Disneyland! Little did Walt realize 57 years ago, when he opened his park to the public, that it would one day become a place where local college students would have the absolute silliest time of their lives and children would scream as if they were being burnt by candle wax.
Pictures and video from the brilliant, brilliant site KidsCryingAtDisneyland.com. You must go immediately, and weep with them.
The Disney Parks have morphed into a kind of Hunger Games, a baroque land where the true mettle of your child is tested. Little Seth is assaulted with so much consequence-free fun and abandon that he is eventually driven to demand that it stop within a tear-stained conniption fit. The next time you are in one of the parks and happen upon one of these scenes, don’t pass it by impatiently. Stand quietly at a distance and witness the opera, the levels of naked despair we reach almost never in our lifetimes, save for the death of a parent or the loss of true love. Watch that child’s whole life unfold before your eyes, and pity him. He will beg to return here one day, spend thousands of dollars and dream of it while stuck in a dead-end job. And yet, now, the child is here, and it’s a hellish prison he can’t escape.
That, or he’s faking it for attention. That’s also possible. That, also, paints a picture.
Does Disneyland also explore the nature of your relationship to your child? Little Kammy wants to dress like Belle today. If you fail to meet these needs, she will sob so angrily you imagine she’d vomit if her throat weren’t so constrained. Allow her to dress like Belle, and something else is bound to displease her. When this eventuality comes to pass, you’ll impotently try to make her smile. But she won’t smile. Smiling to Little Kammy means conceding power to you. If she gives in now, she knows this exposure of weakness will cost in her some other battle in the near future. So she stands her ground, and you won’t get her to smile, not even if you buy all the pirate booty in New Orleans Square.
To a headstrong girl, a frightened boy’s agony is a chocolate shake.
Woe to the young man who finds himself not tall enough to ride Space Mountain! He must have been measuring himself for months leading up to this day. He’d been telling everyone at school about how this was the year he’s let inside the treasured Tall Man’s Secret World. His boasts inspired jealousy from some and shoulder claps from the others. But on that day, alas, he discovers he was wrong. There must have been some miscalculation! Some parent-teacher-theme park ride operator conspiracy! This will not stand! He’s ruined. His friends will never believe anything he says from now on. That is, if he can still count them as friends after this disgrace and public shaming.
However, the pendulum swings both ways! Suppose he manages to squeak by the height requirements within a fraction of Jiminy Cricket’s dandy hat?
He is inconsolable, but as a parent, what do you do? Abandon the day’s plans? No, that will teach him that quitting is at the heart of life. Also, ticket prices have gone up again, and you paid $90 per soul! Stay, helpless mother, and weather the storm. You’re over a barrel as it is. Leaving now will just invite your problem home with you.
Don’t forget the plight of the plain girl! That poor Future Best Friend who isn’t wearing a Disney Princess gown, either out of cost, hard-nosed parents or it simply did not occur to her to lipstick-n-corset up for her day out. She entered the park with a sense of promise; she had a glow of anticipation. Had. Within minutes, she notices the other girl, almost her height, wearing Cinderella blue. On any other day, she could be her exact double, save for that blonde hair and blue eyes. Damn her!
Your innocent daughter, once so capable of happiness and self-assurance, will now spend the day coveting. Perhaps, she thinks, she could persuade her way into the Bippiti Boppiti Boutique? Useless! Those reservations are booked months in advance, and of course her mother didn’t think to make them in time, that stupid cow! Decades later, after a fraught reconciliation, mother and daughter will look to this day as the moment the ribbon between them began to unravel.
Even if she were able to achieve Princessification, she would find it a hollow victory. Unless you wear a Princess dress on the inside, the gown will never fit right. There’s a fairy tale ending for you.
Finally, what of pure, unadulterated, shrieking fright?
I respect that one. Being advanced upon from behind by a man without a face is the source of nightmares, and he still found it in himself, even while being consumed by a vortex of fear, to low-five his attacker. For the rest of his life, he will know bravery.
Why do we subject our younguns to this very expensive torment? So that one day, they’ll return to the field of battle as adults and reclaim their dignity through silly hats and a Tigger embrace.
The Circle of Life.
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Written by Adam Sass
ADAM SASS begins all his writing in Sharpie on dozens of Starbucks pastry bags. This may cause him to be late making your cappuccino, and he sincerely apologizes. His Writer’s Digest-honored story “98% Graves” appeared in the anthology STARTLING SCI-FI: NEW TALES OF THE BEYOND. He lives in New York City with his husband and two dachshunds.
Find Adam at AdamSassBooks.com, his pop culture writing at GeeksOut.org, or keep up with him on his (over)active Twitter @TheAdamSass.