Last week I had the good fortune to have been invited to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration in Orlando, Florida. Like most attendees, I brought my entire family to the conference, which took place for 3 days at Coronado Springs Resort in Walt Disney World and then 3 days at sea aboard the Disney Dream cruise ship.
Now, before I continue, let’s address the topic of the conference title. You may not know this but I am not a mom and neither were the other 7 dads in attendance. Do I wish the conference were called Family or Parent Celebration? Sure, that’d be swell. That said, I recognize a couple things here. First, there are 190 or so moms in attendance and 8 dads, although I know more dads were invited. This is essentially the mom to dad ratio in blogging, so I get it. Second, they did an amazing job at saying both moms and dads while on stage all week, and I was never made to feel out of place, so I’m over it.
Let’s move on.
The reason for this story is that I went into the conference stressed about how I was going to balance attending sessions with spending quality time with my family. On top of that, I had seen how excited people were about attending and I was feeling guilty because I didn’t understand why everyone was so hyped up. I mean, we’ve been to Walt Disney World before and it has always been fun, if not hectic, but this was a next level excitement that I hadn’t felt since Joe Carter hit the homerun to win the Blue Jays the World Series in 1993!
It wasn’t until the tail end of the opening conference session that I started to understand it. Disney Parks & Resorts Director of Corporate Citizenship, John Breckow, took to the stage and talked to us about Disney’s charitable efforts, with specific emphasis on the Make-A Wish Foundation. He spoke so sincerely about their efforts that you could tell this wasn’t just a Disney executive trying to sell you on why they are great. He really cared about helping kids and I joked with him afterward that no one had ever made me cry that many times in such a short period of time but the stories were so powerful that you couldn’t help but well up. The larger message of his presentation was that Disney tries to say, “Yes”, as much as humanly possible and this was proven to us multiple times throughout our trip.
After John’s presentation, I felt like I was in a trance for the rest of the week. You might know me as a happy-go-lucky dad on the blog but the truth is that I can be a grump at times and things that might normally have bothered me on this trip were quickly brushed aside as I was able to focus only on the good that was happening around me. Essentially what happened was that I was able to revert back to seeing Disney through a child’s eyes, while also enjoying watching my own children’s excitement as their father, if that makes any sense? I felt just as excited to see characters like Mickey, Minnie, Sully and Chewbacca as my kids were and it felt great to allow myself to feel that type of childish joy.
I’m not going to get into every minor detail of our trip in this post but wanted to leave with this message. Visiting Walt Disney World is a once in a lifetime trip for a lot of families and you will get a lot more enjoyment out of your stay if you allow yourself to see the parks through a child’s eyes. Buy the memory maker package and jump in to the character pictures with your kids. Ride “It’s A Small World” 20 times, sing along each time and make sure to do the actions on the restaurant signs while you are in line for it. Be a parent who is also a child at heart and your experience will be a magical one!