We just got back from our first family trip to Walt Disney World, where the term “vacation” is used loosely, just like the phrases “small crowd” or “not too long of a line” or “reasonable price” are there.
We had a great time, and largely because of one little secret: we set our expectations fairly low.
It’s like an alternate Disney song.
Instead of “Follow your heart and your dreams will come true if you wiiiiiish….on your hearrrrrrt…”
It’s more like: “This will prob all be fiiine, but don’t get your hopes to hiiiiigh, because crummy stuff also happens.” (Catchy, no?)
So we weren’t thrown too much by the ups and downs.
For every bus we caught just before the doors closed, we had a gate shut on us and waited (with our children climbing on said gate like their own cirque de soleil) for the next train, monorail, teacup, etc.
For every good seat, we also stood in the public transit with my kids sliding their hands all over the handrails like an ad for Purell, as I try to hint-but-not-exactly-tell why it’s not a *great* thing to show me dance routines on poles.
My kids had tons of smiles, but there was also my daughter’s busted and bloody lip from a bad combo of an abrupt stop and a steering wheel on the car speedway.
There were happy faces covered in icing and/or ice cream, but this may or may not have contributed to my other daughter vomiting on our last day.
For the moments with a happy, wide-eyed child saying “Thank you for bringing us here!” with a big hug, there is another moment with small arms indignantly crossed saying “You never understand me! I just wish you were nice!” (As you bite your tongue from screeching “Oh, did you think we are here for ME?! And you are literally holding an ice cream!”)
Thinking this over – as I drove home hundreds of miles while my husband ran a mobile office in the passenger seat, taking important calls with attorneys like we didn’t just pause the movie “Trolls” and gave the kids gummy worms to keep them quiet (See: husband has to work; husband still taking time for big family trip) – I considered:
It’s all ups and downs.
The best of life is largely in the margin between perfection and failure.
And if you set your expectations somewhere around there, there is less disappointment and better shock absorption when the abrupt stops and bumps of life cause you to hit the steering wheel.
But it’s also the ability not to dwell on the setbacks, and finding the humor in situations – like trying not to use the word “stripper” as you explain how dancing routines on poles don’t exactly have the best reputation.
It’s kind of a parallel to this needlepoint in my friend’s kitchen that I totally didn’t creepily take a picture of when I was there the other day (OK, obviously I did. But I needed to remember it!)
So, when there are 500 miles to drive and the check engine light pops on with that familiar ding (yep, seriously), you can be glad you were lucky enough to be on the trip in the first place.