Disney, the Ocean and Two Year Olds

Derek Haake

“We want to take you to Disney World”, the words were barely out of my father’s mouth when I was already thinking of the rebuttal. “They’re just two” I stammered. “It will be fun, just let us know the dates”. Telling my father “no” is rarely an option, and moreover, I hadn’t been on a vacation in nearly 10 years, and the idea of getting away with my babies and spending some quality time with my parents got the better of me. So, the trip was planned and the dates were set. We would fly out of the Akron / Canton airport, and arrive in Orlando, spend a night at the Disney boardwalk, then travel to Jensen Beach where we would stay in a condo on the ocean for 3 days, then travel to Disney for two nights to take the girls to the Magic Kingdom, and allow my wife and I to enjoy Downtown Disney and Epcot. My apprehension grew to excitement slowly as the date of departure neared, and soon I was almost giddy with the idea of playing with my daughters at the beach, being there to let them see Mickey (they love “mouse”), and just seeing that look of pure excitement on their faces.

Two days before we were going to leave, my wife and I started packing. Before we had kids, I would wait until about 30 minutes before I would have to leave for the airport, throw a wad of clothes into a bag small enough to carry onto the plane, throw my laptop in its bag, and head out to the airport. This obviously cannot happen with two year olds. When we finished packing and arrived at the airport, we had two full-size suitcases each weighing just under 50 pounds, my laptop bag, camera bag, two car seats, two monkey backpacks for each girl, two umbrella strollers, two car seats, and my wife’s backpack. My wife’s backpack and the girls monkey backpacks were loaded with snacks, toys, and other items two hopefully prevent the melt downs that were going to occur. Neither one of us was optimistic that two year olds would be seen and not heard on a nearly 3 hour flight to Orlando.

Waiting for the airplane was relatively uneventful, minus Emma’s constant running, attempted trip down the baggage train, and her desire to say hello to everyone in the terminal. The flight was uneventful, except for a brief meltdown when I prevented Kate from kicking the seat in front of her. Dragging two kids, a laptop bag, camera bag and car seat through the terminal was literally a drag, but other than that the flight went off without a hitch. That night we had a good dinner, and then my parents left us by ourselves at the Disney boardwalk where my wife and I had some drinks and good adult conversation.

We arrived in Jensen Beach the next day, and this is when the fun began. Two year olds who are in a strange place, with strange noises (the ocean) and people (my parents live 400 miles), and of course the tension brought on by a 6th floor balcony with a railing that was big enough for my girls’ heads to fit through and a grandfather who didn’t seem to care and constantly left the balcony doors open, caused a bit of tension. The girls played and enjoyed the beach, and we took them down to play in the water (it was 80 in Florida, but snowing in Akron). Emma loved the water until the first wave knocked her down, then she had to be held the rest of the time, it took two days before we could set her down on the beach by herself, and she was terrified whenever I or her mother would wade into the water. The water had a massive undertow at the time, and I was terrified that if either of the girls got too close, it would be one wave and we would never see them again. Their fear of the water, while I did not encourage it, was a bit of a comfort at the time. Each day the dinners got more and more traumatic. The babies would get hungry, and just melt down while waiting for food, eating food, or dropping a crayon seemed to make my normally well-behaved children into little monsters, but everything was generally relaxing. After three days of enjoying the ocean, we trekked back to Disney, and found a great resort.

Two year olds have no concept of waiting in line, they don’t understand that other people have to go ahead of them, and waiting for dinner at Downtown Disney foreshadowed our brief experience at the Magic Kingdom. While we waited for dinner that night Emma screamed for nearly 45 minutes. Once we got into the restaurant, she became her normal, kind and sweet self, but we paced outside of the restaurant with a screaming baby as other parents walked by looking at us like we were the most horrible people in the world. We tried, we picked her up, held her, walked her in the stroller, gave her toys and snacks, nothing worked. She was tired (it was late), hungry, and again in a strange place with lots of people – something she really is not that used to.

They met “Mouse” the next day, and the entire experience at the Magic Kingdom (because it seemed like everyone in Florida showed up), consisted of an expensive lunch, walking through the castle and two rides on the carousel. The park was so crowded on a Saturday in February (a cold one at that), that the wait for the “It’s a Small World” ride was over an hour. Again, two year olds have no concept of waiting, and Emma’s favorite past time in the world right now is riding a carousel. She didn’t understand why she had to wait and why she couldn’t just get on the ride, and the tantrum was one for the record books – which she broke the next day, but she head-butted me, drawing blood, and it took me 45 minutes for her to calm down between rides enough that she could go on the carousel again. I held her, by myself this whole time until she calmed down. People stared at me like I was the worst parent on earth, but I waited it out. This was the first time on the trip that I didn’t give in to the tantrum, and for the rest of the day, these tantrums stopped. After the carousel fiasco, my parents took the babies back to the resort, and they were fine, they played, laughed and were their normal precious little selves.

Heading home was hard, I lived in Texas for almost 13 years before moving to Ohio, and I miss the weather and the food. However, another line and another melt down in the airport security left my wife with a headache (after a head butt), and many strangers scrambling to help us lug a screaming ball of fury, car seats, back packs and the other luggage that we were carrying onto the plane. After half an hour, the ordeal was over, and both babies were back to their normal selves, playing, giggling and laughing. Even Emma, once calmed down from her tantrum in the security line apologized to all of the other people around us going through the checkpoint – which prompted giggles from many of the people.

In short, the tantrums were really difficult, but again, the worst thing you can do to a busy-body two year old is restrain them and make them wait. There is no other being that is more impatient than a toddler, and while again, the tantrums were stressful, caused stress between me, my wife and my parents, the experiences, pictures and memories – especially when they saw Mickey and Minnie Mouse in person – were priceless and well worth the emotional and physical toll.

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