That was the question that my sister-in-law posed to myself and my wife as we were standing in the hot sun at Disneyland. We were already a few hours into our Disneyland adventure and this foray was already proving itself to be more exhaustive than imagined. Standing in line for 30 minutes with a restless 2, 3, 4 and 7 year old for a ride that would last no more than 3 minutes at best proved to be progressively life sucking. Strangely, though, we continued onwards despite our discomfort and despite our ever growing aches and pains acquired through endless walking, pushing, and carrying. It is amazing to consider how normalized buying a bottle of water for $3.50 becomes after a few hours in the happiest place on earth. But this is what such an adventure does to you. It makes the irrational rational.
Back in our courting days whenever I would fly out to see Becca in California we would make sure to get a Disneyland visit in. Becca was an annual passholder and I even managed to become one as well so it was no big deal for us to take a ride up the 5 and saunter around the park for a few hours. We’d make sure to go on Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain and other great and iconic rides. It was always a fun time and I must confess I don’t think we ever asked ourselves why we were doing this. Heck, once we even sat on a bench for a prolonged period of time, drank coffee, and talked. Man, those days were crazy.
As I indicated earlier, these days going to Disneyland is quite different. Becca and I haven’t been on any of the aforementioned rides since we’ve had children. Now when we go a good portion of our time is spent meeting characters, going to the shows they offer, and going on the more kid friendly rides. Whereas previously we could watch fireworks while holding and leaning upon one another now it consists of holding 30 pounds plus of human being for 20 minutes straight while standing in the same spot. In such instances I find myself drawing upon my centering prayer practice as a sort of survival method so that our girls have a good and enjoyable view. No pain, no gain, right?
But seriously, to echo my sister-in-law’s words, “What are we doing here?” Or “what were we doing there?” It’s entirely irrational to put ourselves through such an experience. As far as I can tell the only ones who really enjoy the experience are the children. They’re pushed around in a stroller, held, and can even fall asleep if they’d like (which ours did btw). Strangely, we’re the ones who make this possible to our own detriment. But we do it and Becca and I will probably do it again.
There’s plenty out there that can serve to give us a really low view of humanity and can even lead us into a spiral of cynicism. But I think that if we are willing to see there’s much good to be realized all around us. This turn around occurred for me at the end of the night as we traveled back on the tram to the parking garage. Sitting there tired and forlorn I realized I was one parent among many on that tram who had endeavored, much to our potential harm, to make our children happy and provide them with a special day. Looking around I saw parents tired from a day of giving of themselves to their children because their children matter that much to them. That’s a good thing, that’s righteous. While Disney is brilliant at exploiting it for their own ends it doesn’t change the reality that more often than not it’s a self-effacing love that results in its parks being filled with children. And it’s the joy on our children’s faces that brings us back.
“What are we doing here?” Foolishly loving our children.