Monday, October 8, 2012

What a Character!

One of the special parts of going on a Disney vacation is getting to meet all your favorite characters: Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Goofy, Pluto, Chip and Dale, Captain Hook, Peter Pan, Cinderella, Belle, Sleeping Beauty…the list goes on and on. And for most children, that is indeed a highlight. Little girls, especially, like to dress up like their favorite princesses and carry around autograph books so everyone they meet can sign them. But there are always a few children who are, let’s call it, “hesitant” to meet the characters.

My kids fell neatly into each of those categories. My one-year-old daughter, who refuses to go to the arms of even a familiar babysitter without several minutes of coaxing, would reach out excitedly for every character in a 100-foot radius. But my three-year-old son, who is basically fearless, would not go near a single character until the very last night of our vacation. The photograph pretty much sums it up:
If you look closely, you’ll notice that Donald’s left hand has my daughter’s hand in a death grip, to prevent her from continuing to molest his beak. And my son, although smiling for the camera, has a death grip of his own on Daddy, his exposed belly button and rucked-up shorts evidence of the prior struggle to get him even that close to the creepy giant duck. This was pretty typical of every character encounter we had.
One of our favorite evening activities aboard the Disney Fantasy was the family dance parties in D Lounge. Various DJs or live musical acts provided the music, and one of the many bubbly, energetic staffers was on the floor with a microphone coaxing everyone to join in the dancing, or occasionally teaching a simple line dance. Most evenings, one character or another would make an appearance and join in the dancing. On formal night, Chip and Dale came, dressed to the nines in their tuxedos. Katie chased them around until they literally had to peel her off so another child could have a turn. Ryan hid in a chair at the back of the lounge until they left.
What really surprised me was that my son not only hated the non-talking, “giant head” type characters, but also the human characters such as the princesses and even Peter Pan. My daughter ran over to Princess Belle the first chance she got and admired her beautiful gown and gloves, but as you can see, my son was desperately koala-ing onto Mama. Really? How can anyone not want to go right up to this lovely princess and say hello?
Even as I was writing this blog, my daughter spied this photo and began cooing and attempting to climb on my lap to get closer. My son checked it out as well, with the commentary, “Hey, that’s me. I was very sad and scared.”
In another five years or so, when we’re ready to take another trip like this, I’m sure both kids will have completely changed their thinking about these characters. At ages 5 and 7, it’s likely that my daughter will be dressed like a princess herself, although awestruck and shy about approaching the real princesses, and my son will probably be chasing around all the villains with a plastic sword (Captain Hook, I’m looking at you). I’ll apologize for both of their behaviors in advance.
But I, at least, will be delighted to meet each and every one of you!


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