Last week we took our children to Disneyland Paris for a short break. I had wanted to do this for many years but was waiting for the right time.
And by ‘time’ I really mean age. This is not a place for babies, toddlers or anyone who can’t stand unaided for seven hours at a stretch. At the age of ten and seven, our children were just the right age, although my husband did need to go for a little nap in the car at one stage.
For the uninitiated, Disneyland is tiring. There’s a lot of music. And smiling. And dancing. And queuing. It’s like a sugar-coated marathon wearing children as leg-irons. It’s not for the faint of heart or cynical of mind. I have my cynical moments – who doesn’t? But there’s no place for it in the Magic Kingdom. We started off being all London and cool about it.
Yeah, we love Pixar but everyone knows that Disney’s a bit plastic.
My daughter is the sweetest one in the family and as soon as she breathed out a ‘Wow’ at the sight of the Sleeping Beauty castle, I was gone too. My son took a bit longer to crack. He stood with arms folded as fairies and princesses spun by during a parade. When Captain Hook and Buzz Lightyear appeared, he became three years old again, jumping up and down with excitement. When Mary Poppins and cast paused to say hello, his voice went a bit quivery as he exclaimed, ‘I just high-fived a penguin!’ My husband and I exchanged glances and the last trace of cynicism was washed away.
By day three we had even developed our own dance-move when the four of us would spontaneously pirouette at the sound of a catchy waltz. Don’t judge until you’ve tried it. It’s surprisingly liberating.
We became swept up in the magic and we didn’t care. I relished my children’s delight and saw the world as they did; bright and shiny and very happy.
It was on our last morning that it hit me.
I don’t want them to grow up. I want them to stay like this forever. I want them to be excited when they meet Mickey Mouse or entranced by a ride over Neverland. I don’t want this bit of my life to end.
‘Leaky eyes?’ asked my ever-understanding husband as he found me hiding in the bathroom, having a little weep.
‘A bit,’ I sniffed. ‘I just like them how they are now. I don’t want them to grow up.’
He leaned over and kissed me on the forehead. ‘You’ve said that almost every year since they were born.’
He’s right of course. The baby years were a bit intense for me but ever since my children could walk and talk, I’ve been conscious of time speeding past like a white rabbit on the way to Wonderland as I struggle to keep up.
And now it feels as if the teenage years are waiting in the wings and the small children years are almost done. That weekend felt particularly special and significant and not just because our two became little children again. We did too. We were kids altogether existing in our own private Neverland.
And of course I got to meet Buzz Lightyear and kiss Mickey Mouse. To be honest, I was more excited than the children.
Maybe I am Peter Pan and maybe none of us needs to grow up after all. We just need to park the cynicism bus every so often and get ready to high-five the penguins.