The hotel room was booked, the flights were mapped out, and I had scoured the requisite blogs to get all the insider info. Operation “Surprise Trip to Disneyland” was a go!
The plan was for me to spirit away my son (age 5 ½ and the oldest of our three kids) for a 36-hour intro to the Happiest Place on Earth – a first-of-its-kind mother-child getaway that I hoped would be repeated at semi-regular intervals with each of my kids in the coming years. My husband was on board because (a) he’s wonderfully supportive, and (b) he’s a Disney Grinch and was all too happy to miss out on this particular getaway.
As the weeks counted down leading up to our trip, I was already patting myself on the back for what I envisioned as the cure-all for any feelings of neglect, resentment, jealousy or anxiety my son may have been harboring since the birth of our youngest daughter last summer. He will have my undivided attention for two days. He’ll open up about anything he has been bottling up inside. He will talk about this at his future wedding, and speak of it in awestruck tones to his future children.
But then one random Tuesday night, about a month before our scheduled departure (which, remember, he had no idea was happening), my husband was working late. After putting the baby and my 3-year-old daughter to bed, I entered my son’s room, where he eagerly unwrapped a new jigsaw puzzle he had received from his grandma.
We worked on it for about 15 minutes, content, not talking much (and certainly not “opening up” about anything), and when it was time for me to leave his room, he said, “The next time Daddy’s working late, can we do this again?”
That simple request clarified something important for me that I had lost sight of in the previous months as we adjusted to Life With Three. My son didn’t need a surprise trip to Disneyland to reaffirm our special bond; he needed more moments like that one, just a small chunk of time here and there that didn’t include his siblings, my cell phone, or any of the other people or things that distract us from each other.
So I resolved to create those precious windows of time, not just for him but for me, too. And to make sure I do it for each of my kids, not every day or even sometimes every week, but when and where I can.
A few days later, as our family calendar started to get more complicated, I went online and canceled the trip to Disneyland. We will still get there—hopefully sooner than later and just my son and me, as I had originally planned. But for now I think smaller adjustments to our daily lives and routines will make more of a difference to him.
So Disneyland is on hold, but I’m working to make our own home the Happiest Place it can be for my son.
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