For five years my parents planned on taking my sisters, myself, and our families on a giant family trip to Disney World to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary.
Our trip had been planned for May of 2020 for a LONG time. Of course COVID-19 hit, and our big family Disney dream was canceled.
But back then, little old naïve me believed the coronavirus saga would be better by the fall, so we quickly replanned our entire trip for the following October.
Things ended up not being better, but there was also no end in sight. Disney reopened, and we just couldn’t cancel our trip again. We didn’t know when our schedules would allow us to plan another time. We didn’t know when COVID-19 would even end, and we’d been promising our children this trip for years.
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Well, I’m a dreamer and a planner, so I worked hard to plan out everything I possibly could about our trip. Planning-loving mamas like me, you know who you are. We’re the people planning for trips, which socks people will wear which day, and time blocking bathroom breaks six months before our trip even happens.
A trip to Disney was another level because it’s such a rare and EXPENSIVE event. It’s not something we get to do more than once a decade, so I wanted to make this trip great.
One piece of planning that took a lot of time and energy was learning about basically all of the more than 200 restaurants at Disney World and then planning which reservations would be best on which day of our trip.
Pre-COVID, I woke up at 5:00 a.m. 180 days before our seven-day trip to quickly reserve six seats in restaurants we may want to eat at when the trip came. Disney restaurant reservations ARE NO JOKE. Even 180 days, out many restaurants were already fully booked by people staying at Disney hotels (they have a reservation advantage) or by people who reserved things a minute faster than me.
But all those reservations were canceled for that initial trip due to the virus.
So I did the work again of speedily working on reservations and thinking through what time and days and restaurants would be best for our October trip. However, Disney also erased those reservations because it decided to do some different things with restaurant reservations once it reopened with new safety restrictions.
So AGAIN, I worked hard to reserve restaurants I thought would make Disney extra magical and memorable.
One of the reservations I was most excited about snagging was the “Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant” at Disney’s Hollywood Studios theme park. It’s an indoor restaurant that looks like you’re outside at night in an old-school drive-in movie theater.
It was an almost impossible reservation to get, especially because we needed seating for six people, and its tables are shaped like classic cars, which don’t seat many patrons.
I couldn’t even believe I got this reservation. I had been unable to get it during my first two reservation rounds. It was miraculous.
So we waited again for our long-awaited trip, and we finally made it last October. We ended up canceling most of our reservations because restaurants are so expensive. But I held on tight to that “Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater” reservation, because that restaurant is so unique and hard to come by.
Be Prepared for Meltdowns
Our day at Hollywood studios finally came and I was SO EXCITED to take our kids to this recreated drive in diner.
I already knew what food we would order everyone, and I was so pumped picturing my family laughing together.
We got to the restaurant and our precious five year old saw that the restaurant was dark inside. She is a passionate child, and she completely refused to go in.
Once we finally talked her into walking in the restaurant to see how cool it was, she actually RAN out of the restaurant screaming. It just wasn’t going to happen.
I told my husband to take our other kids while I stayed outside with our five year old. I was determined at least some of my kids WERE GOING TO EAT THERE.
But of course our other three children gave way like dominos: “I want to stay with mom” or “I don’t want to go either.”
Our table was ready and we had to do something quick. We had no choice but to cancel this much-anticipated reservation.
We walked to a nearby quick restaurant (at which no reservations were needed) and sat at a table outside. I cried like a baby.
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I was weirdly heartbroken. I cried and cried as I was so disappointed. I had worked SO HARD (if you’ve reserved sought-after Disney reservations, you know). For months I had anticipated, dreamed, and imagined the memories we would make, the fun we would have.
I’ve found myself in this sad emotional place as a mom many times. It’s a place of disappointment. A place of crushed dreams. A place where your perfect dreams are crushed in an imperfect reality.
And sometimes I miss the point. The point was not to eat a greasy hamburger at a cool restaurant. The point was to make wonderful memories with my family. The point was to have fun as a family.
But maybe sometimes we can get so deep in our dreaming we forget the point, especially us planners.
Maybe sometimes we actually plan with a ton of strings and expectations attached. Like our planning is worth an invisible salary in which the payment is everything wonderful and special.
But we can’t plan the weather. We can’t plan who will be healthy or how well people will sleep. We can’t plan our kids emotions. We often can’t even anticipate what our kids will enjoy and what they won’t.
So for people like myself I say, PLAN! As long as the planning is fun for us let’s still plan. But let’s not plan at the expense of our lives today, and let’s hold our plans lightly while we remember the entire point of our efforts: For our families to grow closer, for us to make great memories, and have great laughs.