I have been invited to Disneyland by my in-laws and I think I should say no. I feel really bad about this. The trip is planned for January of next year. I am a mother of twin boys, who are toddlers, and a seven-year-old daughter. I work full-time and have four weeks of annual leave. My husband (who is very supportive) and I had a previous difficult experience travelling with the children to Punta Cana. The twins were 18 months old then. I anticipate that the time spent on the plane, in the crowd, in the restaurants and on the plane back will be extremely hard again. I just think it would not be a vacation at all. Am I being weird or aggressive?
You should be aware you're asking a very specific type of person this question. Me, I like quiet tête-à-têtes, intimate dinners and, perhaps weirdly, solitude above all. I guess I'm a bit of an "urban hermit." When I hear that there is to be a large gathering somewhere, I run in the other direction. I don't understand the instinct to flock to large herds of people, scarf a bunch of kiddie food, be bombarded with noise and be subjected to various entertainments, amusements and spectacles. I'd rather read a book.
I would actually pay to avoid going to someplace like Disneyland. But I am aware that there are those who enjoy this sort of thing – and, as my wife is always reminding me, it's important to balance one's agoraphobic inclinations with the interests of the children, who crave speed, giant creatures, thrill rides, cotton candy, bear claws, bacon-flavoured doughnuts, and so forth.
Hence Disneyland – obviously the acme, the zenith, of this sort of thing, and something the kids will remember all their lives, or at least for a few weeks.
But with two toddlers and a seven-year-old, that's battle conditions, baby. I think you have to weigh your own interests against the interests of the kids. It's like they say when you lose cabin pressure in a plane: Put the oxygen mask over your own face first.
And let us not forget the interests of your marriage. Say you do go to Disneyland, and the kids are going postal, on the plane and at the hotel and all points in between, filling the air with the usual angry, terrorist-like demands and declarations of unmet needs. You and your husband's nerves may fray, you may begin to snap and spit at one another – and these things can do lasting damage to a marriage.
Mine is still recovering from an ill-conceived camping excursion a few years back – and a subsequent trip on a houseboat almost applied the the coup de grâce. (Here is some free marital advice: Never, unless you are actively trying to hasten the demise of your marriage, set foot on a houseboat with your spouse.)
And when you get to Disneyland proper – well, I'm sure they have mechanisms in place to deal with this, but there's only one thing I hate worse than being in crowds, and that's being in crowds with toddlers in tow. Toddlers wander off. They disappear. You have to watch them like a hawk. It's nerve-racking and, ultimately, exhausting.
All I'm really trying to say here is, basically, I hear you and I think your instincts are spot-on. If you didn't have a good time at a low-key beach resort (I'm assuming) in Punta Cana, Disneyland will be like a nightmare come to life.
Now, if you trust them, you could do a little grandparental jiu-jitsu on your in-laws, and suggest that they take your kids to Disneyland by themselves. They want to spend quality time with the kids, the kids would love Disneyland. Why not eliminate the middle man (i.e. the parents; i.e. you). Then you could have a true vacation, a true holiday. Go to Paris, go to a spa – reinvestigate, reinvigorate your true selves and your relationship. Sure, you might miss the kids, but it's nothing a shiatsu rubdown couldn't cure.
You say you only have four weeks of vacation. Behold: It is enough! Seize the month! You could live a lifetime in that month, you and your husband, floating on a rubber raft in the Sea of Joy.
If it's not feasible, or your in-laws aren't into it, that's okay too. Just politely thank them for their generosity, explain that, with little kids, you just can't handle a big trip right now. They should understand. They were parents once too, after all.
What am I supposed to do now?
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