The girls and I were able to go to Disney for four days this past month, and I cannot even begin to explain how important and profound this trip ended up being for me as a single mom. We were given the opportunity to go pretty short notice (I was offered the time share through a distant ex-relative the day before) and my first instinct was, "Holy crap I cannot go to Disney BY MYSELF with these kids. Who does that?"
There was a period of time after my divorce where I felt a bit frozen in terms of going places by myself with the girls. It felt awkward, and strange, and isolating. I think it was one of those things where no one but me noticed I was by myself and a single mom (I'm sure of it, actually) but the embarrassment and sadness I felt were tough to get past in those first months when it seemed like every where I looked were moms AND dads with their kiddos. And now here I was, going to the happiest, familiest place on Earth with my girls, BY MYSELF.
It was a pretty transformative experience for me as a parent. I fell in love with my girls all over again during this trip. The way you do when you first bring them home form the hospital and hold them in your arms and think "oh my goodness, I really get to turn myself over to this little person." They were sweet and darling and funny the entire time. We were actually a pretty well oiled little maching, the three of us.
(Fifi was in charge of the map and "directed" us with a lot of pointing and "I see cotton candy THERE!") I had no idea how much we would end up seeing, but we ended up covering all of Magic Kingdom. Twice.
The girls went on their first real roller coasters (Splash Mountain and Thunder Railroad) and Fifi from then on declared at every single ride we walked up to "40 inches. I'm 40 inches, alright?" Whether they cared or not.
The first night on our way back to the hotel, Kay attempted to explain to all the other children on the bus that the Princesses weren't real, although Mickey and Minnie were. "Uh... anyone can dress up as a princess. I do it every day. Obviously this is these ladies' job." (I have never been the recipient of more murderous looks in my life. Those poor parents sitting near us. I firmly told her she would be keeping that information to herself from then on.)
While Kay was perpetually unimpressed with the characters ("Look Kay, Mary Poppins!" Kay's response was, "Uh... Mom, I see nannies at home all the time.") she was impressed with our ability to have fun as a family. I played the mom who let them have sugar, and stay up waaaaay too late to watch fireworks, and jump in puddles and sing in the rain when everyone else was running for cover. We did every ride, saw every show we possibly could all day, every day.
We decided to mix things up and went to Animal Kingdom on the third day. It was a beautiful morning and then early afternoon was a torrential downpour. The park nearly cleared out, but the girls were having a blast running around in the puddles so we stayed and played. When it cleared we were surrounded by rainbows. Beautiful, vivid double rainbows and we spent hours going from one part of the park to another taking pictures and discussing how we were going to find the pot of gold at the end.
I have never been one of those people that was impressed by rainbows- I always thought they were cheesy and if you'd seen one, you'd seen them all. But this day was different. I was profoundly moved as we strolled around the park, wet and happy and just being together. I just kept thinking to myself "Oh, I get it now. You weather the storm and this is the reward- warm, fuzzy, rainbows. Literally."
By the end of the trip, I was a pro at carrying the stroller, and snacks and toys and two bouncy little girls. The last night we didn't leave the park until 10 o'clock. The bus back to the hotel was packed and people were happy and exhausted as we rode back. I had a little person on each side of me, chatting and snuggling, reliving the day with the other little kids around us. And the feelings of accomplishment, and joy, and love I felt were so overwhelming, that for the first time in a long time there wasn't room to feel anything else. I don't think there is such a thing as mastering being a single parent, but I can say that four wonderful days in Disney World on my own was definitely a step in that direction.