Disneyland Dad… and this is bad, why?

This past summer I was able to take my two girls to Disney World.  To those of you who have been blessed to see life through a little girl’s eyes, you understand.  The joy that I saw in my little one’s face with each new Disney experience was unparalleled .  From the first glimpse of Cinderella’s castle to the last Princess autograph received, my then 6 year old was enraptured.  And I, often with tear filled “mom” eyes, was so thankful for her experience. 

The mechanics of the trip were by any standard grueling.  I drove the 866 miles down and back.  We were at the parks for early openings and late closings, which meant even earlier and later nights for me.  And OMG, the heat and humidity of Florida in July is intense for this Pennsylvania gal. 

It’s fun to go away, but it’s great to be back home”, is a frequent expression in our house.  But with this trip, we all agreed that it would have been great to stay at Disney forever.  Even with all of the extra work on my part, I’d gladly do it again and again.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “Disneyland Dad” lately.  I did a quick google search on this phrase, and well, you can imagine the eye-full that is written about this phenomenon.  And while I get that it isn’t always easy being the responsible parent who actually parents a child, I have a hard time understanding why it’s so awful for a child to have a parent that is all fun.  When we were at Disney, we had all fun and zero responsibility - am I to think Mickey a bad mouse for letting that happen?  Let me tell you, I gave Mickey a big hug for that experience.

And hugging is what my daughter does every time she sees her dad.  A big, running into his arms, hug.  I’ve yet to see any strain or discomfort on her face when she sees him.  I’ve seen many of these looks on her face when I’m in the midst of a parenting experience with her.  Should I be irked that my daughter always seems carefree with her dad? Should I begrudge him just because I parent? 

Actually, it’s no different then when her dad and I were married.  Generally, I kept order; he kept fun.  I remember looking out the window while washing dishes, smiling to see her laughing while being push by him on the tree swing.  Now that we’re divorced, why is it that this same division should be viewed as “irresponsible”?  The only thing that is different is that I’m no longer washing his dishes too.  (Can I hear an “amen!”)

I am a parent.  And as that, I do what I feel is right for me to do regarding my daughters.  Sometimes, that means I’m doing laundry or working instead of having fun with them.  But, what’s important is at day’s end, when I’m lying in bed, I feel content with me.  My ex’s parenting style is what it is.  It’s laughable to think that my opinion will ever change it and it does my daughter no good for me to give it a pejorative label.

Besides, what’s so wrong with my daughter experiencing total fun and zero responsibility when with her dad?  Just as she knew the difference between life in Disney and life after vacation, she knows the difference between life at dad’s and life at mom’s house.  I can attest that going on vacation doesn’t mean that you’re still on vacation when back home, and she has no delusions of that either.  So, when I see my daughter enraptured by her dad’s activities, adoration, and gifts, I can only be thankful that she is able to have that experience.  I don’t even mind that there may be extra work on my part for this to happen.  Both inside and away from Disney, my daughter is very lucky, indeed.

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Mindful mom, thinker, and author, Ellen Kellner, guides parents through The Pro-Child Way of nurturing their child’s spirit through her intuition, discernment, and experience.  Her “how-to” divorced-parening book, The Pro-Child WaySM: Parenting with an Ex, is available on Amazon.com

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