Try Not to Fast Pass Through Life

Most parents admit that the yearly birthday party for kids can be a real hassle.  I see the value in making your child feel important, but these parties get to be pretty expensive and overwhelming year after year.  Maybe I’m just mean or my kids are just really spoiled, but they don’t need a huge party.  Plus, they just don’t need tons of presents.  Our house is already full of toys and electronics that never seem to be put away.  Even when we’ve requested no gifts (or asked for a donation to charity), people still feel the obligation to bring something for the guest of honor.  Last year my husband and I came up with a new idea.  In lieu of birthday parties and presents, we offered the kids a short vacation to the location of their choice.  This deal comes with two restrictions: it has to be within driving distance and take no longer than a weekend.  Last year, the girls chose a visit to the American Girl store in Los Angeles.  We did the full day with the doll hairstyles, pictures and shopping.  We also had the chance to drive around LA , window shop in Beverly Hills and play on the Santa Monica Pier.  The kids never complained about the lack of presents or party and it was a very memorable weekend.  This year, the kids chose Disneyland.  We were particularly excited about this trip because our son would be happy to participate (last year he was going out of his mind) and he was tall enough to ride almost everything.  We made plans to visit the park during the Christmas break, because it was the only time we didn’t have work, school and all the other activities.

Disney is netter than a birthday party!

Disney is better than a birthday party!

Disney is continually changing to enhance the visitor experience.  I guess it’s their attempt to make the visit more “magical”.  In 1999, Disney introduced the fast pass to decrease wait time at their most popular rides.  As far as I’m concerned, the advent of the fast pass has most dramatically changed the experience from what I remember as a child.  I vividly recall waiting two hours in the blistering heat to enjoy a ride for two minutes.  This was just standard operating procedure.  There was no way we could do everything we wanted in one day, so some rides had to be sacrificed due to time constraints.  To avoid this for our children, my husband takes a lot of time to carefully plan every minute in the park.  He uses the assistance of a computer program to schedule our day and our fast pass collection times.  This requires a “runner” to accumulate fast passes throughout the day as we are waiting for other rides with traditionally shorter wait times.  The runner logs in a couple of good laps around the park during the day.  It’s a good way to work off a churro or two.  When the time comes, we use our fast passes to essentially walk on to the most popular rides in the park.  This planning has drastically decreased the amount of waiting at the various rides.  We’ve also increased the number of attractions we can ride in one day.  Our children will never appreciate how we suffered in the early days!

Unfortunately, there are some popular attractions that are not fast pass rides.  If you want to experience them, you must wait.  This waiting is a fairly unknown experience to my children and their impatience became apparent quite early in line.  We tried all the old tricks to pass the time and keep the kids entertained.  We worked on word and number games.  We danced and acted goofy to make them smile.  It’s a pretty tough deal for these modern kids.  They’ve never experienced the classic road trips with endless hours of staring out the window while playing “I Spy” and the “Alphabet Game” to pass the time.  My kids measure road trips by how many movies they get to watch on the DVD player in the car.

We experienced Space Mountain several times because of the fast pass

We experienced Space Mountain several times because of the fast pass

After the whining and complaining, something unexpected happened.  We ran out of games to play and we started to really talk to each other.  In the craziness of school, work, sports and music lessons, there are precious few moments when all five of us are together with nothing to do.  There we were with nothing but time to spend together.  It began to occur to me that this was time to learn more about my kids, because they are constantly changing.  I learned more about what was happening at school than I ever did at the end of a long day.  I was hearing stories about who they are hanging out with most and what they really think of their teachers.  It was also really interesting to observe their developing relationships with their siblings – the good the bad and the ugly.  In normal daily life, parents are too busy being the referee and don’t get a chance to see that their kids actually like each other most of the time.  All of this made my husband and I reflect on our childhood memories and relationships.  This was our opportunity to share stories we haven’t even thought about in years.  Some of the stories we told, we realized that we hadn’t even told each other.  This was a chance we could find common ground with our kids and were able to see the world from each other’s perspective.  As a bonus when the kids grew tired, there were lots of hugs.  For me, a long embrace with my child is the closest thing to heaven.  These turned out to be some priceless moments in such an unexpected place.

So, I’m not saying we will ever visit Disney without a plan.  I can guarantee that we will use fast passes where offered.  But, this experience caused me to reflect on how I’m living my life.  I’m always looking forward to the next thing.  I need to remember those times waiting in line.  It’s OK to slow down and enjoy the moment.  You don’t need to fast pass through life – you’ll miss too much.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Are you human? Click the Banana...