Making Expensive Memories

Look at that face! We created some amazing memories with and for our children last week at Walt Disney World. As a parent, few things bring you greater joy than seeing your kids happy and full of life. But, if I’m being honest, this trip also had me in my feelings. Growing up as the oldest of seven (six in my home), my mother could never have afforded a trip to Disney...like ever. And the reality is, MANY parents can’t afford this type of expense for their children today. Now clearly, Disney is NOT the ‘end all, be all,’ but not being able to indulge in the wonderment of Mickey Mouse, Cinderella’s Castle or Aladdin’s Magic Carpet might leave some feeling left out. As a matter of fact, my youngest child said to me “Mommy, my friends said they were so jealous that I was going to Disney” with a huge smile on her face. That turned into a short discussion about not wanting our friends to be jealous, but instead happy and excited for us. But I digress (for now, lol). For all the fun, excitement and joy of Disney, the prices are absolutely ridiculous. To embark upon this journey with less than $5000 for a family of five is asking for trouble. There’s almost no number or discounts that can make this trip any version of ‘cheap’ or ‘reasonable.’ It is honestly, just too much. But, here we are, like millions of people across the globe, several thousand dollars poorer with tons of Disney memories to show for it. Expensive memories is an understatement. I’m left asking myself the difficult question of “was it worth it?” The short answer is “yes.” The kids’ smiles, laughter and my own joy at all the MAGIC of Disney was worth all the money it cost my husband and I. Our kids were allowed two souvenirs each (which were a pretty penny), but in an effort to buy experiences and memories over over things, Disney definitely fit the bill. But maybe not every year...or even every other year. We will save ourselves some money and continue making memories that cost somewhere in the hundreds or even those that are absolutely 100% FREE. Those are often the best ones anyway. Thinking about those free experiences brings me back to my childhood. Without the extravagance of Disney, family flights or other fancy vacations, we had to make the best of our everyday lives. And you know what, we did. MY siblings and I can laugh about a ater gun fights, playing in the sprinklers, building snowmen, watching a few VHS tapes over and over when we couldn’t afford cable, playing knock-knock zoom-zoom and so much more. Despite the challenges of my childhood (financial and emotional), I have great memories and experiences that I think on and smile about often. It always feels nice to be able to give our children things that we did not have, but I also want to give my children pieces of what I did have, growing up. And in this case, I want them to have a heightened sense of awareness regarding the reality of many people’s financial situations and barriers. After the comment about her friends being jealous, we talked about how some families can’t afford Disney World because it is grossly over-priced. And also how some people can afford Disney but choose to use their money for other things (smart people, lol). We talked about my childhood and how different things were for me. We discussed how new clothes and fancy toys can be scarce for some children. We reflected on the lives of homeless people and considered that someone else’s situation could easily be our own and how children have absolutely no control over the financial status of their parents. All of this kinda sounds like a Debbie Downer on Disney (lol), but honestly, my kids were receptive to the discussion and it didn’t stop their fun for one minute. (Kids are so resilient). Only time will tell if my husband and I are giving them the tools for increased empathy, emotional intelligence and overall awareness. So for now we will let them be little and continue to insert small reminders for gratefulness, appreciation and the significance of giving back to bless others. We should all make the best of whatever circumstances we are given while simultaneously making strides toward improving whatever we see fit. I hope and pray that my children’s children will have more than what my children have...not necessarily in finances (though that is fine too), but mostly in love, joy, peace and amazing memories...both free and expensive.

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