney unless my children insisted," they would say with their noses in the air, as if their children were asking for an afternoon in a shantytown. A shantytown filled with princesses and pirates... and general happiness. It's the most magical place on earth for Christ sake. Why the haters?
From the second we got off the plane, I was amazed by Disney's ability to make the vacation seem seamless and special, as though they were waiting specifically for us.
When we arrived at the hotel, I stood with my son, luggage in hand (or on the ground -- it's amazing how much a bag can weigh when packed for two people) and tipped the man who had carried it to the door for me.
"Thank you!" He said and then looked perplexed. "It's just the two of you?"
"Yes." I replied.
"Are you meeting your family here?"
We are a family, I wanted to say. But I just said "No. "
I imagined a Disney phone chain of sorts beginning as we entered the hotel. "Mother and child approaching. Do not ask where the rest of the family is. No. There is none. No. Shhh. Here she comes. She is walking towards you."
I suddenly felt like a 16-year-old who gave birth to my son in a high school locker room. Was this 1969? For all the diversity on the "It's A Small World" ride, they certainly weren't up to date on the modern family. I would like to see some men puppets on that ride -- one white and one Indian -- kissing. And holding their black baby in Bjorn as the music plays on, "There's so much that we share and it's time your aware, it's a small world after all."
After a full morning in the park, I realized an incomplete family was a rarity in the Magic Kingdom. People all around us, including families we talked to in line would ask, "Is it just the two of you?"
I started taking advantage of the pity that followed. "Would you like us to take a picture of you two?" "Sure", I'd say, putting my arm around my son, both of us flashing our biggest smiles. It's as though we had our own private photographer wherever we went.
"What great pictures of you guys! How did you get so many pictures of the two of you?" A friend asked upon our return. "Oh, we had the greatest photographer. Yes. Her name was pity."
But wait! It got better. One very cute ride operator in his twenties was making small talk with us when we asked for directions outside the exit of my son's favorite ride. He kept referring to me as my son's sister. He was good. Was he flirting?
"Are you having a good time?" he asked, with some kind of southern accent that I definitely have a liking for.
"We are having a great time." I said.
"I am about to make it even better." With that, he opened up the exit and told us we could cut the entire 50-minute line. My son and I looked at each other and squealed with delight. The greatest thing about hanging out with my son at this age is that he gets it. He understood how cool this privilege was. We skipped up to the front and rode the ride without a care in the world. As we exited we thanked him.
"Wait, is it just the two of you?" he asked.
"Yep," I smiled.
"You are too pretty to be alone," he said. Then he bent down to my son's level, "You are lucky I think your sister is so pretty. I am going to let you cut the line again."
"Really??" we said in unison. Our eyes wide. We rode the ride again and again. Never once waiting in that long line.
On the ride my son turned to me. "He said you were pretty."
"Is that funny?"
The perks continued on through the rest of the week. From letting us enter the Indiana Jones stunt show 5 minutes after it started...
"Is it just the two of you?"
To random park employees offering up their fast passes.
"If it's just the two of you, you can have these."
In the end we had a great, magical trip, just as Disney had promised. And guess what? We shared it as a family. Just the two of us.