It looks like we won't be able to take the traditional vacation this year, going out of town, spending a week or two in a new place, causing trouble for everyone we come across. Too many accumulated debts to catch up with, and it just doesn't look feasible. Instead, we sprung for the Florida resident Disney tickets for the four of us (the baby doesn't pay yet, thank goodness) and used them over spring break and this last weekend.
At first, I felt badly about not being able to do something big with my wife and kids. Especially the kids. That was one thing I made sure of when I became a single father some years ago, that no matter how hard I had to work, we would always take a week or two towards the end of summer and just have a lot of fun together. Even if I had to work a little extra over the summer to pay for it, it was worth it. Usually someplace we could drive to, Daytona, Orlando, the Keys, Naples. We've seen just about every part of Florida over the last few years. Not being able to do that felt like a failure after a long winning streak.
But at least we had the four days in Disney. We have family near Orlando, so we don't have to pay for lodging there, and the cost of the tickets fit right into our budget, with our tax refund covering most of it. So I decided to try to look on the bright side of it and really enjoy those few days. The first days were great. Beginning of April, great weather, no one else on spring break but us, park business was relatively slow, and the baby had a genuinely good time. She didn't fuss, hugged Minnie, and enjoyed most of the rides. That is, she enjoyed them until I got a little too ambitious and tried to take her on a little roller coaster. That sort of killed it for rides for the rest of the day.
This second time, just a week ago, was a whole different story. The weather was hot, and the crowds were so huge that we had a hard time getting on any rides. The first day, a Saturday, wasn't so bad. But doing Magic Kingdom on the following Monday was the worst. Almost no cloud cover, and wall to wall people. I thought for sure that a Monday would be a slow day, but it was the busiest I can remember seeing there. By about one we had already decided that we would wait another couple of years before we tried to come back, and even then, only in the off season. That plus the fact that I knew we weren't doing much else this summer was starting to get me down.
Then a funny thing happened. We went to Chick-Fil-A on the way home.
Nothing humorous about Chick-Fil-A, really. But by the time we got there, we were tired enough to be a little punchy, possibly also woozy from the heat exhaustion and dehydration, and hungry enough to over-order a bit. The soda and tea were free flowing and we were making it rain with waffle fries. To put it bluntly, it got silly.
It got quite silly.
At first, it was just jokes about how bad the lines were and how we had to hype ourselves up about rides we probably wouldn't even go on if all the other lines had been shorter. About how disappointed we were to find out that the Carousel of Progress was shut down for the day, and what that says about us as a family. And then, for some reason, the baby started getting generous with her food, wanting MyTy to "try" her fries and "try" her chocolate milk and "try" her chicken nuggets. For the baby, asking you to "try" things means shoving them into your mouth forcefully, even if it means mashing them through clenched teeth. After she had her mom "try" a couple of fries, I had to pull out the camera phone and record her, goading her to let Mommy try more fries, and put ketchup on them, just like Mommy likes them. And Mommy wants some more chocolate milk, but try not to let the straw go too far up her nose. Before long everyone was "trying" her food. Looking back, I'm surprised it didn't turn into an all-out food fight. I'm pretty sure the restaurant manager was surprised as well.
And just like that, it was a great day, and a great vacation. Instead of feeling as if the rest of summer was going to be a let down, I starting thinking about how to turn the stay-cation into this much fun for a week or two. We do have our difficulties figuring out how to come together as a family, but when we do, it's a riot, and at the center of it all is the baby. She binds us all together and gives us the best possible reason to love each other, even if it's through her, because she definitely loves all of us.
So, when our time off comes, instead of thinking of ourselves as being stuck in the house or feeling like we're missing out on something, we're going to pull out the board games, jump in the pool, play some ball in the park, and make our own fun. And next year, when we have the money to do another big vacation, maybe we'll do the same thing, because the fun is wherever we are, anyway.