(Editor’s Note: I’m on vacation this week, so we are reprinting a column from four years ago this week.)
The family is packed up and headed to Disney World.
This has been planned for months, but we didn’t let the kids know about it until a couple weeks ago for a few reasons.
One, we didn’t want them to get overly excited too early and lose focus on school.
Secondly, we were cooking up a cool way to surprise them with the plans.
Finally, we kept waiting for them to be good long enough to deserve the trip surprise.
With the latter not happening anytime soon and the trip already paid for in advance, Pam set out to focus on the surprise element.
I, on the other hand, was vacillating between regret because of recent misbehaviors and eager anticipation for showing them a magical place that will blow them away. In other words, I was just my typical basket case of mixed emotions.
When it came to surprising the kids with the trip, Pam was shooting for the proverbial stars. I was just hoping to be able to add to the surprise with some sort of comment about, “We are taking you here because you have been behaving so well and being respectful and listening.”
With that sort of statement off the table, which I blame partially on the cold winter weather inducing cabin fever insanity, Pam was on her own with the surprise, as I would have nothing to add. Frankly, I think she prefers to handle these sorts of things without my input anyway.
Early on, I suggested we just show them a video of Disney World, get them excited by what they see and then pop it on them that we were heading there this month.
Being her overachiever self, Pam had something else entirely in mind. Something much more elaborate than my typical male imagination could come up with to pull off.
She created a scavenger hunt complete with handmade puzzle pieces inside the house (because of course there was either snow on the ground or it was raining). Complete with the puzzle pieces were the kids’ luggage, featuring custom Disney name tags that came in the mail from Mickey Mouse. Inside the luggage were balloons that streamed out along with their Magi Bands that get you access to everything Disney while on the vacation. I’m sure I have left out some other incredible details that she mixed in with the surprise.
The boys were obviously through the roof, and we have been counting down the days since on our calendar. Each morning they announce how many days remain and it’s been fun over the last couple weeks to plan our big getaway with them.
Additionally, the trip has been a decent carrot to dangle for them. It has been a helpful behavior modifier as well.
At one point recently during a bad spell, I told them Pam and I were going to go to Disney without them if they didn’t start getting along better with each other. It surprisingly worked well, as Carson immediately released Beckett’s hair from a death grip. On another occasion, that threat worked in convincing Beckett not to retaliate against his brother after he stole his pillow from his bed.
Before he agreed to not pile drive Carson, Beckett offered up some sort of compromise.
“I have another idea I wanted you to consider. How about you just keep us apart the whole time? While I am riding rides with mommy, you and Carson can stay in the pool. Then when we are done at night, you guys can go. That way everyone is happy and he’s not bothering me and won’t make bad decisions.”
Everything is a negotiation with this kid, and I’m sure we will see a lot of these skills at play at Disney. He’s not always successful, but I have to admit I like the way his mind works.
Although they are 5 and 6 years old, there are still times when my boys want to be treated as little ones.
A lot of times there’s a fine line between wanting a helping hand from the parents and just being lazy.
For example, at the end of most nights, Beckett, 6, wants to be carried upstairs because he says he is so exhausted. However, once upstairs and he spies a ball, he suddenly gets a boost of energy and the requests for me to stand with my legs apart so he can kick the ball between them start. The same goes for making a basket with my arms to form a basketball hoop. When I say enough is enough and it’s time for bed, the arms get extended up and “pick me up and carry me” requests return.
Carson can manipulate us just as well as his big brother at times. While getting out of the car the other night during a downpour, Carson feigned exhaustion to get me to carry his chubbiness from the driveway to the house. He threw his arms up in that same “carry me” fashion. He even threw in the sign of “night time” to let me know he was feeling tired.
Once inside, I started to wonder if maybe he was getting sick or something. I put him down on the couch and left the room for a few seconds to hang up my jacket.
When I returned, I realized I had been played, as he was standing on a nearby ottoman trying to juggle his shoes. Before I knew it, he jumped down and ran upstairs for toys.
When I questioned him about being tired, he simply hunched his shoulders in his non-verbal fashion with palms up and then laughed.